Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism Responsa

Clerihewing Mortara

In his 1960 collection Homage to Clio, WH Auden included a series of what he called “Academic Graffiti,” tendentious and silly, but despite (or rather because of) that fact nevertheless insightful, biographical poems on important figures. (The technical term for this genre, as a colleague of mine in the English Department pointed out, is “clerihew,” named after the dedicatee of a novel I don’t care for by an author I don’t care for.) They are poems such as:

Archbishop Laud

Was High, not Broad:

He could never descend

To celebrating at the North End


Queen Mary (The Bloody)

Had an understudy

Who was a Prot:

She was not.


Luther & Zwingli

Should be treated singly:

L hated the Peasants,

Z the Real Presence.

Recently, the editors of First Things seemed surprised to learn that most people, including those in the Church of Rome, didn’t consider it an open question whether the Church should forcibly seize children who were clandestinely baptized against their parents’ wishes–you know, not one of those things about which reasonable people disagree.  A good old-fashioned clerihew might help to alleviate this puzzlement and show why, at bottom, this in fact really isn’t something that should be treated as a subject of serious debate. So I wrote them one.

Pope Pius the Nine

Thought the baby fine;

He had the nurse

Sneak him off in her purse.

I’m quite sure they are appreciative, and I will eagerly wait for the offer to run this in the next issue.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.