If English Composers Played Soccer…

My recent clerihew about Joseph Paxton and the Crystal Palace reminded me of a clerihew I wrote a while ago about the composer Thomas Tallis (1505 -1585), musing on the possibility of him taking up the round-ball sport.

Alas, a search for more information revealed that I had been beaten to the punch by one Terrence “Spike” Milligan (1918 – 2002), comedian and author, who also wrote a clerihew about Tallis. Luckily, the two clerihews are nothing alike: you can compare them below.

* * *

Thomas Tallis, composer of English sacred music, was a favourite composer of Henry VIII and several of his successors . . . a difficult line of business to be in when the “official religion” changed from Catholic to Protestant to Catholic to Protestant frequently in the space of four monarchies.

In 1575, Queen Elizabeth I granted Tallis and his pupil William Byrd (1542 – 1623) a monopoly in England on printing ecclesiastical music. Tallis lived at the time when printed music was just becoming possible, and as a result a very substantial body of work survives, notably many anthems for liturgical use (he was a pioneer of the anthem in England) but also separate works such as his Lamentations of Jeremiah.

* * *

In 1992, Queen Elizabeth II made Spike Milligan an honorary CBE (Commander of the British Empire). Spike Milligan remarked: “I can’t see the sense in it, really. It makes me a Commander of the British Empire. They might as well make me a commander of Milton Keynes – at least that exists.” (Coincidentally, the town of Milton Keynes has a connection with Alan Turing, the subject of my previous clerihew, as Bletchley Park lies within its boundaries.) Spike Milligan was made an honorary KBE (Knight Commander of the British Empire) in 2000.

Here is Spike’s clerihew about Thomas Tallis:

Thomas Tallis
Bore no man any malice
Save an organist called Ken
Who played his music rather badly now and then.

And here is mine.

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