Jun. 17, 2001

A selection several Clerihews

by Henry Taylor

SUNDAY, 17 JUNE 2001
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Poem: A selection of Clerihews by Henry Taylor from Brief Candles: 101 Clerihews (Louisiana State University Press).


John Dryden
wasn't the sort you'd confide in;
there was no limit to the secrets he'd tell
in lyrics set to music by Henry Purcell.

William Wordsworth
considered four and twenty birds worth
a walk as far as the banks of the Wye.
There are some things money just can't buy.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson,
once solved an enigma: when is an
eider most like a merganser?
He lived long enough to forget the answer.

Friedrich Nietzsche
strove vainly to reach a
steadfast decision
between Apollonian and Dionysian.

William Rehnquist
grew testy when quizzed
concerning how sober
a judge ought to be the first week in October.

Stephen Breyer,
when a tabloid called to inquire
whether he is a space alien,
felt sure of his status as earthly mammalian.

Anthony Kennedy
was startled: when had he
removed his tie?
And why?

Antonin Scalia
likes to sing "The Rose of Tralee"—a
treat for all students
of his jurisprudence.

David Souter
booted up his computer
and discovered that sex is
treated drily on LEXIS.

John Paul Stevens
is one of the evens
against the odds, standing unbent
by his dissent.

It's the birthday of the comic novelist Laurie Foos, born in Long Island, New York, in 1966, and author of "surrealist fiction." Her first novel, Ex Utero, came out in 1995 when she was 27.

It's the birthday of Jo Ann Beard, born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1955. She was working as a secretary at the University of Iowa's physics department. One day in November 1991, she left work early to tend to her sick dog at home, and that afternoon a student shot and killed five members of the physics department. She wrote about it in an essay for The New Yorker magazine, then in a best-selling book, Boys of My Youth, published in 1998.

It's the birthday in Great Lakes, Illinois, in 1952, of poet David Mura, author of the memoir, Turning Japanese, and collections of poetry, including After We Lost Our Way.

It's the birthday of the poet James Weldon Johnson, born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1871. He is best remembered for his book The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. He was an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance Literary movement of the 1920s and 30s.

On this day in 1893, Cracker Jack was introduced at the Colombian Exposition in Chicago—a concoction of peanuts, popcorn, and molasses. It was sold for a nickel a box, in the same size boxes that are still sold. In 1908, it was made part of the song "Take Me Out To The Ball Game."

The battle of Bunker Hill was fought on this day, in 1775, at dawn, just north of Boston. The British thought they had an easy fight on their hands—they considered the Americans to be the "worst soldiers in the Universe." But the Americans inflicted over a thousand casualties on the attackers, and the British public was shocked at the losses. Bunker Hill brought the realization that this would be a full-scale war.

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