My Clerihews Re-posted from Light Magazine

My three clerihews below were originally published in the Winter 2014 issue of the online Light poetry magazine ( They are now re-posted here.

Edward R. Murrow

If anything could furrow
The brow of Edward Murrow
It was Joe McCarthy’s proclivities
For un-American activities.

Robert Frost

Robert Frost
Was always getting lost.
His plans usually unraveled
When he took the road less traveled.

Clinton and Clinton

The critics didn’t stint on
Their bile for William Clinton
And also chose to pillory
That other Clinton, Hillary.

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More Clerihews in ‘Light’ Poetry Magazine

Three more of my clerihews have just been published in the latest issue of the online Light poetry magazine ( This time, the subjects are:

  • Edward R. Murrow,
  • Robert Frost, and
  • Bill and Hillary Clinton.

This also allows me to post in this blog copies of the four clerihews of mine that were published in Light magazine’s Summer 2013 issue. Read those clerihews below.

Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan
Brought the seance to ruin
When he was able to presage
The medium’s message.

Yul Brynner

Whenever Yul Brynner
Played a devil or a sinner
He shaved off every follicle
To appear even more diabolical.

Winston Churchill

The wrath of Winston Churchill
Was actual, not virtual,
When he was told to quit cigars
And drinking gin in bars.

Marshal Tito

Marshal Josip Broz Tito’s
Dislike of mosquitoes
Was mostly because they disturb ya
Throughout Montenegro and Serbia.

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Hall Caine and the Isle of Man

Hall Caine (1853–1931), a novelist and playwright of the late Victorian and the Edwardian eras, was born in Runcorn, Cheshire, but his father was a Manxman, and Hall Caine himself is usually associated with the Isle of Man. Hall Caine’s novels were very popular in their time, but these days his work is virtually forgotten.

The clerihew below was inspired by Harry Graham’s poem Sherlock Holmes, which appeared first in the June 1905 issue of the (American) Metropolitan Magazine and later in the book More Misrepresentative Men, which is available in electronic form at Project Gutenberg.

In the poem, Graham makes fun of Hall Caine’s penchant for trimming his hair and beard to enhance his resemblance to William Shakespeare (or at least to the Stratford bust of Shakespeare); if people did not notice the likeness, Hall Caine was inclined to point it out to them. It’s fair to assume that this eccentricity owes as much to vanity as it does to reality.

Hence the clerihew:

hall caine

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Clerihews in ‘Light’ Poetry Magazine

This is a quick note to mention that four of my clerihews have just been published in the online Light poetry magazine. The subjects?

  • Marshall McLuhan,
  • Yul Brynner,
  • Winston Churchill, and
  • Marshal Tito.

You can find Light magazine at The current issue contains many fine and funny poems, and the poem of the week is Gail White’s Edna Millay’s Goldfish. I wish I’d written that one!


Dennis Callegari

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Edward Gordon Craig

Edward (Ted) Gordon Craig (1872-1966) was one of the two illegitimate children of Ellen Terry (one of the most revered actors on the Victorian stage) and the architect and designer Edward Godwin.

He and his sister Edith (Edy) Craig were born while Ellen Terry was still married to (but separated from) the much older artist George Frederick Watts, and were as a consequence raised in a lifestyle that was far from the genteel norm in Victorian England.

With Edward Godwin long gone from the scene, the teenage years of both Ted and Edy were spent backstage at the Lyceum theatre in London, under the eye of Henry Irving, the great actor of the day. Ted became almost a surrogate son to Irving, who was at that time estranged from his own two sons (Harry and Laurence).

It was inevitable that both Ted and Edy would test their talents on stage (with some success), but both eventually settled for other roles.

With the financial support of Ellen Terry, Edy became a costume designer, director, producer and suffragette.

Her brother’s career was also supported by their mother. As well as being a scenic designer, artist and director, Gordon Craig (no longer Ted) became a writer – mainly on theatrical theory, but also as a biographer. His later biography of Henry Irving was well received.

In a recent (600-page) biography, A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving and Their Remarkable Families, Michael Holroyd covers the lives of these people and their families. If Holroyd had confined himself to writing about only Terry and Irving, I dare say the book would have been a couple of hundred pages shorter.

Much of the rest of the book covers the life and times of Gordon Craig.

Theatrically, Craig collaborated with Irving and Terry, and also Constantin Stanislavski, Isadora Duncan, W.B. Yeats, Eleonora Duse, the composer Martin Shaw and many others. He was extremely difficult to work with and often refused to work on any project where he did not have complete artistic control. Not surprisingly with that reputation, he achieved very little in the second half of his very long life.

Today’s clerihew concentrates on another aspect of Gordon Craig’s life. According to Holroyd, Craig had no less than 13 children by eight different women, including Isadora Duncan. Sometimes, Craig’s previous paternity was first revealed to a new inamorata just after the birth of a child, when a batch of older children would turn up for a holiday…

So, of course …

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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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The Turing Text

Alan Turing turns 100 on 23 June 2012. To mark the event, the Turing Centenary Advisory Committee is coordinating the Alan Turing Year, a programme of events around the world honouring Turing’s life and achievements.

Alan Mathison Turing (23 June 1912 – 7 June 1954), was an English mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist who played a significant role in the creation of the modern computer and in the concept of artificial intelligence.

Among other things, Turing was responsible for:

  • The Turing Machine (1936), a hypothetical computing machine that helped describe the limits of mechanical computation.
  • The Turing Test (1950), an attempt to define a standard by which a machine could be judged as intelligent – the idea being that a “thinking” computer would be able to converse with a human being without revealing its non-human nature.
  • Techniques for breaking German Enigma ciphers at the top-secret Bletchley Park project during World War 2. One of his successes was the “bombe”, an electromechanical device for working out settings for the Enigma machine. For his work, Turing was awarded the OBE in 1945.
  • One of the first designs for a stored-program computer, the ACE.
  • The LU decomposition method (1948) for solving matrix equations.
  • One ground-breaking paper on mathematical biology, “The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis”, which investigated the biological process that causes an organism to develop its shape.

Turing’s career and life were blighted by a criminal conviction for indecency in 1952, which followed the investigation of his sexual relationship with another man. Says Wikipedia:

“Turing’s homosexuality resulted in a criminal prosecution in 1952, when homosexual acts were still illegal in the United Kingdom. He accepted treatment with female hormones (chemical castration) as an alternative to prison. He died in 1954, just over two weeks before his 42nd birthday, from cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined it was suicide; his mother and some others believed his death was accidental. On 10 September 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for the way in which Turing was treated after the war.”

And so to today’s clerihew (and the headline to this message):

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