The Call of the Clerihew

Sometimes described as the literate cousin of the Limerick, the Clerihew has attracted and inspired writers from GK Chesterton and Gavin Ewart to Craig Brown. WH Auden once wrote an entire book of Clerihews. Invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956), the Clerihew is a childish anti-panegyric, flat-footed, Hudibrastic, eponymous quatrains designed to lower the tone and cut everyone down to size. The Call of the Clerihew brings together fifty contemporary exponents of this ridiculous form, including Ian Duhig, WN Herbert, Jacqueline Saphra, Katy Evans-Bush, Michael Rosen and Tim Turnbull, cocking a snook at the great and the good, the important and the self-important, the religious and the royal, despots and detectives, poets, philosophers and politicians.

Extract

Extract

Kim Jong-Un
Bit of a wrong ’un,
Though being the subject of a personality cult could prove
To be a good Korea move.

Andy Jackson


‘Bashar al-Assad.
Is the man good or bad?’
Is an examination question
Designed to ruin your digestion.

George Szirtes


Benito Mussolini
Had a teeny-weeny
Thingy, so in spite of all that lamppost stuff you may recall,
He actually wasn’t well hung at all.

Mark Totterdell


Francisco Franco
Cleaned his uniform with Blanco,
In the hope it would appeal
To the Guardia Civil.

Tom Deveson


King Farouk
Issued a rebuke:
‘Politics? Not in the mood –
Just more women and more food.’

Tom Deveson


Baby Doc Duvalier
Was known for his esprit d’escalier.
All the arguments he felt he’d lost
Were later analysed for smart ripostes.

Jim Lindop


Louis Seize and Marie Antoinette
Would drink champagne and, later, for a bet,
(Not that they were short of dosh)
Would force the peasantry to eat brioche.

Jim Lindop


Colonel Gaddafi
Was never heard to laugh. He
Ruled Libya with an iron fist
But isn’t much missed.

Andy Jackson


Jim Jones
(God curse his bones)
Didn’t intend to be cruel,
Though the Aid he administered was not Kool.

Andy Jackson


Napoleon Bonaparte
Watched the Imperial Guard at Waterloo get blown apart.
He stopped, stood stunned, staggered and stared,
And said O merde!

Tom Deveson


Gnaeus Julius Agricola
Was an Imperial stickler.
He said: ‘Caledonia’s too big to police
So I’ll make it a wilderness and call it peace.’

Tom Deveson


Pol Pot
Said: ‘You will be shot
For disagreeing with me.’
Humanely adding: ‘Would you like some tea?’

Graham Mummery


Frederick Barbarossa
Got crossa and crossa
With people thinking he was weird
Because of the beard

Judith Taylor.


Lady Bathory
Was a bit like a Tory
In that she wet her tongue
In the blood of the young.

Bethany W Pope


Maximilien de Robespierre
Wore ladies’ underwear.
He said it was an error
Caused by the reign of terror.

Brian Kirk


Tamerlane
Watched a crane
Slowly cross the sky.
17 million would die.

Robert Fitzmaurice


Augusto Pinochet
Was not killed by a ricochet
From a bullet fired in rage.
He died in old age.

George Szirtes


Catherine the Great
Never did have that date
With the horse. She died very old,
With plenty of gold.

Bethany W Pope


Nicolae Ceaușescu
Hoped someone would come to his rescue,
But after all his diabolical work he
Ended up a Christmas turkey.

David Hill


Vlad
Had
Those he disliked
Spiked.

David Hill


Kim Jong-Il
Invented the pneumatic drill.
He was also said to come up with the Tommy Gun.
Oh no, that was his son.

Grant Tarbard


Des Pot
Didn’t think a lot
Of his unfortunate name.
Still, he stuck with it all the same.

Peadar O’Donoghue

Reviews

‘This is an excellent book for Christmas Day amusement. Perfect for those moments creux when seriousness is unwanted.’

Mistress Quickly’s Bed