Esprit de Bain

You know the phrase “esprit de l’escalier”?

Literally it means “spirit of the staircase” or “staircase wit”. It was coined by the French philosopher Denis Diderot to describe the situation when you discover the perfect reply only after you have left the party.

Now let another Dennis coin the phrase “esprit de bain” to cover the situation when you compose a clerihew while having a shower. (Yes, I know that the French word for “shower” is “douche”. but somehow the phrase “esprit de douche” doesn’t have that certain je ne sais quoi.)

The two new clerihews below came to my mind unbidden as the water sluiced from the shower head. For your edification, I have included a bit of background material for both verses.

Fidel Castro and Che Guevara

Fidel Castro (1926–2016), Cuban politician and revolutionary, led the guerilla campaign that ousted the dictator Fulgencio Batista from power in Cuba at the end of 1958. Depending on your point of view, Castro was either a revolutionary hero or a revolutionary monster. Certainly, he was a central figure in the Cuban missile crisis, which arguably is the point at which the human species has (so far) most closely approached the brink of nuclear war.

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, Argentinian revolutionary and physician, first met Fidel Castro in Mexico in 1955, and in 1956 he joined Castro’s revolution in Cuba. Guevara soon rose to prominence among the insurgents, and played a pivotal role in the campaign that deposed the Batista regime. Guevara left Cuba in 1965 to foment revolution abroad, which resulted in his death in Bolivia in 1965.


Author’s Note:

While it is abundantly clear that Fidel Castro and Che Guevara must have shared a meal on more than one occasion, I have no evidence that any of those meals consisted of a dish of spaghetti Carbonara. By a curious coincidence, “Carbonari” is the name given to an informal network of secret revolutionary societies that was active in Italy from about 1800 to 1831. The Italian Carbonari are often cited as the inspiration for many other revolutionary groups.

David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars

David Bowie (1947–2016), musician and actor, was a leading innovator in popular music from the 1960s until his death in early 2016. A feature of Bowie’s career — at least in the early days — was the different persona that he adopted with every new concept he explored. The Independent newspaper identified some of those personas (and album associated with them) as:

  • Major Tom (Space Oddity)
  • Aladdin Sane (Aladdin Sane)
  • Thin White Duke (Young Americans)
  • Halloween Jack (Diamond Dogs)

And of course there was Ziggy Stardust.

In 1972, Bowie released his fifth studio album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, a concept album about a fictitious rock band fronted by the eponymous Ziggy. According to Rolling Stone magazine:

Ziggy [was] an … alien rock star, sent to Earth as a messenger …. [H]umanity was in its final five years of existence, and Ziggy was dispatched to deliver a message of hope: He’s a wild, hedonistic figure (“well-hung and snow-white tan”), but at his core communicates peace and love; he’s the ultimate rock star. And in the end, he is destroyed by his own excesses and by his fans.

David Bowie was often dubbed ‘the coolest man on Earth’. And what could be cooler that drinking champagne with an alien rock band?


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