A Nonsense Anthology
Collected by Carolyn Wells

Part 4 out of 5

Then fumbled at, and stumbled out of, door,
I shoved the timber ope wi' my omoplat;
And _in vestibulo_, i' the lobby to-wit,
(Iacobi Facciolati's rendering, sir,)
Donned galligaskins, antigropeloes,
And so forth; and, complete with hat and gloves,
One on and one a-dangle i' my hand,
And ombrifuge (Lord love you!) cas o' rain,
I flopped forth, 'sbuddikins! on my own ten toes,
(I do assure you there be ten of them)
And went clump-clumping up hill and down dale
To find myself o' the sudden i' front o' the boy.
Put case I hadn't 'em on me, could I ha' bought
This sort-o'-kind-o'-what-you-might-call-toy,
This pebble-thing, o' the boy-thing? Q. E. D.
That's proven without aid for mumping Pope,
Sleek porporate or bloated cardinal.
(Isn't it, old Fatchops? You're in Euclid now.)
So, having the shilling--having i' fact a lot--
And pence and halfpence, ever so many o' them,
I purchased, as I think I said before,
The pebble (_lapis, lapidis, di, dem, de_--
What nouns 'crease short i' the genitive, Fatchops, eh?)
O the boy, a bare-legg'd beggarly son of a gun,
For one-and-fourpence. Here we are again.
Now Law steps in, biwigged, voluminous-jaw'd;
Investigates and re-investigates.
Was the transaction illegal? Law shakes head.
Perpend, sir, all the bearings of the case.

At first the coin was mine, the chattel his.
But now (by virtue of the said exchange
And barter) _vice versa_ all the coin,
_Rer juris operationem_, vests
I' the boy and his assigns till ding o' doom;
_In saecula saeculo-o-o-orum_;
(I think I hear the Abate mouth out that.)
To have and hold the same to him and them ...
Confer some idiot on Conveyancing.
Whereas the pebble and every part thereof,
And all that appertaineth thereunto,
_Quodcunque pertinet ad em rem_,
(I fancy, sir, my Latin's rather pat)
Or shall, will, may, might, can, could, would, or should,
_Subaudi caetera_--clap we to the close--
For what's the good of law in such a case o' the kind
Is mine to all intents and purposes.
This settled, I resume the thread o' the tale.

Now for a touch o' the vendor's quality.
He says a gen'lman bought a pebble of him,
(This pebble i' sooth, sir, which I hold i' my hand)--
And paid for 't, _like_ a gen'lman, on the nail.
"Did I o'ercharge him a ha'penny? Devil a bit.
Fiddlepin's end! Get out, you blazing ass!
Gabble o' the goose. Don't bugaboo-baby _me_!
Go double or quits? Yah! tittup! what's the odds?"
--There's the transaction viewed in the vendor's light.

Next ask that dumpled hag, stood snuffling by,
With her three frowsy blowsy brats o' babes,
The scum o' the Kennel, cream o' the filth-heap--Faugh!
Aie, aie, aie, aie! [Greek: otototototoi],
('Stead which we blurt out, Hoighty toighty now)--
And the baker and candlestick maker, and Jack and Gill,
Blear'd Goody this and queasy Gaffer that,
Ask the Schoolmaster, Take Schoolmaster first.
He saw a gentleman purchase of a lad
A stone, and pay for it _rite_ on the square,
And carry it off _per saltum_, jauntily
_Propria quae maribus_, gentleman's property now
(Agreeable to the law explained above).
_In proprium usum_, for his private ends,
The boy he chucked a brown i' the air, and bit
I' the face the shilling; heaved a thumping stone
At a lean hen that ran cluck-clucking by,
(And hit her, dead as nail i' post o' door,)
Then _abiit_--What's the Ciceronian phrase?
_Excessit, evasit, erupit_--off slogs boy;
Off like bird, _avi similis_--(you observed
The dative? Pretty i' the Mantuan!)--_Anglice_
Off in three flea skips. _Hactenus_, so far,
So good, _tam bene. Bene, satis, male_,--
Where was I with my trope 'bout one in a quag?
I did once hitch the Syntax into verse
_Verbum personale_, a verb personal,
_Concordat_--"ay", agrees old Fatchops--_cum
Nominativo_, with its nominative,
_Genere_, i' point of gender, _numero_,
O' number, _et persona_, and person. _Ut_,
Instance: _Sol ruit_, down flops sun, _et_ and,
_Montes umbrantur_, out flounce mountains. Pah!
Excuse me, sir, I think I'm going mad.

You see the trick on't, though, and can yourself
Continue the discourse _ad libitum_.
It takes up about eighty thousand lines,
A thing imagination boggles at;
And might, odds-bobs, sir! in judicious hands
Extend from here to Mesopotamy.

_C.S. Calverley_.


In moss-prankt dells which the sunbeams flatter
(And heaven it knoweth what that may mean;
Meaning, however, is no great matter)
Where woods are a-tremble with words a-tween;

Thro' God's own heather we wonned together,
I and my Willie (O love my love):
I need hardly remark it was glorious weather,
And flitter-bats wavered alow, above:

Boats were curtseying, rising, bowing,
(Boats in that climate are so polite,)
And sands were a ribbon of green endowing,
And O the sun-dazzle on bark and bight!

Thro' the rare red heather we danced together
(O love my Willie,) and smelt for flowers:
I must mention again it was glorious weather,
Rhymes are so scarce in this world of ours:

By rises that flushed with their purple favors,
Thro' becks that brattled o'er grasses sheen,
We walked or waded, we two young shavers,
Thanking our stars we were both so green.

We journeyed in parallels, I and Willie,
In fortunate parallels! Butterflies,
Hid in weltering shadows of daffodilly
Or marjoram, kept making peacock eyes:

Song-birds darted about, some inky
As coal, some snowy (I ween) as curds;
Or rosy as pinks, or as roses pinky--
They reek of no eerie To-come, those birds!

But they skim over bents which the mill-stream washes,
Or hang in the lift 'neath a white cloud's hem;
They need no parasols, no goloshes;
And good Mrs. Trimmer she feedeth them.

Then we thrid God's cowslips (as erst his heather),
That endowed the wan grass with their golden blooms;
And snapt--(it was perfectly charming weather)--
Our fingers at Fate and her goddess-glooms:

And Willie 'gan sing--(Oh, his notes were fluty;
Wafts fluttered them out to the white-winged sea)--
Something made up of rhymes that have done much duty,
Rhymes (better to put it) of "ancientry":

Bowers of flowers encountered showers
In William's carol--(O love my Willie!)
Then he bade sorrow borrow from blithe tomorrow
I quite forget what--say a daffodilly.

A nest in a hollow, "with buds to follow,"
I think occurred next in his nimble strain;
And clay that was "kneaden" of course in Eden--
A rhyme most novel I do maintain:

Mists, bones, the singer himself, love-stories,
And all least furlable things got furled;
Not with any design to conceal their glories,
But simply and solely to rhyme with world.

O if billows and pillows and hours and flowers,
And all the brave rhymes of an elder day,
Could be furled together, this genial weather,
And carted or carried on wafts away,

Nor ever again trotted out--ah me!
How much fewer volumes of verse there'd be.

_C.S. Calverley_


There is a river clear and fair,
'Tis neither broad nor narrow;
It winds a little here and there--
It winds about like any hare;
And then it takes as straight a course
As on the turnpike road a horse,
Or through the air an arrow.

The trees that grow upon the shore,
Have grown a hundred years or more;
So long there is no knowing.
Old Daniel Dobson does not know
When first these trees began to grow;
But still they grew, and grew, and grew,
As if they'd nothing else to do,
But ever to be growing.

The impulses of air and sky
Have rear'd their stately heads so high,
And clothed their boughs with green;
Their leaves the dews of evening quaff,--
And when the wind blows loud and keen,
I've seen the jolly timbers laugh,
And shake their sides with merry glee--
Wagging their heads in mockery.

Fix'd are their feet in solid earth,
Where winds can never blow;
But visitings of deeper birth
Have reach'd their roots below.
For they have gain'd the river's brink,
And of the living waters drink.

There's little Will, a five years child--
He is my youngest boy:
To look on eyes so fair and wild,
It is a very joy:--
He hath conversed with sun and shower,
And dwelt with every idle flower,
As fresh and gay as them.
He loiters with the briar rose,--
The blue-belles are his play-fellows,
That dance upon their slender stem.

And I have said, my little Will,
Why should not he continue still
A thing of Nature's rearing?
A thing beyond the world's control--
A living vegetable soul,--
No human sorrow fearing.

It were a blessed sight to see
That child become a Willow-tree,
His brother trees among.
He'd be four times as tall as me,
And live three times as long.

_Catharine M. Fanshawe_.


You may lift me up in your arms, lad, and turn my face to the sun,
For a last look back at the dear old track where the Jubilee cup
was won;
And draw your chair to my side, lad--no, thank ye, I feel no pain--
For I'm going out with the tide, lad; but I'll tell you the tale

I'm seventy-nine or nearly, and my head it has long turned gray,
But it all comes back as clearly as though it was yesterday--
The dust, and the bookies shouting around the clerk of the scales,
And the clerk of the course, and the nobs in force, and 'Is
'Ighness the Pr**ce of W*les.

'Twas a nine-hole thresh to wind'ard (but none of us cared for that),
With a straight run home to the service tee, and a finish along
the flat,
"Stiff?" ah, well you may say it! Spot barred, and at five stone
But at two and a bisque I'd ha' run the risk; for I was a
greenhorn then.

So we stripped to the B. Race signal, the old red swallowtail--
There was young Ben Bolt and the Portland Colt, and Aston Villa,
and Yale;
And W. G., and Steinitz, Leander and The Saint,
And the G*rm*n Emp*r*r's Meteor, a-looking as fresh as paint;

John Roberts (scratch), and Safety Match, The Lascar, and Lorna
Oom Paul (a bye), and Romany Rye, and me upon Wooden Spoon;
And some of us cut for partners, and some of us strung for baulk,
And some of us tossed for stations--But there, what use to talk?

Three-quarter-back on the Kingsclere crack was station enough for
With a fresh jackyarder blowing and the Vicarage goal a-lee!
And I leaned and patted her centre-bit and eased the quid in her
With a "Soh my lass!" and a "Woa you brute!"--for she could do all
but speak.

She was geared a thought too high perhaps; she was trained a
trifle fine;
But she had the grand reach forward! I never saw such a line!
Smooth-bored, clean run, from her fiddle head with its dainty ear
Hard-bit, _pur sang_, from her overhang to the heel of her off
hind sock.

Sir Robert he walked beside me as I worked her down to the mark;
"There's money on this, my lad," said he, "and most of 'em's
running dark;
But ease the sheet if you're bunkered, and pack the scrummages
And use your slide at the distance, and we'll drink to your health

But I bent and tightened my stretcher. Said I to myself, said I--
"John Jones, this here is the Jubilee Cup, and you have to do or
And the words weren't hardly spoken when the umpire shouted
And we all kicked off from the Gasworks End with a "Yoicks!" and a
"Gone Away!"

And at first I thought of nothing, as the clay flew by in lumps,
But stuck to the old Ruy Lopez, and wondered who'd call for trumps,
And luffed her close to the cushion, and watched each one as it
And in triple file up the Rowley Mile we went like a trail of smoke.

The Lascar made the running but he didn't amount to much,
For old Oom Paul was quick on the ball, and headed it back to touch;
And the whole first flight led off with the right as The Saint
took up the pace,
And drove it clean to the putting green and trumped it there with
an ace.

John Roberts had given a miss in baulk, but Villa cleared with a
And keeping her service hard and low the Meteor forged to the front;
With Romany Rye to windward at dormy and two to play,
And Yale close up--but a Jubilee Cup isn't run for every day.

We laid our course for the Warner--I tell you the pace was hot!
And again off Tattenham Corner a blanket covered the lot.
Check side! Check side! now steer her wide! and barely an inch of
With The Lascar's tail over our lee rail and brushing Leander's

We were running as strong as ever--eight knots--but it couldn't
For the spray and the bails were flying, the whole field tailing
And the Portland Colt had shot his bolt, and Yale was bumped at
the Doves,
And The Lascar resigned to Steinitz, stalemated in fifteen moves.

It was bellows to mend with Roberts--starred three for a penalty
But he chalked his cue and gave 'em the butt, and Oom Paul marked
the trick--
"Offside--No Ball--and at fourteen all! Mark Cock! and two for his
When W.G. ran clean through his lee and beat him twice with a lob.

He yorked him twice on a crumbling pitch and wiped his eye with a
But his guy-rope split with the strain of it and he dropped back
out of the race;
And I drew a bead on the Meteor's lead, and challenging none too
Bent over and patted her garboard strake, and called upon Wooden

She was all of a shiver forward, the spoondrift thick on her flanks,
But I'd brought her an easy gambit, and nursed her over the banks;
She answered her helm--the darling! and woke up now with a rush,
While the Meteor's jock, he sat like a rock--he knew we rode for
his brush!

There was no one else left in it. The Saint was using his whip,
And Safety Match, with a lofting catch, was pocketed deep at slip;
And young Ben Bolt with his niblick took miss at Leander's lunge,
But topped the net with the ricochet, and Steinitz threw up the

But none of the lot could stop the rot--nay, don't ask _me_ to stop!
The villa had called for lemons, Oom Paul had taken his drop,
And both were kicking the referee. Poor fellow! he done his best;
But, being in doubt, he'd ruled them out--which he always did when

So, inch by inch, I tightened the winch, and chucked the sandbags
I heard the nursery cannons pop, I heard the bookies shout:
"The Meteor wins!" "No, Wooden Spoon!" "Check!" "Vantage!"
"Leg Before!"
"Last Lap!" "Pass Nap!" At his saddle-flap I put up the helm and

You may overlap at the saddle-flap, and yet be loo'd on the tape:
And it all depends upon changing ends, how a seven-year-old will
It was tack and tack to the Lepe and back--a fair ding-dong to the
And he led by his forward canvas yet as we shot 'neath Hammersmith

He led by his forward canvas--he led from his strongest suit--
But along we went on a roaring scent, and at Fawley I gained a foot.
He fisted off with his jigger, and gave me his wash--too late!
Deuce--Vantage--Check! By neck and neck we rounded into the

I could hear the "Conquering 'Ero" a-crashing on Godfrey's band,
And my hopes fell sudden to zero, just there, with the race in
In sight of the Turf's Blue Ribbon, in sight of the umpire's tape,
As I felt the tack of her spinnaker c-rack! as I heard the steam

Had I lost at that awful juncture my presence of mind? ... but no!
I leaned and felt for the puncture, and plugged it there with my
Hand over hand by the Members' Stand I lifted and eased her up,
Shot--clean and fair--to the crossbar there, and landed the
Jubilee Cup!

"The odd by a head, and leg before," so the Judge he gave the word:
And the umpire shouted "Over!" but I neither spoke nor stirred.
They crowded round: for there on the ground I lay in a dead-cold
Pitched neck and crop on the turf atop of my beautiful Wooden Spoon.

Her dewlap tire was punctured, her bearings all red hot;
She'd a lolling tongue, and her bowsprit sprung, and her running
gear in a knot;
And amid the sobs of her backers, Sir Robert loosened her girth
And led her away to the knacker's. She had raced her last on earth!

But I mind me well of the tear that fell from the eye of our noble
And the things he said as he tucked me in bed--and I 've lain
there ever since;
Tho' it all gets mixed up queerly that happened before my spill,--
But I draw my thousand yearly: it 'll pay for the doctor's bill.

I'm going out with the tide, lad--you 'll dig me a numble grave,
And whiles you will bring your bride, lad, and your sons, if sons
you have,
And there when the dews are weeping, and the echoes murmur
And the salt, salt tide comes creeping and covers the

In the hour when the ducks deposit their eggs with a boasted force,
They'll look and whisper "How was it?" and you'll take them over
the course,
And your voice will break as you try to speak of the glorious
first of June,
When the Jubilee Cup, with John Jones up, was won upon Wooden Spoon.

_Arthur T. Quiller-Couch_.


Lady, I loved you all last year,
How honestly and well--
Alas! would weary you to hear,
And torture me to tell;
I raved beneath the midnight sky,
I sang beneath the limes--
Orlando in my lunacy,
And Petrarch in my rhymes.
But all is over! When the sun
Dries up the boundless main,
When black is white, false-hearted one,
I may be yours again!

When passion's early hopes and fears
Are not derided things;
When truth is found in falling tears,
Or faith in golden rings;
When the dark Fates that rule our way
Instruct me where they hide
One woman that would ne'er betray,
One friend that never lied;
When summer shines without a cloud,
And bliss without a pain;
When worth is noticed in a crowd,
I may be yours again!

When science pours the light of day
Upon the lords of lands;
When Huskisson is heard to say
That Lethbridge understands;
When wrinkles work their way in youth,
Or Eldon's in a hurry;
When lawyers represent the truth,
Or Mr. Sumner Surrey;
When aldermen taste eloquence
Or bricklayers champagne;
When common law is common sense,
I may be yours again!

When learned judges play the beau,
Or learned pigs the tabor;
When traveller Bankes beats Cicero,
Or Mr. Bishop Weber;
When sinking funds discharge a debt,
Or female hands a bomb;
When bankrupts study the _Gazette_,
Or colleges _Tom Thumb_;
When little fishes learn to speak,
Or poets not to feign;
When Dr. Geldart construes Greek,
I may be yours again!

When Pole and Thornton honor cheques,
Or Mr. Const a rogue;
When Jericho's in Middlesex,
Or minuets in vogue;
When Highgate goes to Devonport,
Or fashion to Guildhall;
When argument is heard at Court,
Or Mr. Wynn at all;
When Sydney Smith forgets to jest,
Or farmers to complain;
When kings that are are not the best,
I may be yours again!

When peers from telling money shrink,
Or monks from telling lies;
When hydrogen begins to sink,
Or Grecian scrip to rise;
When German poets cease to dream,
Americans to guess;
When Freedom sheds her holy beam
On Negroes, and the Press;
When there is any fear of Rome,
Or any hope of Spain;
When Ireland is a happy home,
I may be yours again!

When you can cancel what has been,
Or alter what must be,
Or bring once more that vanished scene,
Those withered joys to me;
When you can tune the broken lute,
Or deck the blighted wreath,
Or rear the garden's richest fruit,
Upon a blasted heath;
When you can lure the wolf at bay
Back to his shattered chain,
To-day may then be yesterday--
I may be yours again!

_W.M. Praed_.


When these things following be done to our intent,
Then put women in trust and confident.

When nettles in winter bring forth roses red,
And all manner of thorn trees bear figs naturally,
And geese bear pearls in every mead,
And laurel bear cherries abundantly,
And oaks bear dates very plenteously,
And kisks give of honey superfluence,
Then put women in trust and confidence.

When box bear paper in every land and town,
And thistles bear berries in every place,
And pikes have naturally feathers in their crown,
And bulls of the sea sing a good bass,
And men be the ships fishes trace,
And in women be found no insipience,
Then put them in trust and confidence.

When whitings do walk forests to chase harts,
And herrings their horns in forests boldly blow,
And marmsets mourn in moors and lakes,
And gurnards shoot rooks out of a crossbow,
And goslings hunt the wolf to overthrow,
And sprats bear spears in armes of defence,
Then put women in trust and confidence.

When swine be cunning in all points of music,
And asses be doctors of every science,
And cats do heal men by practising of physic,
And buzzards to scripture give any credence,
And merchants buy with horn, instead of groats and pence,
And pyes be made poets for their eloquence,
Then put women in trust and confidence.

When sparrows build churches on a height,
And wrens carry sacks unto the mill,
And curlews carry timber houses to dight,
And fomalls bear butter to market to sell,
And woodcocks bear woodknives cranes to kill,
And greenfinches to goslings do obedience,
Then put women in trust and confidence.

When crows take salmon in woods and parks,
And be take with swifts and snails,
And camels in the air take swallows and larks,
And mice move mountains by wagging of their tails,
And shipmen take a ride instead of sails,
And when wives to their husbands do no offence,
Then put women in trust and confidence.

When antelopes surmount eagles in flight,
And swans be swifter than hawks of the tower,
And wrens set gos-hawks by force and might,
And muskets make verjuice of crabbes sour,
And ships sail on dry land, silt give flower,
And apes in Westminster give judgment and sentence,
Then put women in trust and confidence.




_Here is the tale--and you must make the most of it!
Here is the rhyme--ah, listen and attend!
Backwards--forwards--read it all and boast of it
If you are anything the wiser at the end_!

Now Jack looked up--it was time to sup, and the bucket was yet to
And Jack looked round for a space and frowned, then beckoned his
sister Jill,
And twice he pulled his sister's hair, and thrice he smote her side;
"Ha' done, ha' done with your impudent fun--ha' done with your
games!" she cried;
"You have made mud-pies of a marvellous size--finger and face are
You have trodden the Way of the Mire and Clay--now up and wash you,
Or else, or ever we reach our home, there waiteth an angry dame--
Well you know the weight of her blow--the supperless open shame!
Wash, if you will, on yonder hill--wash, if you will, at the spring,--
Or keep your dirt, to your certain hurt, and an imminent walloping!"

"You must wash--you must scrub--you must scrape!" growled Jack,
"you must traffic with cans and pails,
Nor keep the spoil of the good brown soil in the rim of your
The morning path you must tread to your bath--you must wash ere
the night descends,
And all for the cause of conventional laws and the soapmakers'
But if 'tis sooth that our meal in truth depends on our washing,
By the sacred right of our appetite--haste--haste to the top of
the hill!"

They have trodden the Way of the Mire and Clay, they have toiled
and travelled far,
They have climbed to the brow of the hill-top now, where the
bubbling fountains are,
They have taken the bucket and filled it up--yea, filled it up to
the brim;
But Jack he sneered at his sister Jill, and Jill she jeered at him:
"What, blown already!" Jack cried out (and his was a biting mirth!)
"You boast indeed of your wonderful speed--but what is the
boasting worth?
Now, if you can run as the antelope runs, and if you can turn like
a hare,
Come, race me, Jill, to the foot of the hill--and prove your
boasting fair!"

"Race? What is a race" (and a mocking face had Jill as she spake
the word)
"Unless for a prize the runner tries? The truth indeed ye heard,
For I can run as the antelope runs, and I can turn like a hare:--
The first one down wins half-a-crown--and I will race you there!"
"Yea, if for the lesson that you will learn (the lesson of humbled
The price you fix at two-and-six, it shall not be denied;
Come, take your stand at my right hand, for here is the mark we toe:
Now, are you ready, and are you steady? Gird up your petticoats! Go!"

And Jill she ran like a winging bolt, a bolt from the bow released,
But Jack like a stream of the lightning gleam, with its pathway
duly greased;
He ran down hill in front of Jill like a summer-lightning flash--
Till he suddenly tripped on a stone, or slipped, and fell to the
earth with a crash.
Then straight did rise on his wondering eyes the constellations
Arcturus and the Pleiades, the Greater and Lesser Bear,
The swirling rain of a comet's train he saw, as he swiftly fell--
And Jill came tumbling after him with a loud triumphant yell:
"You have won, you have won, the race is done! And as for the
wager laid--
You have fallen down with a broken crown--the half-crown debt is

They have taken Jack to the room at the back where the family
medicines are,
And he lies in bed with a broken head in a halo of vinegar;
While, in that Jill had laughed her fill as her brother fell to
She had felt the sting of a walloping--she hath paid the price of
her mirth!

_Here is the tale--and now you have the whole of it,
Here is the story--well and wisely planned,
Beauty--Duty--these make up the soul of it--
But, ah, my little readers, will you mark and understand_?

_Anthony C. Deane_.


The auld wife sat at her ivied door,
(_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
A thing she had frequently done before;
And her spectacles lay on her aproned knees.

The piper he piped on the hill-top high,
(_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
Till the cow said "I die" and the goose asked "Why;"
And the dog said nothing, but searched for fleas.

The farmer he strode through the square farmyard;
(_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
His last brew of ale was a trifle hard,
The connection of which with the plot one sees.

The farmer's daughter hath frank blue eyes,
(_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
She hears the rooks caw in the windy skies,
As she sits at her lattice and shells her peas.

The farmer's daughter hath ripe red lips;
(_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
If you try to approach her, away she skips
Over tables and chairs with apparent ease.

The farmer's daughter hath soft brown hair;
(_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
And I met with a ballad, I can't say where,
Which wholly consisted of lines like these.

She sat with her hands 'neath her dimpled cheeks,
(_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
And spake not a word. While a lady speaks
There is hope, but she didn't even sneeze.

She sat with her hands 'neath her crimson cheeks;
(_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_)
She gave up mending her father's breeks,
And let the cat roll in her best chemise.

She sat with her hands 'neath her burning cheeks
(_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_),
And gazed at the piper for thirteen weeks;
Then she followed him out o'er the misty leas.

Her sheep followed her as their tails did them
(_Butter and eggs and a pound of cheese_),
And this song is considered a perfect gem,
And as to the meaning, it's what you please.

_Charles S. Calverley_.


Some like drink
In a pint pot,
Some like to think,
Some not.

Strong Dutch cheese,
Old Kentucky Rye,
Some like these;
Not I.

Some like Poe,
And others like Scott;
Some like Mrs. Stowe,
Some not.

Some like to laugh,
Some like to cry,
Some like to chaff;
Not I.

_R.L. Stevenson_.


Minnie and Winnie
Slept in a shell.
Sleep, little ladies!
And they slept well.

Pink was the shell within,
Silver without;
Sounds of the great sea
Wandered about.

Sleep little ladies!
Wake not soon!
Echo on echo
Dies to the moon.

Two bright stars
Peep'd into the shell,
What are they dreaming of?
Who can tell?

Started a green linnet
Out of the croft;
Wake, little ladies,
The sun is aloft!

_Lord Tennyson_.


The Mayor of Scuttleton burned his nose
Trying to warm his copper toes;
He lost his money and spoiled his will
By signing his name with an icicle quill;
He went bareheaded, and held his breath,
And frightened his grandame most to death;
He loaded a shovel and tried to shoot,
And killed the calf in the leg of his boot;

He melted a snowbird and formed the habit
Of dancing jigs with a sad Welsh rabbit;
He lived on taffy and taxed the town;
And read his newspaper upside down;
Then he sighed and hung his hat on a feather,
And bade the townspeople come together;
But the worst of it all was, nobody knew
What the Mayor of Scuttleton next would do.

_Mary Mapes Dodge_.


I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one.


Ah yes, I wrote the Purple Cow,
I'm sorry now I wrote it.
But I can tell you anyhow,
I'll kill you if you quote it.

_Gelett Burgess_.


I'd Never Dare to Walk across
A Bridge I Could Not See;
For Quite afraid of Falling off,
I fear that I Should Be!

_Gelett Burgess_.


The Roof it has a Lazy Time
A-lying in the Sun;
The Walls they have to Hold Him Up;
They do Not Have Much Fun!

_Gelett Burgess_.


My feet, they haul me Round the House,
They Hoist me up the Stairs;
I only have to Steer them and
They Ride me Everywheres.

_Gelett Burgess_.


Alas! my Child, where is the Pen
That can do Justice to the Hen?
Like Royalty, She goes her way,
Laying foundations every day,
Though not for Public Buildings, yet
For Custard, Cake and Omelette.

Or if too Old for such a use
They have their Fling at some Abuse,
As when to Censure Plays Unfit
Upon the Stage they make a Hit,
Or at elections Seal the Fate
Of an Obnoxious Candidate.
No wonder, Child, we prize the Hen,
Whose Egg is Mightier than the Pen.

_Oliver Herford_.


The Cow is too well known, I fear,
To need an introduction here.
If She should vanish from earth's face
It would be hard to fill her place;
For with the Cow would disappear
So much that every one holds Dear.
Oh, think of all the Boots and Shoes,
Milk Punches, Gladstone Bags and Stews,
And Things too numerous to count,
Of which, my child, she is the Fount.
Let's hope, at least, the Fount may last
Until _our_ Generation's past.

_Oliver Herford_.


Children, behold the Chimpanzee:
He sits on the ancestral tree
From which we sprang in ages gone.
I'm glad we sprang: had we held on,
We might, for aught that I can say,
Be horrid Chimpanzees today.

_Oliver Herford_.


"Oh, say, what is this fearful, wild,
Incorrigible cuss?"
"This _creature_ (don't say 'cuss,' my child;
'Tis slang)--this creature fierce is styled
The Hippopotamus.
His curious name derives its source
From two Greek words: _hippos_--a horse,
_Potamos_--river. See?
The river's plain enough, of course;
But why they called _that_ thing a _horse_,
That's what is Greek to me."

_Oliver Herford_.


My child, the Duck-billed Platypus
A sad example sets for us:
From him we learn how Indecision
Of character provokes Derision.

This vacillating Thing, you see,
Could not decide which he would be,
Fish, Flesh or Fowl, and chose all three.
The scientists were sorely vexed
To classify him; so perplexed
Their brains, that they, with Rage at bay,
Call him a horrid name one day,--
A name that baffles, frights and shocks us,
Ornithorhynchus Paradoxus.

_Oliver Herford_.


Ev-er-y child who has the use
Of his sen-ses knows a goose.
See them un-der-neath the tree
Gath-er round the goose-girl's knee,
While she reads them by the hour
From the works of Scho-pen-hau-er.

How pa-tient-ly the geese at-tend!
But do they re-al-ly com-pre-hend
What Scho-pen-hau-er's driv-ing at?
Oh, not at all; but what of that?
Nei-ther do I; nei-ther does she;
And, for that mat-ter, nor does he.

_Oliver Herford_.


_Inspired by reading a chorus of spirits in a German play_


Oh! tell me have you ever seen a red, long-leg'd Flamingo?
Oh! tell me have you ever yet seen him the water in go?


Oh! yes at Bowling-Green I've seen a red long-leg'd Flamingo,
Oh! yes at Bowling-Green I've there seen him the water in go.


Oh! tell me did you ever see a bird so funny stand-o
When forth he from the water comes and gets upon the land-o?


No! in my life I ne'er did see a bird so funny stand-o
When forth he from the water comes and gets upon the land-o.


He has a leg some three feet long, or near it, so they say, Sir.
Stiff upon one alone he stands, t'other he stows away, Sir.


And what an ugly head he's got! I wonder that he'd wear it.
But rather _more_ I wonder that his long, thin neck can bear it.


And think, this length of neck and legs (no doubt they have their
Are members of a little frame, much smaller than a goose's!


Oh! isn't he a curious bird, that red, long-leg'd Flamingo?
A water bird, a gawky bird, a sing'lar bird, by jingo!

_Lewis Gaylord Clark_.


Speak gently to the herring and kindly to the calf,
Be blithesome with the bunny, at barnacles don't laugh!
Give nuts unto the monkey, and buns unto the bear,
Ne'er hint at currant jelly if you chance to see a hare!
Oh, little girls, pray hide your combs when tortoises draw nigh,
And never in the hearing of a pigeon whisper Pie!
But give the stranded jelly-fish a shove into the sea,--
Be always kind to animals wherever you may be!

Oh, make not game of sparrows, nor faces at the ram,
And ne'er allude to mint sauce when calling on a lamb.
Don't beard the thoughtful oyster, don't dare the cod to crimp,
Don't cheat the pike, or ever try to pot the playful shrimp.
Tread lightly on the turning worm, don't bruise the butterfly,
Don't ridicule the wry-neck, nor sneer at salmon-fry;
Oh, ne'er delight to make dogs fight, nor bantams disagree,--
Be always kind to animals wherever you may be!

Be lenient with lobsters, and ever kind to crabs,
And be not disrespectful to cuttle-fish or dabs;
Chase not the Cochin-China, chaff not the ox obese,
And babble not of feather-beds in company with geese.
Be tender with the tadpole, and let the limpet thrive,
Be merciful to mussels, don't skin your eels alive;
When talking to a turtle don't mention calipee--
Be always kind to animals wherever you may be.

_J. Ashby-Sterry_.


The lion is the beast to fight,
He leaps along the plain,
And if you run with all your might,
He runs with all his mane.
I'm glad I'm not a Hottentot,
But if I were, with outward cal-lum
I'd either faint upon the spot
Or hie me up a leafy pal-lum.

The chamois is the beast to hunt;
He's fleeter than the wind,
And when the chamois is in front,
The hunter is behind.
The Tyrolese make famous cheese
And hunt the chamois o'er the chaz-zums;
I'd choose the former if you please,
For precipices give me spaz-zums.

The polar bear will make a rug
Almost as white as snow;
But if he gets you in his hug,
He rarely lets you go.
And Polar ice looks very nice,
With all the colors of a pris-sum;
But, if you'll follow my advice,
Stay home and learn your catechissum.

_A.T. Quiller-Couch_.


Remembering his taste for blood
You'd better bait him with a cow;
Persuade the brute to chew the cud
Her tail suspended from a bough;
It thrills the lion through and through
To hear the milky creature moo.

Having arranged this simple ruse,
Yourself you climb a neighboring tree;
See to it that the spot you choose
Commands the coming tragedy;
Take up a smallish Maxim gun,
A search-light, whisky, and a bun.

It's safer, too, to have your bike
Standing immediately below,
In case your piece should fail to strike,
Or deal an ineffective blow;
The Lion moves with perfect grace,
But cannot go the scorcher's pace.

Keep open ear for subtle signs;
Thus, when the cow profusely moans,
That means to say, the Lion dines.
The crunching sound, of course, is bones;
Silence resumes her ancient reign--
This shows the cow is out of pain.

But when a fat and torpid hum
Escapes the eater's unctuous nose,
Turn up the light and let it come
Full on his innocent repose;
Then pour your shot between his eyes,
And go on pouring till he dies.

Play, even so, discretion's part;
Descend with stealth; bring on your gun;
Then lay your hand above his heart
To see if he is really done;
Don't skin him till you know he's dead
Or you may perish in his stead!

Years hence, at home, when talk is tall,
You'll set the gun-room wide agape,
Describing how with just a small
Pea-rifle, going after ape
You met a Lion unaware,
And felled him flying through the air.

_Owen Seaman_.


Be kind and tender to the Frog,
And do not call him names,
As "Slimy-Skin," or "Polly-wog,"
Or likewise, "Uncle James,"
Or "Gape-a-grin," or "Toad-gone-wrong,"
Or "Billy-Bandy-knees;"
The Frog is justly sensitive
To epithets like these.

No animal will more repay
A treatment kind and fair,
At least, so lonely people say
Who keep a frog (and, by the way,
They are extremely rare).

_Hilaire Belloc_.


As a friend to the children commend me the yak,
You will find it exactly the thing:
It will carry and fetch, you can ride on its back,
Or lead it about with a string.

A Tartar who dwells on the plains of Thibet
(A desolate region of snow)
Has for centuries made it a nursery pet,
And surely the Tartar should know!

Then tell your papa where the Yak can be got,
And if he is awfully rich,
He will buy you the creature--or else he will not,
(I cannot be positive which).

_Hilaire Belloc_.


A python I should not advise,
It needs a doctor for its eyes,
And has the measles yearly.

However, if you feel inclined
To get one (to improve your mind,
And not from fashion merely),

Allow no music near its cage;
And when it flies into a rage
Chastise it most severely.

I had an Aunt in Yucatan
Who bought a Python from a man
And kept it for a pet.

She died because she never knew
These simple little rules and few;--
The snake is living yet.

_Hilaire Belloc_.


The Bison is vain, and (I write it with pain)
The Door-mat you see on his head
Is not, as some learned professors maintain,
The opulent growth of a genius' brain;
But is sewn on with needle and thread.

_Hilaire Belloc_.


Be kind to the panther! for when thou wert young,
In thy country far over the sea,
'Twas a panther ate up thy papa and mamma,
And had several mouthfuls of thee!

Be kind to the badger! for who shall decide
The depths of his badgerly soul?
And think of the tapir when flashes the lamp
O'er the fast and the free-flowing bowl.

Be kind to the camel! nor let word of thine
Ever put up his bactrian back;
And cherish the she-kangaroo with her bag,
Nor venture to give her the sack.

Be kind to the ostrich! for how canst thou hope
To have such a stomach as it?
And when the proud day of your bridal shall come,
Do give the poor birdie a bit.

Be kind to the walrus! nor ever forget
To have it on Tuesday to tea;
But butter the crumpets on only one side,
Save such as are eaten by thee.

Be kind to the bison! and let the jackal
In the light of thy love have a share;
And coax the ichneumon to grow a new tail,
And have lots of larks in its lair.

Be kind to the bustard! that genial bird,
And humor its wishes and ways;
And when the poor elephant suffers from bile,
Then tenderly lace up his stays!



When the monkey in his madness
Took the glue to mend his voice,
'Twas the crawfish showed his sadness
That the bluebird could rejoice.

Then the perspicacious parrot
Sought to save the suicide
By administering carrot,
But the monkey merely died.

So the crawfish and the parrot
Sauntered slowly toward the sea,
While the bluebird stole the carrot
And returned the glue to me.

_Goldwin Goldsmith_.


There was a frog swum in the lake,
The crab came crawling by:
"Wilt thou," coth the frog, "be my make?"
Coth the crab, "No, not I."
"My skin is sooth and dappled fine,
I can leap far and nigh.
Thy shell is hard: so is not mine."
Coth the crab, "No, not I."
"Tell me," then spake the crab, "therefore,
Or else I thee defy:
Give me thy claw, I ask no more."
Coth the frog, "That will I."
The crab bit off the frog's fore-feet;
The frog then he must die.
To woo a crab it is not meet:
If any do, it is not I.

_From Christ Church MS., I. 549_.


The bloated Biggaboon
Was so haughty, he would not repose
In a house, or a hall, or _ces choses_,
But he slept his high sleep in his clothes--
'Neath the moon.
The bloated Biggaboon
Pour'd contempt upon waistcoat and skirt,
Holding swallow-tails even as dirt--
So he puff'd himself out in his shirt,
Like a b'loon.

_H. Cholmondeley-Pennell_.


"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! the flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.

_Peter Newell_.


"Now, if the fish will only bite, we'll have some royal fun."
"And do fish bite? The horrid things! Indeed, I'll not catch one!"

_Peter Newell_.


She played upon her music-box a fancy air by chance,
And straightway all her polka-dots began a lively dance.

_Peter Newell_.


"A milkweed, and a buttercup, and cowslip," said sweet Mary,
"Are growing in my garden-plot, and this I call my dairy."

_Peter Newell_.


'Twas after a supper of Norfolk brawn
That into a doze I chanced to drop,
And thence awoke in the gray of dawn,
In the wonder-land of Turvey Top.

A land so strange I never had seen,
And could not choose but look and laugh--
A land where the small the great includes,
And the whole is less than the half!

A land where the circles were not lines
Round central points, as schoolmen show,
And the parallels met whenever they chose,
And went playing at touch-and-go!

There--except that every round was square
And save that all the squares were rounds--
No surface had limits anywhere,
So they never could beat the bounds.

In their gardens, fruit before blossom came,
And the trees diminished as they grew;
And you never went out to walk a mile,
'Twas the mile that walked to you.

The people there are not tall or short,
Heavy or light, or stout or thin,
And their lives begin where they should leave off,
Or leave off where they should begin.

There childhood, with naught of childish glee,
Looks on the world with thoughtful brow;
'Tis only the aged who laugh and crow,
And cry, "We have done with it now!"

A singular race! what lives they spent!
Got up before they went to bed!
And never a man said what he meant,
Or a woman meant what she said.

They blended colours that will not blend,
All hideous contrasts voted sweet;
In yellow and red their Quakers dress'd,
And considered it rather neat.

They didn't believe in the wise and good,
Said the best were worst, the wisest fools;
And 'twas only to have their teachers taught
That they founded national schools.

They read in "books that are no books,"
Their classics--chess-boards neatly bound;
Those their greatest authors who never wrote,
And their deepest the least profound.

Now, such were the folks of that wonder-land,
A curious people, as you will own;
But are there none of the race abroad,
Are no specimens elsewhere known?

Well, I think that he whose views of life
Are crooked, wrong, perverse, and odd,
Who looks upon all with jaundiced eyes--
Sees himself and believes it God,

Who sneers at the good, and makes the ill,
Curses a world he cannot mend;
Who measures life by the rule of wrong
And abuses its aim and end,

The man who stays when he ought to move,
And only goes when he ought to stop--
Is strangely like the folk in my dream,
And would flourish in Turvey Top.



I dreamt it! such a funny thing--
And now it's taken wing;
I s'pose no man before or since
Dreamt such a funny thing?

It had a Dragon; with a tail;
A tail both long and slim,
And ev'ry day he wagg'd at it--
How good it was of him!

And so to him the tailest
Of all three-tailed Bashaws,
Suggested that for reasons
The waggling should pause;

And held his tail--which, parting,
Reversed that Bashaw, which
Reversed that Dragon, who reversed
Himself into a ditch.

* * * * *

It had a monkey--in a trap--
Suspended by the tail:
Oh! but that monkey look'd distress'd,
And his countenance was pale.

And he had danced and dangled there;
Till he grew very mad:
For his tail it was a handsome tail
And the trap had pinched it--bad.

The trapper sat below, and grinn'd;
His victim's wrath wax'd hot:
He bit his tail in two--and fell--
And killed him on the spot.

* * * * *

It had a pig--a stately pig;
With curly tail and quaint:
And the Great Mogul had hold of that
Till he was like to faint.

So twenty thousand Chinamen,
With three tails each at least,
Came up to help the Great Mogul,
And took him round the waist.

And so, the tail slipp'd through his hands;
And so it came to pass,
That twenty thousand Chinamen
Sat down upon the grass.

* * * * *

It had a Khan--a Tartar Khan--
With tail superb, I wis;
And that fell graceful down a back
Which was considered his.

Wherefore all sorts of boys that were
Accursed, swung by it;
Till he grew savage in his mind
And vex'd, above a bit:

And so he swept his tail, as one
Awak'ning from a dream;
And those abominable ones
Flew off into the stream.

Likewise they hobbled up and down,
Like many apples there;
Till they subsided--and became
Amongst the things that were.

* * * * *

And so it had a moral too,
That would be bad to lose;
"Whoever takes a Tail in hand
Should mind his p's and queues."

I dreamt it!--such a funny thing!
And now it's taken wing;
I s'pose no man before or since
Dreamt such a funny thing?

_H. Cholmondeley-Pennell_.


In an ocean, 'way out yonder
(As all sapient people know),
Is the land of Wonder-Wander,
Whither children love to go;
It's their playing, romping, swinging,
That give great joy to me
While the Dinkey-Bird goes singing
In the Amfalula-tree!

There the gum-drops grow like cherries,
And taffy's thick as peas,--
Caramels you pick like berries
When, and where, and how you please:
Big red sugar-plums are clinging
To the cliffs beside that sea
Where the Dinkey-Bird is singing
In the Amfalula-tree.

So when children shout and scamper
And make merry all the day,
When there's naught to put a damper
To the ardor of their play;
When I hear their laughter ringing,
Then I'm sure as sure can be
That the Dinkey-Bird is singing
In the Amfalula-tree.

For the Dinkey-Bird's bravuras
And staccatos are so sweet--
His roulades, appogiaturas,
And robustos so complete,
That the youth of every nation--
Be they near or far away--
Have especial delectation
In that gladsome roundelay.

Their eyes grow bright and brighter,
Their lungs begin to crow,
Their hearts get light and lighter,
And their cheeks are all aglow;
For an echo cometh bringing
The news to all and me.
That the Dinkey-Bird is singing
In the Amfalula-tree.

I'm sure you'd like to go there
To see your feathered friend--
And so many goodies grow there
You would like to comprehend!
_Speed, little dreams, your winging
To that land across the sea
Where the Dickey-Bird is singing
In the Amfalula-Tree_!

_Eugene Field_.


Said the Raggedy Man on a hot afternoon,
What a lot o' mistakes
Some little folks makes on the Man in the Moon!
But people that's been up to see him like Me,
And calls on him frequent and intimutly,
Might drop a few hints that would interest you
If you wanted 'em to--
Some actual facts that might interest you!"

"O the Man in the Moon has a crick in his back;
Ain't you sorry for him?
And a mole on his nose that is purple and black;
And his eyes are so weak that they water and run
If he dares to _dream_ even he looks at the sun,--
So he jes' dreams of stars, as the doctors advise--
But isn't he wise--
To jes' dream of stars, as the doctors advise?"

"And the Man in the Moon has a boil on his ear--
What a singular thing!
I know! but these facts are authentic, my dear,--
There's a boil on his ear; and a corn on his chin,--
He calls it a dimple,--but dimples stick in,--
Yet it might be a dimple turned over, you know!
Why certainly so!--
It might be a dimple turned over, you know!"

"And the Man in the Moon has a rheumatic knee,
What a pity that is!
And his toes have worked round where his heels ought to be.
So whenever he wants to go North he goes South,
And comes back with the porridge crumbs all round his mouth,
And he brushes them off with a Japanese fan,
What a marvellous man!
What a very remarkably marvellous man!"

"And the Man in the Moon," sighed the Raggedy Man,
Sullonesome, you know!
Up there by himself since creation began!--
That when I call on him and then come away,
He grabs me and holds me and begs me to stay,--
Till--well, if it wasn't for _Jimmy-cum-Jim_,
I'd go pardners with him!
Jes' jump my bob here and be pardners with him!"

_James Whitcomb Riley_.


This is the Wild Huntsman that shoots the hares;
With the grass-green coat he always wears;
With game-bag, powder-horn and gun,
He's going out to have some fun.
He finds it hard without a pair
Of spectacles, to shoot the hare.

He put his spectacles upon his nose, and said,
"Now I will shoot the hares and kill them dead."
The hare sits snug in leaves and grass,
And laughs to see the green man pass.
Now as the sun grew very hot,
And he a heavy gun had got,
He lay down underneath a tree
And went to sleep as you may see.
And, while he slept like any top,
The little hare came, hop, hop, hop,--
Took gun and spectacles, and then
Softly on tiptoe went off again.
The green man wakes, and sees her place
The spectacles upon her face.
She pointed the gun at the hunter's heart,
Who jumped up at once with a start.
He cries, and screams, and runs away.
"Help me, good people, help! I pray."
At last he stumbled at the well,
Head over ears, and in he fell.
The hare stopped short, took aim, and hark!
Bang went the gun!--she missed her mark!
The poor man's wife was drinking up
Her coffee in her coffee-cup;
The gun shot cup and saucer through;
"Oh dear!" cried she, "what shall I do?"
Hiding close by the cottage there,
Was the hare's own child, the little hare.
When he heard the shot he quickly arose,
And while he stood upon his toes,
The coffee fell and burned his nose;
"Oh dear," he cried, "what burns me so?"
And held up the spoon with his little toe.

_Dr. Heinrich Hoffman_.


Thothmes, who loved a pyramid,
And dreamed of wonders that it hid,
Took up again one afternoon,
His longest staff, his sandal shoon,
His evening meal, his pilgrim flask,
And set himself at length the task,
Scorning the smaller and the small,
To climb the highest one of all.

The sun was very hot indeed,
Yet Thothmes never slacked his speed
Until upon the topmost stone
He lightly sat him down alone
To make himself some pleasant cheer
And turned to take his flask of beer,
For he was weary and athirst.
Forth from the neck the stopper burst
And rudely waked the sleeping dead.
In terror guilty Thothmes fled
As rose majestic, wroth and slow,
The Pharaoh's Ka of long ago.
"Help! help!" he cried, "or I am lost!
Oh! save me from old Pharaoh's ghost!"

Till, uttering one fearful yell,
He stumbled at the base and fell
Where Anubis was at his side,
And, by the god of death, he died.

The wife of Thothmes learned his tale
First from the "Memphis Evening Mail,"
And called her son, and told their woe;
"Alas!" said she, "I told him so!
Oh, think upon these awful things
And mount not on the graves of kings!
A pyramid is strange to see,
Though only at its base you be."



Here is cruel Psamtek, see.
Such a wicked boy was he!
Chased the ibis round about,
Plucked its longest feathers out,
Stamped upon the sacred scarab
Like an unbelieving Arab,
Put the dog and cat to pain,
Making them to howl again.
Only think what he would do--
Tease the awful Apis too!
Basking by the sacred Nile
Lay the trusting crocodile;
Cruel Psamtek crept around him,
Laughed to think how he had found him,
With his pincers seized his tail,
Made the holy one to wail;
Till a priest of Isis came,
Called the wicked boy by name,
Shut him in a pyramid,
Where his punishment was hid.
--But the crocodile the while
Bore the pincers up the Nile--
Here the scribe who taught him letters,
And respect for all his betters,
Gave him many a heavy task,
Horrid medicines from a flask,
While on bread and water, too,
Bitter penance must he do.

The Crocodile is blythe and gay,
With friends and family at play,
And cries, "O blessed Land of Nile,
Where sacred is the crocodile,
Where no ill deed unpunished goes,
And man himself rewards our foes!"



I strolled beside the shining sea,
I was as lonely as could be;
No one to cheer me in my walk
But stones and sand, which cannot talk--
Sand and stones and bits of shell,
Which never have a thing to tell.

But as I sauntered by the tide
I saw a something at my side,
A something green, and blue, and pink,
And brown, and purple, too, I think.
I would not say how large it was;
I would not venture that, because
It took me rather by surprise,
And I have not the best of eyes.

Should you compare it to a cat,
I'd say it was as large as that;
Or should you ask me if the thing
Was smaller than a sparrow's wing,
I should be apt to think you knew,
And simply answer, "Very true!"

Well, as I looked upon the thing,
It murmured, "Please, sir, can I sing?"
And then I knew its name at once--
It plainly was a Cumberbunce.

You are amazed that I could tell
The creature's name so quickly? Well,
I knew it was not a paper-doll,
A pencil or a parasol,
A tennis-racket or a cheese,
And, as it was not one of these,
And I am not a perfect dunce--
It had to be a Cumberbunce!

With pleading voice and tearful eye
It seemed as though about to cry.
It looked so pitiful and sad
It made me feel extremely bad.
My heart was softened to the thing
That asked me if it, please, could sing.
Its little hand I longed to shake,
But, oh, it had no hand to take!
I bent and drew the creature near,
And whispered in its pale blue ear,
"What! Sing, my Cumberbunce? You can!
Sing on, sing loudly, little man!"

The Cumberbunce, without ado,
Gazed sadly on the ocean blue,
And, lifting up its little head,
In tones of awful longing, said:

"Oh, I would sing of mackerel skies,
And why the sea is wet,
Of jelly-fish and conger-eels,
And things that I forget.
And I would hum a plaintive tune
Of why the waves are hot
As water boiling on a stove,
Excepting that they're not!"

"And I would sing of hooks and eyes,
And why the sea is slant,
And gayly tips the little ships,
Excepting that I can't!
I never sang a single song,
I never hummed a note.
There is in me no melody,
No music in my throat."

"So that is why I do not sing
Of sharks, or whales, or anything!"

I looked in innocent surprise,
My wonder showing in my eyes.
"Then why, O, Cumberbunce," I cried,
"Did you come walking at my side
And ask me if you, please, might sing,
When you could not warble anything?"

"I did not ask permission, sir,
I really did not, I aver.
You, sir, misunderstood me, quite.
I did not ask you if I _might_.
Had you correctly understood,
You'd know I asked you if I _could_.
So, as I cannot sing a song,
Your answer, it is plain, was wrong.
The fact I could not sing I knew,
But wanted your opinion, too."

A voice came softly o'er the lea.
"Farewell! my mate is calling me!"

I saw the creature disappear,
Its voice, in parting, smote my ear--

"I thought all people understood
The difference 'twixt 'might' and 'could'!"

_Paul West_.


Back to Full Books