Maria Montessori
Seldom felt hunky-dory.
Her vision for education
Fell short of inspiring a nation.


King George the Second
It has often been reckoned
Would have been more fecund
Had more mistresses beckoned.


King Henry the Eighth,
Defender of the Faith,
Would have happily run a marathon
To escape Queen Catherine of Aragon.


Antonio Vivaldi
Would have clicked with Garibaldi
For his music quite prettily
Unified Italy.



Peter Hartley is a retired painting restorer. He was born in Liverpool and lives in Manchester, UK.

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33 Responses

  1. The Society

    Thank you for these, clerihews, Peter! These are funny, especially the Henry VIII one. I have not made a “clerihew” category at the SCP since it is unmetered and I still look a bit askance at the form. If others want to weigh in on it I’d be interested. Is the clerihew a worthy form?

    -Evan Mantyk, SCP Editor

    • C.B. Anderson

      A clerihew can be as metrically precise as an author wants it to be, within the requirements imposed by the name of its subject. And like limericks, clerihews are meant to be looked at askance.

      • Peter Hartley

        CBA thank you for this helpful explanation.

        Need we tediously
        Glance askance at the clerihew if
        We can view it skew- whiff?

    • Peter Hartley

      Evan – if the villanelle and the Spenserian were broadsheet newspapers the clerihew would undoubtedly rank with the limerick as a tabloid or red-top. If their literary worth be measured by the degree of skill, artistic merit or length of time expended on their composition, then they must rank very low indeed. For at least one member of SCP, though, they are a bit of light relief from the misery of sonneteering. As you say, this poetic form lacks meter but with their often ingenious and contorted rhymes at least clerihews do have one attribute of formal poetry, which puts them streets ahead of blank verse. Some time ago an SCP member quoted a hilarious rhyme for Aeschylus (these kill us) and there can surely be no better vehicle or outlet for this sort of excruciating rhyme than the clerihew. They are as mellifluous as the sound of fingernails scraping down a blackboard.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Double dactyls fall into this category as well, and even limericks benefit from a well-ordered sequence of anapests and/or amphibrachs.

      • Peter Hartley

        CB, Thank you for this, and yes, there are certainly some combinations of feet that seem to work in a clerihew and some that don’t. A propos an earlier comment, while in the US anapests are universal, in the U.K., we tend to spell them “anapaests” and pronounce them “anapEEsts”

  2. Jeff Eardley

    This poetic treasure,
    Will surely give pleasure,
    To any consumer,
    Of Peter’s great humour.

    • Peter Hartley

      Jeff, many thanks for this poetic endeavour, and it is a good example of one of those clerihews that “works,” as in my comment to CB above. The one below doesn’t work on any level but does point out a paradox in your name:

      Jeff Eardley
      Mutton Jeff: a riddle
      That “ear” in the middle.

      • Jeff Eardley

        A mystery riddle
        Of words in the middle
        Of names, is the part
        Of your own that says,”art”

      • Peter Hartley

        Jeff – that clerihew for me, below, is hyper-brill. You should specialise in humorous poetry. Do you know I had never even noticed the word art in my name before? Can you believe that? I always smirk smugly to myself when I hear of people with the forenames “Jade” or “Jordan.” A jade is a knackered horse and a jordan is an old name for a chamber-pot. Ha ha!

      • Jeff Eardley

        “Your Peter is clever,” the Headmaster said,
        With anagram names from the top of his head.
        “And good with a paintbrush, so it’s a safe bet,
        He’ll have a career as an ART HELPER YET.”

        Sorry Peter, I have been listening to far too much John Cooper Clarke.

      • Mike Bryant

        Jeff, I don’t know if you fish…. here goes

        Jeff Eardley really likes to fish
        In streams up near the sky.
        To put those rainbows in his dish
        He tied a FREE JADE FLY.

  3. C.B. Anderson

    These were funny, indeed, but please bear in mind that my wife works in a Montessori school.

    • Peter Hartley

      CB – I believe that your wife has a rare sense of humour and will not take my clerihew amiss.

  4. Mike Bryant

    Poet Peter Hartley
    Writes clerihews quite smartly.
    Restoring old art was his game,
    Now his sonnets bring mountains of fame.

    • Peter Hartley

      Mike – Thank you for the wondrous clerihew that manages to draw in at least three of my great passions in life. I tried to pen a response in kind but unfortunately had to abort it when I came to the conclusion that your aunt is probably no more wry than anybody else’s.

    • Jeff Eardley

      I lived a time when song was great,
      And trees were tall and limber.
      I took my fiddle to the States,
      And fiddled in YANK TIMBER.
      (Alfred Lord Tenniselbow)

    • Peter Hartley

      Cynthia – I’m very pleased that you liked them, and thank you for telling me.

  5. Paul Freeman

    Oh, yes, Mr Hartley. Nicely done.

    And if I might dip back into post colonial African history:

    President Daniel Arap Moi
    kept a pond full of koi.
    They were well fed during his tenure,
    which is more than can be said of the people of Kenya.

    • Peter Hartley

      Paul – Thank you for your very kind comment. I feel that I must elaborate on your comment:

      The Mau Mau
      Were a wow
      In Kenya, support frugal
      In Portugal.

  6. Brian Yapko

    Peter and Evan — these are all quite charming and funny. My two cents are that it took skill and wit to pen these within a form which imposes structure and, therefore, requires poetic discipline. Personally, I think it is indeed a form worth celebrating.

    • Peter Hartley

      Brian – Many thanks for expressing your view about the clerihew. One stricture that I don’t think has been mentioned is that the second to fourth lines normally carry some truth or some utter absurdity around the truth about the character portrayed, as in:

      King George the Sixth
      Got most of his kicksth
      By using his stammer
      To hide his bad grammar.


      King George the First
      Found his accent accurst
      But his großvater’s Erse
      Was even worse.

  7. Cheryl Corey

    That third one made me laugh, and there’s not much that makes me laugh nowadays, so thank you Peter!

    • Peter Hartley

      Cheryl – Thank you very much for your very kind remark, and I’m glad that number three made you laugh. I have written dozens and dozens of clerihews but most of them just aren’t funny.

  8. David Watt

    The anticipation of reading unexpected rhymes and the certainty of humor makes the clerihew a worthwhile form. Thanks for these Peter!

    • Peter Hartley

      Thank you, David, for the kind remark and I hope that Evan will have gathered from the comments above that, in small doses at least, for the SCP, the clerihew, like the Limerick, can be an effective means of conveying epic profundities.

  9. Peter Hartley

    And just to get the other three King Georges out of the way:

    King George the Third
    Was only as good as his word
    And everybody garbles
    When they start losing their marbles.

    King George the Fourth
    Made the long-dead Lord North
    His future Prime Minister.
    The move was considered quite sinister.

    King George the Fifth
    Cared not who he was with.
    When he married Queen Mary of Teck
    He just said “Oh shucks, what the heck.”

  10. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Peter, what wonderful fun! You have shone a spotlight on this tricky little form and made it shine. I had no idea the clerihew could be so entertaining and enticing. When I get a spare moment over the festive season, I’m going to grab my pen and give them a go… although, I am certain I won’t outshine your dear old ‘Enery… a priceless Tudor gem of a clerihew.

    • Peter Hartley

      Susan – When you’ve mastered the rondeau and the villanelle as you have, and I haven’t, you’ll find writing clerihews is a walk in the park. I must have written over a hundred of them now but only three of them are funny. This is the funniest of the three. As you’ll see, it’s not really that funny, especially in USA where you probably don’t even have JCBs, and you will have long forgotten what they look like.

      J C Bamford
      Was recorded in Hansard
      When he drove heavy plant
      Through a Prime Ministerial rant.

      This is the next nearly funniest:

      Alexander the Great
      Would have carried less weight
      Had he not had the bottle
      To be coached by Aristotle.

      And this is the least funny of all:

      Henry Ford
      Took their feelings on board
      When his customers’ feedback
      Showed they all hated black.

  11. Tamara Beryl Latham

    Peter, I’ve certainly not seen this poetic form (clerihews) prior to your post, but they are quite humorous.

    My favorite is #4. I love how you’ve rhymed Italy/prettily.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂


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