by John McCall

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Phony Pearls of Biography
Clerihews Verse

In this necklace of dime-store pearls, both the subjects and the names are alphabetical. If you'd like to know more about "Clerihews," see the introduction to PHONY PEARLS OF MYTHOLOGY.


Wright, Frank Lloyd
Frank Lloyd Wright
Sometimes got so tight
That he'd say: "Tee-hee,
They've got to live in geometry."


Cervantes, Miguel
Cervantes wrote he
Was done with Don Quixote.
Then he turned green and environmental
And made all the windmills experimental.

Chaucer, Geoffrey
Was cross, Sir.
When he bought your flour stale,
He made up the "Miller's Tale".

Dickens, Charles
Forced to read Dickens,
I'd picture him with an orphan's slim pickins'
And a teacher's voice saying, "Better write more
Or you'll wind up out the door."

Dostoyevsky, Fodor
Dostoyevsky wrote: "I'm just too sublime
To imagine that anything could be a crime.
And it's really too Hunnish
To punish."

Joyce, James
James Joyce's Ulysses
Isn't for sissies,
And his Wake
Was, for Finnegan, even harder to take.

Twain, Mark 
Mark Twain
Would explain:
"Blame my literary lemons
On 'Samuel Clemens.' "


Ford, Henry
Rich Henry Ford
Claimed, "That ain't hay I have to hoard."
In fact, it was -- for in remorse
He'd reverted to the horse.

Pulitzer, Joseph
"I moved from the new Ritz, Sir,
To marry that newshound, Joseph Pulitzer.
Reporting each hint of our marital stress,
He scoops his rivals in morning press."

Rockefeller, John D.
John D. Rockefeller
Had an oleaginous smeller.
He'd stick his nose for hidden oil
In what looked like standard soil.


Alexander, the Great
When Alexander, the Great,
Became a head of State,
He was feared
When other heads disappeared.
Arthur (King)
Take care with that Round Table, King Arthur!
Does he desire a seat by your hearth -- or
A knightly leer
At your Guinevere?

Was Frank-ish and vain.
Now, was he absolutely frank?
That depended on your rank.

Churchill, Winston
Winston Churchill smoked cigars,
Which lighted the way through a number of wars.
Blowing smoke means there's always a catch,
But Sir Winston was hard to match.

Cleopatra -
Her charms come at ya,
And her voice didn't rasp
Till she greeted an asp.

Disraeli, Benjamin
Could Disraeli, as a minister, ever be quite prime?
To him, the Queen's Empire is the perfect crime,
Because it's simply glorious
For a Queen victorious.

Machiavelli, Niccolo
Said Machiavelli
"Don't turn to jelly,
Or even wince:
I'm perfectly harmless, like a real prince."

Medici, Catherine de
Catherine de Medici
Was no fair-weather she.
She'd always stand by
Dinner guests, as they'd die.

Napoleon I
To Napoleon, defeat was just dandy,
After Waterloo, he became a brandy.
And becoming the finest French liquefaction
Brought the Corsican satisfaction.

Sitting Bull
"Sitting Bull
Is no obsta-cle
(Let alone a cause to mourn),"
Said Custer, who blew his big horn.


Bogart, Humphrey

Once again, Humphrey Bogart,
Here's looking at your rogue part.
It's not that I've just gotta see,
You're just all that's on TV.

Hitchcock, Alfred
You're a devil, Alfred Hitchcock:
You can take some plot that's just a kitch crock,
And with your gory psycho powers
Make us scared of birds and showers.

Taylor, Liz
Elizabeth Taylor
Played too many parts to label and trail her.
In velvet, she's a little woman,
But everywhere she's a giant comin'.


Armstrong, Louis

Lois Armstrong,
After a warm song,
Came out with a razz,
When asked, "What is jazz?"

The Beatles rocked,
And, in early days, they often shocked.
As a descendant, I'm glad they were bold,
In my rocking chair, with retirement bankrolled.

Gilbert, W. S. (& Sullivan)
Gilbert, and Sullivan, and their D'Oyly Carte
Made fun-poking operas into an art.
Did they had no fear o'
The Victorian era?

Handel, George Frederick
Handel - his music was expansive,
And popularity made fees advansive.
"Public taste," he declares, "is very baroque
So I'm one composer not often broke."

Key, Francis Scott
Francis Scott Key
Wrote "Oh, say, can you see."
Thank, God, few learn he
Was an attorney.

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
 Mozart was a prodigy
(And not only in the key of g).
Everyone's pet, he died when quite glum,
Decomposing his requiem.

Sousa, John Phillip
John Phillip Sousa
Had powers, quite unlike Medusa.
While she would turn men into stone,
His marches rattled every bone.

Botticelli, Sandro
Painted Venus sea shell-y.
Divine but not for the cloisters,
That pearl brings on more urges than oysters.

Monet, Claude
Nature-painter, Monet, making no concessions
To quaint academics, left lasting impressions.
But his landlady said, "The reason he scores
Is I lock him out -- so he paints outdoors."

She told that psychologist, Rembrandt van Rijn:
"Stick to depicting my satiny skin.
As for what you may find underneath,
I've got a husband ... so please don't unsheathe."


Confucius, your sayings Confucian
(In attribution)
Turned poor China
Into your myna.

With Plato,
I have a date - oh,
Do you figure my music (all stereophonic)
Will keep him all night from behaving platonic?  

Is that crock a tease?
When you tell me you really don't know,
Is that just to make the dialogue flow?

You give us leaders a scare!
Give us protest, give us treason,
Give us anything but reason.


Burners-Lee, Tim
Tim Burners-Lee
Invented Web software with a learner's glee.
Don't blame him for the Web's misdeed.
Even without him, no one would read.

Edison, Thomas Alva
To us Americans, Thomas Edison
Said: "Here some strong medicine:
Inventing takes lot's of perspiration!"
So we've made the sauna our destination.

Einstein, Albert
Albert Einstein
Filled up a fine stein.
About its ingredients, he was laconic,
Muttering "atomic" in a tone not ironic.

Gagarin, Yuri
Said Yuri Gagarin
 "Don't ask how I'm farin' --
Or call me an ace.
Just give me some space."

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Rev 2010-1.