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Mirth and Dancing
Literary Games

For those who are vain about their literary gifts there are limericks, clerihews, bouts-rimes and bellocrimes.


Everybody thinks he knows how to write these, but few can. The limerick is a peculiarly subtle form, as difficult as a five-act tragedy, and in structure not unlike it. The theme is stated in the first line, is expanded in the second, develops into action in the third and fourth, and in the fifth attains the catastrophe, which must be as inevitable as it is shocking, or at least surprising.


The "clerihew" is not so difficult as the limerick, yet is by no means so easy as it looks. The correct formula is

Dante Alighieri
Seldom went to the dairy.
He wrote the Inferno
On a bottle of Pernod.

Avoid the vicious practice that has crept in recently of metrically mutilating the last line, e.g.

He wrote the Inferno
On Pernod.

This is the negation of clerihew art.


Everybody knows these and can make something of them-a couple of rhyming words, or several couples, being given on which to build as sensible verses as you can.


These are a sort of mixture of bouts-rimes and consequences. Imperfect couplets, consisting of the first line, or the first line and a bit, are written down suitably spaced. Players have to complete the couplets. The paper is folded so that each player sees only his own task.

E.g., the italicised passages in brackets being the completions -

There was a man called Peter Pole
(Who disapproved of birth control).
He doted on his family life,
(He very seldom beat his wife).
He ne'er had letters from the bank
Marked "Private", (for he never drank).
His wife, a large and lovely woman,
(Regarded him as barely human).

And so on. Of course the average will not be up to the level of this noble fragment. But you can try.

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