A Clerihew is a four-line comic poem with a rigid rhyming scheme, aabb, but no metric requirements. It stands in stark contrast to the strict metric requirements with no rhyming scheme in the Iliad. This poetic form was invented by E. C. (Edmund Clerihew) Bentley (1875-1956), British humorist and author. The first line of a Bentley’s Clerihew always contained the name of a famous person or character. The remaining three lines “roasted” the figure in a historical context.

 

Helen of Troy
Gave Paris great joy.
But each kiss of her lips
Launched even more Greek ships.

 

King Agamemnon,
In the uppity Greek echelon,
With Achilles became snooty
When he lost some booty.

 

Telamonian Ajax,
Shielding ships from attacks,
Found a stone more effective
Than hectoring invective.

 

For Paris the unplucky
It was better to be lucky.
When aiming for the head
He’d hit a foot instead.

 

Pretty Patroclus,
Was thrown under a bus,
When the words to the song
“Clothes make the man” were so wrong.

 

 

Raymond C. Roy, M.D., Ph.D., is a Professor Emeritus (Anesthesiology) at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Most of his published poems have appeared in The Pharos and in Anesthesiology. He was introduced to Clerihews when he was given the delightful “The Lost Clerihews of Paul Ingram” last year by a colleague.


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9 Responses

  1. Sathyanarayana

    Hilarious! I saw movies and read a bit of Illiad. And well these are good. I learned one more form. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Carole Mertz

    These clerihews were fun! Thank you, Mr. Roy. I especially liked the “hectoring” reference.

    Reply
  3. C.B. Anderson

    They didn’t raise a chuckle. Maybe that’s MY problem. In the fourth one, I think “heel” would have worked better than “foot.”

    Reply
    • Raymond Roy

      Actually heel is not better. In the Iliad Paris wounds the Greek hero Diomedes with an arrow to his foot. The death of Achilles by an arrow from Paris (or Apollo disguised as Paris) to the heel of Achilles is not described in the Iliad. The Iliad ends with the death of Hector, not Achilles.

      Reply
  4. E. Cleridew Basu

    Mr. Roy is correct; here are the pertinent lines from Book 11:

    οὐδ᾽ ἄρα μιν ἅλιον βέλος ἔκφυγε χειρός,
    ταρσὸν δεξιτεροῖο ποδός: διὰ δ᾽ ἀμπερὲς ἰὸς
    ἐν γαίῃ κατέπηκτο: ὃ δὲ μάλα ἡδὺ γελάσσας
    ἐκ λόχου ἀμπήδησε καὶ εὐχόμενος ἔπος ηὔδα:
    “βέβληαι οὐδ᾽ ἅλιον βέλος ἔκφυγεν: ὡς ὄφελόν τοι
    νείατον ἐς κενεῶνα βαλὼν ἐκ θυμὸν ἑλέσθαι.
    οὕτω κεν καὶ Τρῶες ἀνέπνευσαν κακότητος,
    οἵ τέ σε πεφρίκασι λέονθ᾽ ὡς μηκάδες αἶγες.”

    Reply
  5. steven taylor

    Wonderful perspective and views
    I received while reading your Clerihews!

    Bravo!

    Reply

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