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CHILDREN AND VERSE ABOUT THEM

A CHILD'S PRAYER
John Bannister Tabb (1845-1909)
Make me, dear Lord, polite and kind
      To every one, I pray.
And may I ask You how You find
      Yourself, dear Lord, today?

A FATHER'S HEART IS TOUCHED
Sam Hoffenstein (1890-1947)
When I think of all you've got
Coming to you, little tot:
The disappointments and diseases,
The rosebud hopes that blow to cheeses,
The pains, the aches, the blows, the risks,
The jobs, the women, and the bricks,
I'm almost glad to see you such
An idiot, they won't hurt you much.

A LITTLE TOOTH
Thomas Lux
Your baby grows a tooth, then two,
and four, and five, then she wants some meat
directly from the bone. It's all

over: she'll learn some words, she'll fall
in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet
talker on his way to jail. And you,

your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue
nothing. You did, you loved, your feet
are sore. It's dusk. Your daughter's tall.

A TONVERSATION WITH BABY
Morris Bishop (1893-1973)
"Was it a little baby
      With wide, unwinking eyes,
Propped in his baby carriage,
      Looking so wise?

"Oh, what a pwitty baby!
      Oh, what a sweety love!
What is oo thinkin', baby,
      And dweamin' of?

"Is oo wond'rin' 'bout de doggie
      A-fwiskin' here'n dere?
Is oo watchin' de baby birdies
      Everywhere?

"'N all de funny peoples
      'N a funny sings oo sees?
What is oo sinkin' of, baby?
      Tell me, please.

"'Z oo sinkin' of tisses, tunnin
      'N wannin' 'n wannin' for some?
tweety goo swummy doodle,
O yummy yum!"

Then spoke that solemn baby,
      Wise as a little gnome:
"You get in the baby carriage;
      "I'll push you home."

Adventures Of Isabel
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Isabel met an enormous bear,
Isabel, Isabel, didn't care;
The bear was hungry, the bear was ravenous,
The bear's big mouth was cruel and cavernous.
The bear said, Isabel, glad to meet you,
How do, Isabel, now I'll eat you!
Isabel, Isabel, didn't worry.
Isabel didn't scream or scurry.
She washed her hands and she straightened her hair up,
Then Isabel quietly ate the bear up.
Once in a night as black as pitch
Isabel met a wicked old witch.
the witch's face was cross and wrinkled,
The witch's gums with teeth were sprinkled.
Ho, ho, Isabel! the old witch crowed,
I'll turn you into an ugly toad!
Isabel, Isabel, didn't worry,
Isabel didn't scream or scurry,
She showed no rage and she showed no rancor,
But she turned the witch into milk and drank her.
Isabel met a hideous giant,
Isabel continued self reliant.
The giant was hairy, the giant was horrid,
He had one eye in the middle of his forhead.
Good morning, Isabel, the giant said,
I’ll grind your bones to make my bread.
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry,
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She nibled the zwieback that she always fed off,
And when it was gone, she cut the giant’s head off.
Isabel met a troublesome doctor,
He punched and he poked till he really shocked her.
The doctor’s talk was of coughs and chills
And the doctor’s satchel bulged with pills.
The doctor said unto Isabel,
Swallow this, it will make you well.
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry,
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She took those pills from the pill concocter,
And Isabel calmly cured the doctor.

AWAY WITH BLOODSHED
A.E. Housman (1859–1936)
Away with bloodshed, I love not such,
But Jane Eliza snores too much.

I bought a serpent that bites and stings
For three-and-sixpence or four shillings.

When Jane Eliza began to snore
I put it under her bedroom door.

The serpent had neither bit nor stung,
It had only just put out its tongue,

When Jane Eliza fell out of bed
And bumped upon it and killed it dead.

It showed off none of its pretty tricks
That cost four shillings or three-and-six;

It had no time to sting or bite
Nor even to utter the words "Good night."

So three-and-sixpence at least is gone,
And Jane Eliza, she still snores on.

CALCULATING CLARA
Harry Graham (1874–1936)
O'er the rugged mountain's brow
      Clara threw the twins she nursed,
And remarked, "I wonder now
      Which will reach the bottom first?"

COLD FACTS
Dick Eamons
By the time he's suited
And scarved and booted
And mittened and capped
And zipped and snapped
And tucked and belted,
The snow has melted.

FAIRIES
Marchette Chute (1906 - 1994)
You can't see fairies unless you're good.
That's what Nurse said to me.
They live in the smoke of the chimney,
Or down in the roots of tree;
They brush their wings on a tulip,
Or hide behind a pea.

But you can't see fairies unless you're good,
So they are'nt much use to me.

FRIENDSHIP'S GARLAND
G. K. Chesterton
When I was a boy there was a friend of mine,
We thought ourselves warriors and grown folk swine,
Stupid old animals who never understood
And never had an impulse, and said “You must be good!”

We stank like stoats and fled like foxes,
We put cigarettes in the pillar-boxes,
Lighted cigarettes and letters all aflame–
O the surprise when the postman came!

We stole eggs and apples and made fine hay
In people’s houses when people were away,
We broke street lamps and away we ran;
Then I was a boy but now I am a man.

Now I am a man and don’t have any fun,
I hardly ever shout and never never run,
And I don’t care if he’s dead, that friend of mine,
For then I was a boy and now I am a swine.

GROWN-UP
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Was it for this I uttered prayers,
And sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs,
That now, domestic as a plate,
I should retire at half-past eight?

LULLABY
Thomas Dekker (1570?-1632)
Golden slumbers kiss your eyes,
Smiles awake you when you rise;
Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby:
Rock them, rock them, lullaby.

Care is heavy, therefore sleep you;
You are care, and care must keep you.
Sleep, pretty wantons, do not cry,
And I will sing a lullaby:
Rock them, rock them, lullaby.

LULLABY
Samuel Hoffenstein (1890-1947)
Yes, I'll take you to the zoo,
      To see the yak, the bear, the gnu,
And that's the place where I'll leave you--
      Sleep, little baby!
You'll see the lion in a rage,
The rhino, none the worse for age;
You'll see the inside of a cage--
      Sleep, little baby!

MEHITABEL AND HER KITTENS
Don Marquis (1878-1937)
well boss
mehitabel the cat
has reappeared in her old
haunts with a
flock of kittens
three of them this time

archy she says to me
yesterday
the life of a female
artist is continually
hampered what in hell
have i done to deserve
all these kittens
i look back on my life
and it seems to me to be
just one damned kitten
after another
i am a dancer archy
and my only prayer
is to be allowed
to give my best to my art
but just as i feel
that i am succeeding
in my life work
along comes another batch
of these damned kittens
it is not archy
that i am shy on mother love
god knows i care for
the sweet little things
curse them
but am i never to be allowed
to live my own life
i have purposely avoided
matrimony in the interests
of the higher life
but i might just
as well have been a domestic
slave for all the freedom
i have gained
i hope none of them
gets run over by
an automobile
my heart would bleed
if anything happened
to them and i found it out
but it isn t fair archy
it isn t fair
these damned tom cats have all
the fun and freedom
if i was like some of these
green eyed feline vamps i know
i would simply walk out on the
bunch of them and
let them shift for themselves
but i am not that kind
archy i am full of mother love
my kindness has always
been my curse
a tender heart is the cross i bear
self sacrifice always and forever
is my motto damn them
i will make a home
for the sweet innocent
little things
unless of course providence
in his wisdom should remove
them they are living
just now in an abandoned
garbage can just behind
a made over stable in greenwich
village and if it rained
into the can before i could
get back and rescue them
i am afraid the little
dears might drown
it makes me shudder just
to think of it
of course if i were a family cat
they would probably
be drowned anyhow
sometimes i think
the kinder thing would be
for me to carry the
sweet little things
over to the river
and drop them in myself
but a mother s love archy
is so unreasonable
something always prevents me
these terrible
conflicts are always
presenting themselves
to the artist
the eternal struggle
between art and life archy
is something fierce
my what a dramatic life i have lived
one moment up the next
moment down again
but always gay archy always gay
and always the lady too
in spite of hell
well boss it will
be interesting to note
just how mehitabel
works out her present problem
a dark mystery still broods
over the manner
in which the former
family of three kittens
disappeared
one day she was talking to me
of the kittens
and the next day when i asked
her about them
she said innocently
what kittens
interrogation point
and that was all
i could ever get out
of her on the subject
we had a heavy rain
right after she spoke to me
but probably that garbage can
leaks so the kittens
have not yet
been drowned

archy

ON THE BIRTH OF HIS SON
Su Tung-p'o (1036--1101)
Families, when a child is born
Want it to be intelligent.
I, through intelligence,
Having wrecked my whole life,
Only hope the baby will prove
Ignorant and stupid.
Then he will crown a tranquil life
By becoming a Cabinet Minister.

RAINY DAY
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Linell is clad in a gown of green.
She walks in state like a fairy queen.
Her train is tucked in a winsome bunch
Directly behind her royal lunch.
With a dignified skip and a haughty hop
Her golden slippers go clippety-clop.
I think I am Ozma, says Linell.
I’m Ozma too, says Isabel.

Linell has discovered a filmy veil;
The very thing for a swishy tail.
The waves wash over the nursery floor
And break on the rug with a rumbling roar;
The swishy tail gives a swishy swish;
She’s off and away like a frightened fish.
Now I’m a mermaid, says Linell.
I’m mermaid too, says Isabel.

Her trousers are blue, her hair is kinky,
Her jacket is red and her skin inky.
She is hiding behind a green umbrella;
She couldn’t be Alice, or Cinderella,
Or Puss in Boots, or the Fiddlers Three;
Gracious Gulliver, who can she be?
I’m Little Black Sambo, says Linell.
I’m Sambo too, says Isabel.

Clack the shutters. The blinds are drawn.
Click the switch, and the lights are gone.
Linell is under the blankets deep,
Murmuring down the hill to sleep.
Oh, deep in the soft and gentle dark
She stirs and chirps like a drowsy lark.
I love you, Mummy, says Linell.
Love Mummy too, says Isabel.

SALES TALK FOR ANNIE
Morris Bishop (1893-1973)
Eat your banana, Annie dear;
          It’s from a tropic tree
In lands where lurked the buccaneer
          By the Rio Tiliri,
Or where the Cockscomb Moutains rise
          Above the Monkey River
And lonely men with fevered eyes
          By turns perspire and shiver.
The parrot and the kinkajou
          And the armor-clad iguana
Have spared this golden fruit for you--
          But no, she won’t even touch the lovely banana!

Eat your tapioca, please.
In forests of Brazil
The Tupis and the Guaranis
          Have cooked it on a grill.
The poison of cassava roots
          Is thereby circumvented,
And flour and bread it constitutes.
          (It often is fermented.)
From Urubu and Urucu
          to distant Yanaoca
Indians grew this food for you,
          So for gosh sakes get going on your tapioca.

Drink your milk, my little lass.
          Oh, does it not look yummy!
A moo-cow ate the sun-lit grass
          And made it in her tummy.
The moo-cow’s milk is free from faults,
          It’s good for every human
(Containing sugar, fats, and salts,
          And casein and albumin.)
Here, I said to drink it, not blow in it! Listen, Annie,
          How would you like to have Father take that glass of milk and ram it
Down your throat? How would you like a good swift whack on the fanny?
          All right, go ahead and cry, damn it!

SNOWBALL
Shel Silverstein (1932-1999)
I made myself a snowball
As perfect as could be.
I thought I'd keep it as a pet
And let it sleep with me.
I made it some pajamas
And a pillow for its head.
Then last night it ran away,
But first it wet the bed.

SOME THINGS DON'T MAKE ANY SENSE AT ALL
Judith Viorst (1931--)
My mom says I'm her sugarplum.
My mom says I'm her lamb.
My mom says I'm completely perfect
Just the way I am.
My mom says I'm a super-special wonderful terrific little guy.
My mom just had another baby.
Why?

Song To Be Sung by the Father of Infant Female Children
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky;
Contrariwise, my blood runs cold
When little boys go by.
For little boys as little boys,
No special hate I carry,
But now and then they grow to men,
And when they do, they marry.
No matter how they tarry,
Eventually they marry.
And, swine among the pearls,
They marry little girls.

Oh, somewhere, somewhere, an infant plays,
With parents who feed and clothe him.
Their lips are sticky with pride and praise,
But I have begun to loathe him.
Yes, I loathe with loathing shameless
This child who to me is nameless.
This bachelor child in his carriage
Gives never a thought to marriage,
But a person can hardly say knife
Before he will hunt him a wife.

I never see an infant (male),
A-sleeping in the sun,
Without I turn a trifle pale
And think is he the one?
Oh, first he'll want to crop his curls,
And then he'll want a pony,
And then he'll think of pretty girls,
And holy matrimony.
A cat without a mouse
Is he without a spouse.

Oh, somewhere he bubbles bubbles of milk,
And quietly sucks his thumbs.
His cheeks are roses painted on silk,
And his teeth are tucked in his gums.
But alas the teeth will begin to grow,
And the bubbles will cease to bubble;
Given a score of years or so,
The roses will turn to stubble.
He'll sell a bond, or he'll write a book,
And his eyes will get that acquisitive look,
And raging and ravenous for the kill,
He'll boldly ask for the hand of Jill.
This infant whose middle
Is diapered still
Will want to marry My daughter Jill.

Oh sweet be his slumber and moist his middle!
My dreams, I fear, are infanticiddle.
A fig for embryo Lohengrins!
I'll open all his safety pins,
I'll pepper his powder, and salt his bottle,
And give him readings from Aristotle.
Sand for his spinach I'll gladly bring,
And Tabasco sauce for his teething ring.
Then perhaps he'll struggle though fire and water
To marry somebody else's daughter.

TABLEAU AT TWILIGHT
Ogden Nash
I sit in the dusk, I am all alone.
Enter a child and an ice cream cone.

A parent is easily beguiled
By sight of this coniferous child.

The friendly embers warmer gleam,
The cone begins to drip ice cream.

Cones are composed of many a vitamin.
My lap is not the place to bitamin.

Although my raiment is not chinchilla,
I flinch to see it become vanilla.

Coniferous child, when vanilla melts
I’d rather it melted somewhere else.

Exit child with remains of cone.
I sit in the dusk. I am all alone,

Muttering spells like an angry Druid,
Alone, in the dusk, with the cleaning fluid.

THE ANATOMY OF HUMOR
Morris Bishop (1893-1973)
"What is funny?" you ask, my child,
      Crinkling your bright-blue eye.
"Ah, that is a curious question indeed,"
      Musing, I make reply.

"Contusions are funny, not open wounds,
      And automobiles that go
Crash into trees by the highwayside;
      Industrial incidents, no.

"The habit of drink is a hundred per cent,
      But drug addiction is nil.
A nervous breakdown will get no laughs;
      Insanity surely will.

"Humor, aloof from the cigarette,
      Inhabits the droll cigar;
The middle-aged are not very funny;
      The young and the old, they are.

"So the funniest thing in the world should be
      A grandsire, drunk, insane,
Maimed in a motor accident,
      And enduring moderate pain.

"But why do you scream and yell, my child?
      Here comes your mother, my honey,
To comfort you and to lecture me
      For trying, she'll say, to be funny."

THE EARLY MORNING
Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)
The moon on the one hand, the dawn on the other:
The moon is my sister, the dawn is my brother.
The moon on my left and the dawn on my right.
My brother, good morning: my sister, good night.

THE LITTLE BOY AND THE OLD MAN
Shel Silverstein (1932-1999)
Said the little boy, "Sometimes I drop my spoon."
Said the old man, "I do that, too."
The little boy whispered, "I wet my pants."
"I do that too," laughed the little old man.
Said the little boy, "I often cry."
The old man nodded, "So do I."
"But worst of all," said the boy, "it seems
Grown-ups don't pay attention to me."
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
"I know what you mean," said the little old man.

THE STERN PARENT
Captain Harry Graham (1874–1936)
Father heard his children scream,
So he threw them in the stream,
Saying, as he drowned the third,
"Children should be seen, not heard."

THOUGHTLESSNESS
Harry Graham (1874–1936)
I never shall forget my shame
To find my son had forged my name.
If he'd had any thought for others
He might at least have forged his mother's.

TO A SMALL BOY STANDING ON MY SHOES WHILE I AM WEARING THEM
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Let’s straighten this out, my little man,
And reach an agreement if we can.
I entered your door as an honored guest.
My shoes are shined and my trousers are pressed,
And I won’t stretch out and read you the funnies
And I won’t pretend that we’re Easter bunnies.
If you must get somebody down on the floor,
What in the hell are your parents for?
I do not like the things that you say
And I hate the games that you want to play.
No matter how frightfully hard you try,
We’ve little in common, you and I.
The interest I take in my neighbor’s nursery
Would have to grow, to be even cursory,
And I would that performing sons and nephews
Were carted away with the daily refuse,
And I hold that frolicsome daughters and nieces
Are ample excuse for breaking leases.
You may take a sock at your daddy’s tummy
Or climb all over your doting mummy,
But keep your attentions to me in check,
Or, sonny boy, I will wring your neck.
A happier man today I’d be
Had someone wrung it ahead of me.

UPON A GIRL OF SEVEN YEARS OLD
Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
Wit’s queen (if what the poets sing be true)
And Beauty’s goddess, childhood never knew—-
Pallas, they say, sprung from the head of Jove
Full-grown, and from the sea the queen of Love;
But had they, Miss, your wit and beauty seen,
Venus and Pallas both had children been.
They, fromt he sweetness of that radiant look,
A copy of young Venus might have took,
And from those pretty things you speak have told
How Pallas talked when she was seven years old.

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