POETRY FRIDAY: A Few Clerihews for Those Who Enjoy Light Verse


By Elaine Magliaro

It appears that light verse for adults has gone out of vogue. That saddens me. I enjoy reading the work of writers like Ogden Nash, Morris Bishop, Arthur Guiterman, and others.

One of my favorite Guiterman poems is Ancient History. Here’s how the poem begins:


I hope the old Romans

Had painful abdomens.


I hope that the Greeks

Had toothache for weeks.


I hope the Egyptians

Had chronic conniptions.


Click here to read the rest of the poem.

Today, I’m posting some examples of a specific form of light verse called the clerihew. A clerihew is a four-line poem composed of two rhyming couplets. The clerihew pokes fun at a famous person. The first line should end with the name of the famous person. The form was invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956). Here is one of Bentley’s clerihews:

Sir Humphrey Davy
Detested gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

Here are three clerihews that I wrote in 2008:

So naive
In her birthday suit,
Tempted Adam with forbidden fruit.

Sir Isaac Newton—
There’s no refutin’—
With a force of nature had to grapple
When he got conked on the head with a falling apple.

Were deducted, so they say,
Through an interminable series of Q and A.

Here is a clerihew that I wrote about Max Baucus after the story broke that he was having an affair with a staffer named Melodee Hanes when he nominated her for a position as a US Attorney.

Senator Max Baucus
Of the “slap and tickle” caucus
Considered Melodee Hanes
To be one of his Capitol gains.

Click here to read more clerihews written by Bentley and others.

Philosophical Clerihews by Ronald de Sousa

Maybe some of you would like to try your hand at writing a clerihew. If so, share yours with us by posting them in the comments.

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16 Responses to POETRY FRIDAY: A Few Clerihews for Those Who Enjoy Light Verse

  1. shortfinals says:

    Spike Milligan was a great hero of mine – in his case, he actually WAS a hero, having served with the Royal Artillery throughout the campaigns in North Africa and Italy, until he was wounded. His prose, plays and work as a comedian are perhaps better known than his poetry, but his late-night BBC2 ‘Muses with Milligan’ was full of poetic frivolity. Here is a ‘near-clerihew’ of his….

    A boxer named Rocky McGregs
    Signed a contract to train on boiled eggs
    But now he’s finding
    The contract’s binding

    Oh, and DO try Millgan’s ‘Adolf Hitler, My Part In His DownFall’, the start of a magnificent autobiographic series of works.

  2. Elaine M. says:


    Thanks for reminding me about Spike Milligan. I’ve read some of his humorous verse written for children. Here’s a link to some poems he wrote:


  3. blouise says:

    Thanks, Elaine. On an earlier thread I grouped about the shrinking number of poetry readings in my town … this helps fill that void.

  4. blouise says:

    Grouped is supposed to be groused. My kindle is your typical “know it all”

  5. Robert Burns did it many times in verses from larger pieces. Here are two from Tam O’Shanter.

    But pleasures are like poppies spread,
    You seize the flow’r, its bloom is shed;
    Or like the snow falls in the river,
    A moment white—then melts for ever,

    Ae market night,
    Tam had got planted unco right,
    Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely,
    Wi’ reaming swats that drank divinely;

  6. maryleehahn says:

    Fun to see you in a new setting! Love your clerihews — your wit is sharp and your word choice is perfect!

  7. From The Complete Poems of John Lillison, England’s greatest one-armed poet.

    ‘Pointy Birds’

    O pointy birds,
    O pointy pointy,
    Anoint my head,

    (All apologies to Steve Martin. Elaine, I love the idea of Poetry Friday. I hope you decide to make it a regular event.)

  8. Elaine M. says:

    Mary Lee,

    Thanks for stopping by. It’s good to reconnect with one of my friends from the kid lithosphere.



    I hope to make Poetry Fridays a regular event at FFS.

  9. RTC says:

    Has anybody written a clerihew aimed at Bentley?

  10. Elaine M. says:


    Here is one I found that was written by Michael Curl:

    E. C. Bentley
    Mused while he ought to have studied intently;
    It was this muse
    That inspired clerihews.


  11. I have written a few clerihews in my time–political ones, whose subjects are now long forgotten. Here’s one I wrote after our Prime Minister missed the photo-op at a G20 meeting due to some personal business:

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper
    probably wishes he’d been sharper
    and not missed the G20 photo op
    by making some kind of pit stop.

    Yeah, I know, pretty bad!

  12. And, oh yes, meant to say that yours are clever and sharp. I especially like Eve and Senator Baucus!

  13. Elaine M. says:


    Thanks so much for,sharing your original clerihew with us!

  14. Myra GB says:

    What a lovely new virtual home you have here, Elaine. The poems you shared here made me smile, loved all of them! 🙂

  15. Irene Latham says:

    Really love the Eve one! LIght verse isn’t my thing, which makes me admire even more those who can pull it off! Thanks for sharing.

  16. Fun! Clerihew is such a great form and your sampling is delightful! = )

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