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Ye Spotted Snakes

Ye spotted snakes with double tongue,
Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen;
Newts and blindworms, do no wrong,
Come not near our fairy Queen.

Philomele, with melody
Sing in our sweet lullaby;
Lulla, lulla, lullaby, lulla, lulla, lullaby:
Never harm
Nor spell nor charm,
Come our lovely lady nigh;
So, good night, with lullaby.

Weaving spiders, come not here;
Hence, you long-legged spinners, hence!
Beetles black, approach not near;
Worm nor snail, do no offence.

Philomele, with melody
Sing in our sweet lullaby;
Lulla, lulla, lullaby, lulla, lulla, lullaby:
Never harm
Nor spell nor charm,
Come our lovely lady nigh;
So, good night, with lullaby.


William Shakespeare
1564 - 1616


To Music

Robert Herrick wrote a number of poems about music and we’ve chosen two short ones with almost the same titles. You can recite either or both of them.


To Music

Begin to charm, and, as thou strok’st mine ears
With thy enchantment, melt me into tears.
Then let thy active hand scud o’er thy lyre,
And make my spirits frantic with the fire.
That done, sink down into a silvery strain,
And make me smooth as balm and oil again.


To Music – A Song

Music, thou queen of heaven, care-charming spell,
That strik’st a stillness into hell ;
Thou that tam’st tigers, and fierce storms that rise,
With thy soul-melting lullabies ;
Fall down, down, down from those thy chiming spheres,
To charm our souls, as thou enchant’st our ears.


Robert Herrick
1591 - 1674


Written In March

The cock is crowing,
The stream is flowing,
The small birds twitter,
The lake doth glitter,
The green field sleeps in the sun;
The oldest and youngest
Are at work with the strongest;
The cattle are grazing,
Their heads never raising;
There are forty feeding like one!

Like an army defeated
The snow hath retreated,
And now doth fare ill
On the top of the bare hill;
The Ploughboy is whooping–anon–anon:
There’s joy in the mountains;
There’s life in the fountains;
Small clouds are sailing,
Blue sky prevailing;
The rain is over and gone!


William Wordsworth
1770 - 1850


Answer To A Child’s Question

Do you ask what the birds say? The sparrow, the dove,
The linnet and thrush say, ‘I love and I love!’
In the winter they’re silent – the wind is so strong;
What it says, I don’t know, but it sings a loud song.
But green leaves, and blossoms, and sunny warm weather,
And singing, and loving – all come back together.
But the lark is so brimful of gladness and love,
The green fields below him, the blue sky above,
That he sings, and he sings; and forever sings he –
‘I love my Love, and my Love loves me!’


Samuel Taylor Coleridge
1772 - 1834


The North Wind

This poem has five verses. You may choose to recite one, some or all of them.

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will the robin do then, Poor thing?
He’ll sit in a barn,
And keep himself warm,
And hide his head under his wing, Poor thing!

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will the swallow do then, Poor thing?
Oh, do you not know
That he’s off long ago,
To a country where he will find spring, Poor thing!

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will the dormouse do then, Poor thing?
Roll’d up like a ball
In his nest snug and small
He’ll sleep till warm weather comes in, Poor thing!

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will the honey-bee do then, Poor thing?
In his hive he will stay
Till the cold is away
And then he’ll come out in the spring, Poor thing!

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will the children do then, Poor things?
When lessons are done
They will skip, jump and run,
Until they have made themselves warm, Poor things!


Anonymous 1805
- -


The Star

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are !
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

Then the trav’ller in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often thro’ my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.

‘Tis your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the trav’ller in the dark :
Tho’ I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.


Jane Taylor
1783 - 1824


The Peacock At Home

This long poem has been divided into nine sections. If you want to recite a smaller part of it, we recommend sections five, six or seven.


When the Butterfly burst from her chrysalis state,
And gave to the Insects a Ball and a Fête;
When the Grasshopper’s minstrelsy charm’d every ear,
And delighted the guests with his mirth and good cheer;
The fame spread abroad of their revels and feasts,
And excited the spleen of the birds and the beasts;
For the gilded-wing’d Dragon-Fly made it his theme,
And the Gnat blew his horn as he danc’d in the beam;
The Gossip whose chirping beguil’d the long night.
By the cottage fireside told the tale of delight;
While, suspending his labours, the Bee left his cell,
To murmur applause in each blossom and bell;
It was humm’d by the Beetle, and buzz’d by the Fly,
And sung by the myriads that sport thro’ the sky.
The quadrupeds listen’d in sullen displeasure;
But the tenants of air were enrag’d beyond measure.

The Peacock resplendent, unfurl’d his broad fan,
And addressing his mates, thus indignant began:
“Ye people of plume! whether dwellers in woods,
Whether wading thro’ marshes, or diving in floods,
Will you suffer the Insects, the birth of a day,
To be talk’d of as all that is tasteful and gay?
And shall we like domestic, inelegant fowls,
Unpolish’d as Geese, and more stupid than Owls,
Sit tamely at home tête-a-tête with our spouses.
While the offspring of grub-worms throw open their houses?
Forbid it, ye powers, o’er our Class who preside,
And help me to humble the Butterfly’s pride!
It provokes me to see such pretenders to fashion,
Cousin Turkey-Cock, well may you quiver with passion!
When such pitiful beings affect to compare
With us! the legitimate children of air!
Some bird of high rank should his talents exert
In the general cause, and our honour assert.
But the Eagle, while soaring thro’ Ether on high.
Overlooks what is passing in our nether sky;
The Swan calmly sails down the current of life,
Without ruffling a plume in the national strife;
And the Ostrich—for birds who on iron are wont
Their breakfast to make, can digest an affront.
But, if ever I suffer such airs to prevail,
May Juno pluck out all the eyes in my tail!
To revenge our disgrace, I’ll for once lead the way,
And send out my cards for St. Valentine’s Day,
Round my standard to rally each order and genus,
From the Eagle of Jove to the Sparrow of Venus.”

This determin’d, six fleet Carrier-Pigeons went out,
To invite all the Birds to Sir Argus’s rout.
The nest-loving Turtle-Dove, simple recluse,
Pleaded family-duties, and sent an excuse;
With matron importance Dame Partlet alledg’d,
That her numerous progeny scarcely were fledg’d;
The Turkey, poor soul! was confin’d to the rip,
For all her young brood had just fail’d with the pip.
The Partridge was ask’d; but a neighbour hard by,
Had engag’d a snug party to meet in a pye;
And the Wheatear declin’d—recollecting, her cousins
Last year to a feast were invited by dozens;
But, alas! they return’d not:—and she had no taste
To appear in a costume of vine-leaves or paste.
The Woodcock preferr’d his lone haunt on the moor;
And the traveller Swallow was still on his tour;
While the Cuckoo, who should have been one of the guests,
Was rambling on visits to other birds’ nests:
But the rest all accepted the kind invitation,
And much bustle prevail’d in the Plumed Creation.
Such ruffling of feathers, such pruning of coats,
Such chirping, such whistling, such clearing of throats,
Such polishing bills, and such oiling of pinions,
Had never been known in the biped dominions!

The Taylor-Bird offer’d to make up new clothes,
For all the young birdlings who wish’d to be beaux;
He made for the Robin a doublet of red,
And a new velvet cap for the Goldfinch’s head.
He added a plume to the Wren’s golden crest,
And spangled with silver the Guinea-fowl’s breast.
While the Halcyon bent over the streamlet to view,
How pretty she look’d, in her boddice of blue.
Thus equipp’d, they set off for the Peacock’s abode,
With the guide Indicator, who shew’d them the road.
From all points of the compass flock’d birds of all feather,
And the Parrot can tell who and who were together.

There was Lord Cassowary, and General Flamingo,
And Don Peroquito, escap’d from Domingo.
From his high rock-built eyrie the Eagle came forth,
And the Duchess of Ptarmigan flew from the North:
The Grebe and the Eider-Duck came up by water,
With the Swan, who brought out the young Cygnet, her daughter:
From his woodland abode came the Pheasant, to meet
Two kindred arriv’d by the last India fleet;
The one like a Nabob, in habit most splendid,
Where gold, with each hue of the rainbow, was blended;
In silver and black, like a fair pensive maid
Who mourns for her love, was the other array’d.
The Chough came from Cornwall, and brought up his wife;
The Grouse travell’d South from his lairdship in Fife;
The Bunting forsook her soft nest in the reeds,
And the Widow-bird came, tho’ she still wore her weeds.
A veteran Decoy-Duck, whose falsehoods and wiles
Had ensnar’d all the youth of the fins in her toils,
Swam in, full of hope some new conquest to make,
Tho’ captives unnumber’d sail’d close in her wake.
Next enter’d a party of Puffins and Smews,
And the Dodo — who chapron’d the two Miss Cushews;
Sir John Heron, of the Lakes, strutted in a grand pas:
But no card had been sent to the pilfering Daw, —
As the Peacock kept up his progenitor’s quarrel,
Which Aesop relates, about cast-off apparel:
For birds are like men in their contests together,
And in questions of right can dispute for a feather.

The Peacock Imperial, the pride of his race,
Receiv’d all his guests with an infinite grace;
Wav’d high his blue neck, and his train he display’ d,
Embroider’d with gold, and with sapphires inlaid;
Then led to a bow’r, where the musical throng,
Amateurs and professors, were all in full song:
A holly-bush form’d the orchestra, and in it
Sat the Blackbird, the Thrush, the Lark, and the Linnet.
The Bullfinch, a captive almost from the nest.
Just escap’d from his cage, and, with liberty blest,
In a sweet mellow tone join’d the lessons of art,
With the accents of nature which flow’d from his heart.
The Canary, a much-admir’d foreign musician,
Condescended to sing to the fowls of condition:
While the Nightingale warbled and quaver’d so fine,
That they all clapp’d their wings and pronounc’d it divine.
The Sky-Lark, in ecstasy, sang from a cloud;
And Chanticleer crow’d, and the Yaffil laugh’d loud.

The dancing began when the music was over;
A Dotterel first open’d the Ball with the Plover.
Baron Stork, in a waltz, was allow’d to excel,
With his beautiful partner the fair Demoiselle.
And a newly fledg’d Gosling, so slim and genteel,
A minuet swam with the spruce Mr.Teal.
A London-bred Sparrow, a pert forward cit,
Danc’d a reel with Miss Wagtail and little Tomtit.
The Sieur Guillemot next perform’d a pas seul,
While the elderly Bipeds were playing a pool.
The Dowager Lady Toucan first cut in,
With old Dr. Buzzard and Adm’ral Penguin.
From ivy-bush tow’r came dame Owlet the wise,
And Counsellor Crossbill sat by to advise.
But the Rook, who protested ’twas all mighty dull,
Chicken Hazard propos’d to the Pigeon and Gull;
And next day it was whisper’d, he kept them so late,
That the Pigeon had mortgag’d the pease-cod estate;
And the Gull who, it seems, nothing more had to lose,
Had made his escape, and sail’d out on a cruise.

Some birds, past their prime, o’er whose heads it was fated
Should pass many St. Valentines, yet be unmated,
Sat by and remark’d, that the prudent and sage
Were quite overlook’d in this frivolous age,
When birds scarce pen-feather’d were brought to a rout,
Forward chits from the egg-shell but newly come out;
In their youthful days they ne’er witness’d such frisking;
And how wrong in the Greenfinch to flirt with the Siskin.
So thought Lady Mackaw, and her friend Cockatoo,
And the Raven foretold that no good would ensue.
They censur’d the Bantam for strutting and crowing
In those vile pantaloons, which he fancied look’d knowing:
And a want of decorum caus’d many demurs
Against the Game-Chicken, for coming in spurs.
To the Peacock’s acquaintance ’twas wrong to object,
Yet they hop’d his next party would be more select;
For admitting the Bat, in his pinions of leather,
Was a shocking intrusion on people of feather:
Doubtful characters might be excluded at least,
And creatures that class not with birds nor with beast.
The Magpie, renown’d for discretion and candour,
Who always profess’d an abhorrence to slander,
Was much griev’d that the Pelican — meaning no ill,
So unkindly was peck’d by each ill-natured bill,
For attempting some delicate bits to secrete
For her young ones at home, just by way of a treat;
And before they were safe in her ridicule pack’d,
She was caught by the sharp-sighted Hawk in the fact.

Old Alderman Corm’rant, for supper impatient,
At the eating-room door for an hour had been station’d,
Till a Jay, in rich liv’ry, the banquet announcing,
Gave the signal long-wish’d-for of clamouring and pouncing.
At the well-furnish’d board all were eager to perch,
But the little Miss Creepers were left in the lurch.
Description must fail, and the pen is unable
To recount all the lux’ries which cover’d the table.
Each delicate viand that taste could denote,
Wasps à la sauce piquante, and flies en compôte;
Worms and frogs en friture for the web-footed fowl,
And a barbecued mouse was prepar’d for the Owl;
Nuts, grain, fruit, and fish, to regale every palate,
And groundsel and chickweed serv’d up in a salad.
The Razorbill carv’d for the famishing group,
And the Spoonbill obligingly ladled the soup:
While such justice was done to the dainties before ’em,
That the tables were clear’d with the utmost decorum.
When they gaily had carroll’d till peep of the dawn,
The Lark gently hinted, ’twas time to be gone;
And his clarion so shrill gave the company warning
That Chanticleer scented the gales of the morning:
So they chirp’d in full concert a friendly adieu,
And, with hearts beating light as the plumage that grew
On their merrythought bosoms, away they all flew.
Then long live the Peacock, in splendour unmatch’d,
Whose Ball shall be talk’d of by birds yet unhatch’d;
His fame let the Trumpeter loudly proclaim,
And the Goose lend her quill to transmit it to fame!


Catherine Ann Dorset
1752 - 1834


There Was A Naughty Boy

This poem has four stanzas. If you want to recite a smaller part of it, choose one stanza.


There was a naughty boy,
A naughty boy was he,
He would not stop at home,
He could not quiet be–
He took
In his knapsack
A book
Full of vowels
And a shirt
With some towels–
A slight cap
For night cap–
A hair brush,
Comb ditto,
New stockings
For old ones
Would split O!
This knapsack
Tight at’s back
He rivetted close
And followed his nose
To the north
To the north
And followed his nose
To the north.

There was a naughty boy
And a naughty boy was he,
For nothing would he do
But scribble poetry–
He took
An ink stand
In his hand
And a pen
Big as ten
In the other,
And away
In a pother
He ran
To the mountains
And fountains
And ghosts
And posts
And witches
And ditches
And wrote
In his coat
When the weather
Was cool,
Fear of gout,
And without
When the weather
Was warm–
Och the charm
When we choose
To follow one’s nose
To the north,
To the north,
To follow one’s nose
To the north!

There was a naughty boy
And a naughty boy was he,
He kept little fishes
In washing tubs three
In spite
Of the might
Of the maid
Nor afraid
Of his Granny-good–
He often would
Hurly burly
Get up early
And go
By hook or crook
To the brook
And bring home
Miller’s thumb,
Not over fat
Minnows small
As the stall
Of a glove,
Not above
The size
Of a nice
Little Baby’s
Little fingers-
O he made
‘Twas his trade
Of fish a pretty kettle
A kettle–
A kettle
Of fish a pretty kettle
A kettle!

There was a naughty boy
And a naughty boy was he,
He ran away to Scotland
The people for to see–
Then he found
That the ground
Was as hard,
That a yard
Was as long,
That a song
Was as merry,
That a cherry
Was as red–
That lead
Was as weighty,
That fourscore
Was as eighty,
That a door
Was as wooden
As in England–
So he stood in his shoes
And he wondered,
He wondered,
He stood in his shoes
And he wondered.


John Keats
1795 - 1821


The Spider and The Fly

“Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly,
“‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I have many curious things to shew when you are there.”
“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”

“I’m sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?” said the Spider to the Fly.
“There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,
And if you like to rest awhile, I’ll snugly tuck you in!”
“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “for I’ve often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!”

Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, “Dear friend what can I do,
To prove the warm affection I’ve always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that’s nice;
I’m sure you’re very welcome–will you please to take a slice?”
“Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “kind sir, that cannot be,
I’ve heard what’s in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!”

“Sweet creature!” said the Spider, “you’re witty and you’re wise,
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I’ve a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
If you’ll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.”
“I thank you, gentle sir,” she said, “for what you’re pleased to say,
And bidding you good morning now, I’ll call another day.”

The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again:
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.
Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
“Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
Your robes are green and purple–there’s a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!”

Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue–
Thinking only of her crested head–poor foolish thing! At last,
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour–but she ne’er came out again!

And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.


Mary Howitt
1799 - 1888


The Three Little Kittens

Three little kittens lost their mittens;
And they began to cry,
O mother dear,
We very much fear
That we have lost our mittens.

Lost your mittens!
You naughty kittens!
Then you shall have no pie.
Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow.
No, you shall have no pie.
Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow.

The three little kittens found their mittens,
And they began to cry,
O mother dear,
See here, see here;
See, we have found our mittens.

Put on your mittens,
You silly kittens,
And you may have some pie.
Purr-r, purr-r, purr-r,
O let us have the pie.
Purr-r, purr-r, purr-r.

The three little kittens put on their mittens,
And soon ate up the pie;
O mother dear,
We greatly fear
That we have soiled our mittens.

Soiled your mittens!
You naughty kittens!
Then they began to sigh,
Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow,
Then they began to sigh,
Mee-ow, mee-ow, mee-ow.

The three little kittens washed their mittens,
And hung them out to dry;
O mother dear,
Do not you hear,
That we have washed our mittens?

Washed your mittens!
O, you ’re good kittens.
But I smell a rat close by;
Hush! hush! mee-ow, mee-ow.
We smell a rat close by,
Mee-ow-mee-ow, mee-ow.


Eliza Follen
1787 - 1860


The Garden Year

January brings the snow,
makes our feet and fingers glow.

February brings the rain,
Thaws the frozen lake again.

March brings breezes loud and shrill,
stirs the dancing daffodil.

April brings the primrose sweet,
Scatters daisies at our feet.

May brings flocks of pretty lambs,
Skipping by their fleecy dams.

June brings tulips, lilies, roses,
Fills the children’s hand with posies.

Hot July brings cooling showers,
Apricots and gillyflowers.

August brings the sheaves of corn,
Then the Harvest home is borne.

Warm September brings the fruit,
Sportsmen then begin to shoot.

Fresh October brings the pheasant;
Then to gather nuts is pleasant.

Dull November brings the blast,
Then the leaves are falling fast.

Chill December brings the sleet,
Blazing fire and Christmas treat.


Sara Coleridge
1802 - 1852


Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.


Leigh Hunt
1784 - 1859


Address to A Child During A Boisterous Winter Evening

What way does the wind come? What way does he go?
He rides over the water, and over the snow,
Through wood, and through vale; and o’er rocky height,
Which the goat cannot climb, takes his sounding flight;
He tosses about in every bare tree,
As, if you look up, you plainly may see;
But how he will come, and whither he goes,
There’s never a scholar in England knows.

He will suddenly stop in a cunning nook,
And ring a sharp ’larum; but, if you should look,
There’s nothing to see but a cushion of snow,
Round as a pillow, and whiter than milk,
And softer than if it were covered with silk.
Sometimes he’ll hide in the cave of a rock,
Then whistle as shrill as the buzzard cock;
— Yet seek him, and what shall you find in the place?
Nothing but silence and empty space;
Save, in a corner, a heap of dry leaves,
That he’s left, for a bed, to beggars or thieves!

As soon as ’tis daylight tomorrow, with me
You shall go to the orchard, and then you will see
That he has been there, and made a great rout,
And cracked the branches, and strewn them about;
Heaven grant that he spare but that one upright twig
That looked up at the sky so proud and big
All last summer, as well you know,
Studded with apples, a beautiful show!

Hark! over the roof he makes a pause,
And growls as if he would fix his claws
Right in the slates, and with a huge rattle
Drive them down, like men in a battle:
– But let him range round; he does us no harm,
We build up the fire, we’re snug and warm;
Untouched by his breath see the candle shines bright,
And burns with a clear and steady light.

Books have we to read, but that half-stifled knell,
Alas! ’tis the sound of the eight o’clock bell.
— Come, now we’ll to bed! and when we are there
He may work his own will, and what shall we care?
He may knock at the door — we’ll not let him in;
May drive at the windows — we’ll laugh at his din;
Let him seek his own home wherever it be;
Here’s a cozie warm house for Edward and me.


Dorothy Wordsworth
1771 - 1855


From The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Into the street the Piper stept,
Smiling first a little smile,
As if he knew what magic slept
In his quiet pipe the while;
Then, like a musical adept,
To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled,
And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled
Like a candle-flame where salt is sprinkled;
And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered,
You heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the houses the rats came tumbling.
Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats,
Brown rats, black rats, grey rats, tawny rats,
Grave old plodders, gay young friskers,
Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers,
Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives –
Followed the Piper for their lives.
From street to street he piped advancing,
And step for step they followed dancing,
Until they came to the river Weser
Wherein all plunged and perished!
– Save one who, stout as Julius Caesar,
Swam across and lived to carry
(As he, the manuscript he cherished)
To Rat-land home his commentary:
Which was, ‘At the first shrill notes of the pipe,
I heard a sound as of scraping tripe,
And putting apples, wondrous ripe,
Into a cider-press’s gripe:
And a moving away of pickle-tub boards,
And a leaving ajar of conserve-cupboards,
And a drawing the corks of train-oil flasks,
And a breaking the hoops of butter-casks;
And it seemed as if a voice
(Sweeter far than by harp or by psaltery
Is breathed) called out, Oh rats, rejoice!
The world is grown to one vast dry-saltery!
So, munch on, crunch on, take your nuncheon,
Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon!
And just as a bulky sugar-puncheon,
All ready staved, like a great sun shone
Glorious scarce an inch before me,
Just as methought it said, Come, bore me!
– I found the Weser rolling o’er me.’

You should have heard the Hamelin people
Ringing the bells till they rocked the steeple.
‘Go,’ cried the Mayor, ‘and get long poles!
Poke out the nests and block up the holes!
Consult with carpenters and builders,
And leave in our town not even a trace
Of the rats!’ – when suddenly, up the face
Of the Piper perked in the market-place,
With a ‘First, if you please, my thousand guilders!’


Robert Browning
1812 - 1889


The Owl

When cats run home and light is come, And dew is cold upon the ground, And the far-off stream is dumb, And the whirring sail goes round, And the whirring sail goes round; Alone and warming his five wits, The white owl in the belfry sits. When merry milkmaids click the latch, And rarely smells the new-mown hay, And the cock hath sung beneath the thatch Twice or thrice his roundelay, Twice or thrice his roundelay; Alone and warming his five wits, The white owl in the belfry sits.

The Eagle

He clasps the crag with crooked hands; Close to the sun in lonely lands, Ring'd with the azure world, he stands. The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls; He watches from his mountain walls, And like a thunderbolt he falls.

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Alfred Tennyson
1809 - 1892


The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb

One day, Mamma said, “Conrad dear,
I must go out and leave you here.
But mind now, Conrad, what I say,
Don’t suck your thumb while I’m away.
The great tall tailor always comes
To little boys that suck their thumbs.
And ere they dream what he’s about
He takes his great sharp scissors
And cuts their thumbs clean off, – and then
You know, they never grow again.”

Mamma had scarcely turn’d her back,
The thumb was in, alack! alack!

The door flew open, in he ran,
The great, long, red-legged scissorman.
Oh! children, see! the tailor’s come
And caught our little Suck-a-Thumb.

Snip! Snap! Snip! the scissors go;
And Conrad cries out – Oh! Oh! Oh!
Snip! Snap! Snip! They go so fast;
That both his thumbs are off at last.
Mamma comes home; there Conrad stands,
And looks quite sad, and shows his hands;-
“Ah!” said Mamma “I knew he’d come
To naughty little Suck-a-Thumb.”


Heinrich Hoffmann
1809 - 1894


Little Trotty Wagtail

Little trotty wagtail, he went in the rain,
And tittering, tottering sideways he near got straight again.
He stooped to get a worm, and look’d up to catch a fly,
And then he flew away ere his feathers they were dry.

Little trotty wagtail, he waddled in the mud,
And left his little footmarks, trample where he would.
He waddled in the water-pudge, and waggle went his tail,
And chirrupt up his wings to dry upon the garden rail.

Little trotty wagtail, you nimble all about,
And in the dimpling water-pudge you waddle in and out;
Your home is nigh at hand, and in the warm pigsty,
So little Master Wagtail, I’ll bid you a goodbye.


John Clare
1793 - 1864


The Sands Of Dee

‘O Mary, go and call the cattle home,
And call the cattle home,
And call the cattle home
Across the sands of Dee;’
The western wind was wild and dank with foam,
And all alone went she.

The western tide crept up along the sand,
And o’er and o’er the sand,
And round and round the sand,
As far as eye could see.
The rolling mist came down and hid the land:
And never home came she.

‘Oh! is it weed, or fish, or floating hair,
A tress of golden hair,
A drownèd maiden’s hair
Above the nets at sea?
Was never salmon yet that shone so fair
Among the stakes of Dee.’

They rowed her in across the rolling foam,
The cruel crawling foam,
The cruel hungry foam,
To her grave beside the sea:
But still the boatmen hear her call the cattle home
Across the sands of Dee.


Charles Kingsley
1819 - 1875


The Song of Hiawatha

In this extract from a very long poem, Hiawatha goes fishing. There are 13 stanzas. If you want to recite a smaller part of it, we recommend stanzas  1-3, or 4-5, 6-9 or 10-13.


Forth upon the Gitche Gumee,
On the shining Big-Sea-Water,
With his fishing-line of cedar,
Of the twisted bark of cedar,
Forth to catch the sturgeon Nahma,
Mishe-Nahma, King of Fishes,
In his birch canoe exulting
All alone went Hiawatha.

Through the clear, transparent water
He could see the fishes swimming
Far down in the depths below him;
See the yellow perch, the Sahwa,
Like a sunbeam in the water,
See the Shawgashee, the craw-fish,
Like a spider on the bottom,
On the white and sandy bottom.

At the stern sat Hiawatha,
With his fishing-line of cedar;
In his plumes the breeze of morning
Played as in the hemlock branches;
On the bows, with tail erected,
Sat the squirrel, Adjidaumo;
In his fur the breeze of morning
Played as in the prairie grasses.

On the white sand of the bottom
Lay the monster Mishe-Nahma,
Lay the sturgeon, King of Fishes;
Through his gills he breathed the water,
With his fins he fanned and winnowed,
With his tail he swept the sand-floor.

There he lay in all his armour;
On each side a shield to guard him,
Plates of bone upon his forehead,
Down his sides and back and shoulders
Plates of bone with spines projecting!
Painted was he with his war-paints,
Stripes of yellow, red, and azure,
Spots of brown and spots of sable;
And he lay there on the bottom,
Fanning with his fins of purple,
As above him Hiawatha
In his birch canoe came sailing,
With his fishing line of cedar.
“Take my bait,” cried Hiawatha,
Down into the depths beneath him,
“Take my bait, O Sturgeon, Nahma!
Come up from below the water,
Let us see which is the stronger!”
And he dropped his line of cedar
Through the clear, transparent water,
Waited vainly for an answer,
Long sat waiting for an answer,
And repeating loud and louder,
“Take my bait, O King of Fishes!”

Quiet lay the sturgeon, Nahma,
Fanning slowly in the water,
Looking up at Hiawatha,
Listening to his call and clamour,
His unnecessary tumult,
Till he wearied of the shouting;
And he said to the Kenozha,
To the pike, the Maskenozha,
“Take the bait of this rude fellow,
Break the line of Hiawatha!”

In his fingers Hiawatha
Felt the loose line jerk and tighten;
As he drew it in, it tugged so
That the birch canoe stood endwise,
Like a birch log in the water,
With the squirrel, Adjidaumo,
Perched and frisking on the summit.

Full of scorn was Hiawatha
When he saw the fish rise upward,
Saw the pike, the Maskenozha,
Coming nearer, nearer to him,
And he shouted through the water,
“Esa! esa! shame upon you!
You are but the pike, Kenozha,
You are not the fish I wanted,
You are not the King of Fishes!”

Reeling downward to the bottom
Sank the pike in great confusion,
And the mighty sturgeon, Nahma,
Said to Ugudwash, the sun-fish,
“Take the bait of this great boaster,
Break the line of Hiawatha!”

Slowly upward, wavering, gleaming
Like a white moon in the water,
Rose the Ugudwash, the sun-fish,
Seized the line of Hiawatha,
Swung with all his weight upon it,
Made a whirlpool in the water,
Whirled the birch canoe in circles,
Round and round in gurgling eddies,
Till the circles in the water
Reached the far-off sandy beaches,
Till the water-flags and rushes
Nodded on the distant margins.

But when Hiawatha saw him
Slowly rising through the water,
Lifting his great disc of whiteness,
Loud he shouted in derision,
“Esa! esa! shame upon you!
You are Ugudwash, the sun-fish,
You are not the fish I wanted,
You are not the King of Fishes!”

Wavering downward, white and ghastly,
Sank the Ugudwash, the sun-fish,
And again the sturgeon, Nahma,
Heard the shout of Hiawatha,
Heard his challenge of defiance,
The unnecessary tumult,
Ringing far across the water.

From the white sand of the bottom
Up he rose with angry gesture,
Quivering in each nerve and fibre,
Clashing all his plates of armour,
Gleaming bright with all his war-paint;
In his wrath he darted upward,
Flashing leaped into the sunshine,
Opened his great jaws, and swallowed
Both canoe and Hiawatha.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
1807 - 1882


At The Zoo

Adapted solo version:

First I saw the white bear, then I saw the black,
Then I saw the camel with a hump upon his back;
Then I saw the grey wolf, with mutton in his maw;
Then I saw the wombat waddle in the straw;
Then I saw the elephant with his waving trunk,
Then I saw the monkeys—mercy, how unpleasantly they-smelt!



Original choral version:

First I saw the white bear, then I saw the black,
Then I saw the camel with a hump upon his back.

(Chorus) Then I saw the camel with a HUMP upon his back!

Then I saw the grey wolf, with mutton in his maw;
Then I saw the wambat waddle in the straw;
Then I saw the elephant with his waving trunk,
Then I saw the monkeys—mercy, how unpleasantly they smelt!


William Makepeace Thackeray
1811 - 1863


Puss and Her Three Kittens

Our old cat has kittens three —
What do you think their names should be?

One is tabby with emerald eyes,
And a tail that’s long and slender,
And into a temper she quickly flies
If you ever by chance offend her.
I think we shall call her this —
I think we shall call her that —
Now, don’t you think that Pepperpot
Is a nice name for a cat?

One is black with a frill of white,
And her feet are all white fur,
If you stroke her she carries her tail upright
And quickly begins to purr.
I think we shall call her this —
I think we shall call her that —
Now, don’t you think that Sootikin
Is a nice name for a cat?

One is a tortoise-shell, yellow and black,
With plenty of white about him;
If you tease him, at once he sets up his back,
He’s a quarrelsome one, ne’er doubt him.
I think we shall call him this —
I think we shall call him that —
Now, don’t you think that Scratchaway
Is a nice name for a cat?

Our old cat has kittens three
And I fancy these their names will be:
Pepperpot, Sootikin, Scratchaway — there!
Were ever kittens with these to compare?
And we call the old mother —
Now what do you think?
Tabitha Longclaws Tiddley Wink.


Tom Hood
1835 - 1874


The Mock Turtle’s Song

“Will you walk a little faster?” said a whiting to a snail.
“There’s a porpoise close behind us, and he’s treading on my tail.
See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle — will you come and join the dance?
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you join the dance?
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the dance?

“You can really have no notion how delightful it will be,
When they take us up and throw us, with the lobsters, out to sea!”
But the snail replied “Too far, too far!” and gave a look askance—
Said he thanked the whiting kindly, but he would not join the dance.
Would not, could not, would not, could not, would not join the dance.
Would not, could not, would not, could not, could not join the dance.

“What matters it how far we go?” his scaly friend replied.
“There is another shore, you know, upon the other side.
The further off from England the nearer is to France—
Then turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance?
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the dance?
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the dance?”


Lewis Carroll
1832 - 1898


The Quangle Wangle’s Hat

On the top of the Crumpetty Tree The Quangle Wangle sat, But his face you could not see, On account of his Beaver Hat. For his Hat was a hundred and two feet wide, With ribbons and bibbons on every side And bells, and buttons, and loops, and lace, So that nobody ever could see the face Of the Quangle Wangle Quee. The Quangle Wangle said To himself on the Crumpetty Tree: "Jam; and jelly; and bread; Are the best of food for me! But the longer I live on this Crumpetty Tree The plainer than ever it seems to me That very few people come this way And that life on the whole is far from gay!" Said the Quangle Wangle Quee. But there came to the Crumpetty Tree, Mr. and Mrs. Canary; And they said, — "Did ever you see Any spot so charmingly airy? May we build a nest on your lovely Hat? Mr. Quangle Wangle, grant us that! O please let us come and build a nest Of whatever material suits you best, Mr. Quangle Wangle Quee!" And besides, to the Crumpetty Tree Came the Stork, the Duck, and the Owl: The Snail, and the Bumble-Bee, The Frog, and the Fimble Fowl; (The Fimble Fowl, with a corkscrew leg;) And all of them said: "We humbly beg, We may build out homes on your lovely Hat: Mr. Quangle Wangle, grant us that! Mr. Quangle Wangle Quee!" And the Golden Grouse came there, And the Pobble who has no toes, And the small Olympian bear, And the Dong with a luminous nose. And the Blue Baboon, who played the flute, And the Orient Calf from the Land of Tute, And the Attery Squash, and the Bisky Bat, All came and built on the lovely Hat Of the Quangle Wangle Quee. And the Quangle Wangle said To himself on the Crumpetty Tree: "When all these creatures move What a wonderful noise there'll be!" And at night by the light of the Mulberry moon They danced to the Flute of the Blue Baboon, On the broad green leaves of the Crumpetty Tree, And all were as happy as happy could be, With the Quangle Wangle Quee.

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat

I The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea In a beautiful pea-green boat, They took some honey, and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five-pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above, And sang to a small guitar, "O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love, What a beautiful Pussy you are, You are, You are! What a beautiful Pussy you are!" II Pussy said to the Owl, "You elegant fowl! How charmingly sweet you sing! O let us be married! too long we have tarried: But what shall we do for a ring?" They sailed away, for a year and a day, To the land where the Bong-Tree grows And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood With a ring at the end of his nose, His nose, His nose, With a ring at the end of his nose. III "Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling Your ring?" Said the Piggy, "I will." So they took it away, and were married next day By the Turkey who lives on the hill. They dined on mince, and slices of quince, Which they ate with a runcible spoon; And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, They danced by the light of the moon, The moon, The moon, They danced by the light of the moon.

The Jumblies

This poem has six sections. If you want to recite a smaller part of it, we recommend section I or section II.   I They went to sea in a Sieve, they did, In a Sieve they went to sea: In spite of all their friends could say, On a winter’s morn, on a stormy day, In a Sieve they went to sea! And when the Sieve turned round and round, And every one cried, ‘You’ll all be drowned!’ They called aloud, ‘Our Sieve ain’t big, But we don’t care a button! we don’t care a fig! In a Sieve we’ll go to sea!’ Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live; Their heads are green, and their hands are blue, And they went to sea in a Sieve. II They sailed away in a Sieve, they did, In a Sieve they sailed so fast, With only a beautiful pea-green veil Tied with a riband by way of a sail, To a small tobacco-pipe mast; And every one said, who saw them go, ‘O won’t they be soon upset, you know! For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long, And happen what may, it’s extremely wrong In a Sieve to sail so fast!’ Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live; Their heads are green, and their hands are blue, And they went to sea in a Sieve. III The water it soon came in, it did, The water it soon came in; So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet In a pinky paper all folded neat, And they fastened it down with a pin. And they passed the night in a crockery-jar, And each of them said, ‘How wise we are! Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long, Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong, While round in our Sieve we spin!’ Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live; Their heads are green, and their hands are blue, And they went to sea in a Sieve. IV And all night long they sailed away; And when the sun went down, They whistled and warbled a moony song To the echoing sound of a coppery gong, In the shade of the mountains brown. ‘O Timballo! How happy we are, When we live in a sieve and a crockery-jar, And all night long in the moonlight pale, We sail away with a pea-green sail, In the shade of the mountains brown!’ Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live; Their heads are green, and their hands are blue, And they went to sea in a Sieve. V They sailed to the Western Sea, they did, To a land all covered with trees, And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart, And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart, And a hive of silvery Bees. And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws, And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws, And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree, And no end of Stilton Cheese. Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live; Their heads are green, and their hands are blue, And they went to sea in a Sieve. VI And in twenty years they all came back, In twenty years or more, And every one said, ‘How tall they’ve grown!’ For they’ve been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone, And the hills of the Chankly Bore; And they drank their health, and gave them a feast Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast; And everyone said, ‘If we only live, We too will go to sea in a Sieve,— To the hills of the Chankly Bore!’ Far and few, far and few, Are the lands where the Jumblies live; Their heads are green, and their hands are blue, And they went to sea in a Sieve.

The Pobble Who Has No Toes

The Pobble who has no toes Had once as many as we; When they said "Some day you may lose them all;" He replied "Fish, fiddle-de-dee!" And his Aunt Jobiska made him drink Lavender water tinged with pink, For she said "The World in general knows There's nothing so good for a Pobble's toes!" The Pobble who has no toes Swam across the Bristol Channel; But before he set out he wrapped his nose In a piece of scarlet flannel. For his Aunt Jobiska said "No harm Can come to his toes if his nose is warm; And it's perfectly known that a Pobble's toes Are safe, -- provided he minds his nose!" The Pobble swam fast and well, And when boats or ships came near him, He tinkledy-blinkledy-winkled a bell, So that all the world could hear him. And all the Sailors and Admirals cried, When they saw him nearing the further side - "He has gone to fish for his Aunt Jobiska's Runcible Cat with crimson whiskers!" But before he touched the shore, The shore of the Bristol Channel, A sea-green porpoise carried away His wrapper of scarlet flannel. And when he came to observe his feet, Formerly garnished with toes so neat, His face at once became forlorn, On perceiving that all his toes were gone! And nobody ever knew, From that dark day to the present, Whoso had taken the Pobble's toes, In a manner so far from pleasant. Whether the shrimps, or crawfish grey, Or crafty Mermaids stole them away - Nobody knew: and nobody knows How the Pobble was robbed of his twice five toes! The Pobble who has no toes Was placed in a friendly Bark, And they rowed him back, and carried him up To his Aunt Jobiska's Park. And she made him a feast at his earnest wish Of eggs and buttercups fried with fish, - And she said "It's a fact the whole world knows, That Pobbles are happier without their toes!"


There are seven limericks here. You may choose to recite one, some or all of them.   There was an Old Man with a beard, Who said, 'It is just as I feared! Two Owls and a Hen, four Larks and a Wren, Have all built their nests in my beard!’"   There was an Old Man who said, "How Shall I flee from this horrible Cow? I will sit on this stile, and continue to smile, Which may soften the heart of that Cow.”   There was a Young Girl of Majorca, Whose Aunt was a very fast walker; She walked seventy miles, and leaped fifteen stiles, Which astonished that Girl of Majorca.   There was an Old Man of the Coast, Who placidly sat on a post; But when it was cold he relinquished his hold, And called for some hot buttered toast.   There was an Old Man who said, "Well! Will nobody answer this bell? I have pulled day and night, till my hair has grown white, But nobody answers this bell!"   There was a Young Lady of Troy, Whom several large flies did annoy; Some she killed with a thump, some she drowned at the pump, And some she took with her to Troy.   There was an Old Man on a hill, Who seldom, if ever, stood still; He ran up and down in his Grandmother's gown, Which adorned that Old Man on a hill.

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Edward Lear
1812 - 1888


What is Pink?

What is pink? A rose is pink By the fountain's brink. What is red? A poppy's red In its barley bed. What is blue? The sky is blue Where the clouds float through. What is white? A swan is white Sailing in the light. What is yellow? Pears are yellow, Rich and ripe and mellow. What is green? The grass is green, With small flowers between. What is violet? Clouds are violet In the summer twilight. What is orange? Why, an orange, Just an orange!

Who Has Seen The Wind?

Who has seen the wind? Neither I nor you: But when the leaves hang trembling, The wind is passing through. Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I: But when the trees bow down their heads, The wind is passing by.

An emerald is as green as grass

An emerald is as green as grass; A ruby red as blood; A sapphire shines as blue as heaven; A flint lies in the mud. A diamond is a brilliant stone, To catch the world's desire; An opal holds a fiery spark; But a flint holds fire.

Mix A Pancake

Mix a pancake, Stir a pancake, Pop it in the pan; Fry the pancake, Toss the pancake, — Catch it if you can.

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Christina Rossetti
1830 - 1894



This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.


Gerard Manley Hopkins
1844 - 1889


Bed In Summer

In winter I get up at night And dress by yellow candle-light. In summer, quite the other way, I have to go to bed by day. I have to go to bed and see The birds still hopping on the tree, Or hear the grown-up people's feet Still going past me in the street. And does it not seem hard to you, When all the sky is clear and blue, And I should like so much to play, To have to go to bed by day?

Windy Nights

Whenever the moon and stars are set, Whenever the wind is high, All night long in the dark and wet, A man goes riding by. Late in the night when the fires are out, Why does he gallop and gallop about? Whenever the trees are crying aloud, And ships are tossed at sea, By, on the highway, low and loud, By at the gallop goes he. By at the gallop he goes, and then By he comes back at the gallop again.

From A Railway Carriage

Faster than fairies, faster than witches, Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches; And charging along like troops in a battle, All through the meadows the horses and cattle: All of the sights of the hill and the plain Fly as thick as driving rain; And ever again, in the wink of an eye, Painted stations whistle by. Here is a child who clambers and scrambles, All by himself and gathering brambles; Here is a tramp who stands and gazes; And there is the green for stringing the daisies! Here is a cart run away in the road Lumping along with man and load; And here is a mill and there is a river: Each a glimpse and gone for ever!

The Moon

The moon has a face like the clock in the hall; She shines on thieves on the garden wall, On streets and fields and harbour quays, And birdies asleep in the forks of the trees. The squalling cat and the squeaking mouse, The howling dog by the door of the house, The bat that lies in bed at noon, All love to be out by the light of the moon. But all of the things that belong to the day Cuddle to sleep to be out of her way; And flowers and children close their eyes Till up in the morning the sun shall arise.

Block City

What are you able to build with your blocks? Castles and palaces, temples and docks. Rain may keep raining, and others go roam, But I can be happy and building at home. Let the sofa be mountains, the carpet be sea, There I'll establish a city for me: A kirk and a mill and a palace beside, And a harbor as well where my vessels may ride. Great is the palace with pillar and wall, A sort of a tower on top of it all, And steps coming down in an orderly way To where my toy vessels lie safe in the bay. This one is sailing and that one is moored: Hark to the song of the sailors on board! And see on the steps of my palace, the kings Coming and going with presents and things!

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Robert Louis Stevenson
1850 - 1894


The Sleepy Giant

My age is three hundred and seventy-two,
And I think, with the deepest regret,
How I used to pick up and voraciously chew
The dear little boys whom I met.

I’ve eaten them raw, in their holiday suits;
I’ve eaten them curried with rice;
I’ve eaten them baked, in their jackets and boots,
And found them exceedingly nice.

But now that my jaws are too weak for such fare,
I think it exceedingly rude
To do such a thing, when I’m quite well aware
Little boys do not like to be chewed.

And so I contentedly live upon eels,
And try to do nothing amiss.
And I pass all the time I can spare from my meals
In innocent slumber like this.


Charles E Carryl
1841 - 1920


Wynken, Blynken and Nod

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe—
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
‘Where are you going, and what do you wish?’
The old moon asked the three.
‘We have come to fish for the herring-fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!’
Said Wynken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in the beautiful sea–
‘Now cast your nets wherever you wish—
Never afeard are we';
So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam—
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home;
‘Twas all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folk thought ’twas a dream they’d dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea–
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is the wee one’s trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
And Nod.


Eugene Field
1850 - 1895


A Howl About An Owl

It was an owl lived in an oak, Sing heigh ho! the prowly owl! He often smiled, but he seldom spoke, And he wore a wig and a camlet cloak. Sing heigh ho! the howly fowl! Tu-whit! tu-whit! tu-whoo! He fell in love with the chickadee, Sing heigh ho! the prowly owl! He asked her, would she marry he, And they’d go and live in Crim Tartaree. Sing heigh ho! the howly fowl! Tu-whit! tu-whit! tu-whoo! “’T is true,” says he, “you are far from big.” Sing heigh ho! the prowly owl! “But you’ll look twice as well when I’ve bought you a wig, And I’ll teach you the Lancers and the Chorus Jig.” Sing heigh ho! the howly fowl! Tu-whit! tu-whit! tu-whoo! “I’ll feed you with honey when the moon grows pale.” Sing heigh ho! the prowly owl! “I’ll hum you a hymn, and I’ll sing you a scale, Till you quiver with delight to the tip of your tail!” Sing heigh ho! the howly fowl! Tu-whit! tu-whit! tu-whoo! So he went for to marry of the chickadee, Sing heigh ho! the prowly owl! But the sun was so bright that he could not see, So he married the hoppergrass instead of she. And wasn’t that a sad disappointment for he! Sing heigh ho! the howly fowl! Tu-whit! tu-whit! tu-whoo!


Once there was an elephant, Who tried to use the telephant. No! No! I mean an elephone Who tried to use the telephone. (Dear me! I am not certain quite That even now I’ve got it right.) Howe’er it was, he got his trunk Entangled in the telephunk. The more he tried to get it free, The louder buzzed the telephee. (I fear I’d better drop the song Of elephop and telephong!)

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Laura Richards
1850 - 1943


A Bird Came Down The Walk

A Bird came down the walk:
He did not know I saw;
He bit an angle-worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw.

And then he drank a dew
From a convenient grass,
And then hopped sidewise to the wall
To let a beetle pass.


Emily Dickinson
1830 - 1886


The Story Of Grumble Tone

There was a boy named Grumble Tone, who ran away to sea.
“I’m sick of things on land,” he said, “as sick as I can be,
A life upon the bounding wave is just the life for me!”
But the seething ocean billows failed to stimulate his mirth,
For he did not like the vessel or the dizzy rolling berth,
And he thought the sea was almost as unpleasant as the earth.

He wandered into foreign lands, he saw each wondrous sight,
But nothing that he heard or saw seemed just exactly right,
And so he journeyed on and on, still seeking for delight.
He talked with kings and ladies grand; he dined in courts, they say,
But always found the people dull and longed to get away
To search for that mysterious land where he should want to stay.

He wandered over all the world, his hair grew white as snow,
He reached that final bourne at last where all of us must go,
But never found the land he sought; the reason would you know?
The reason was that north or south, where’er his steps were bent
On land or sea, in court or hall, he found but discontent,
For he took his disposition with him, everywhere he went.


Ella Wheeler Wilcox
1850 - 1919


The Elf and The Dormouse

Under a toadstool crept a wee Elf,
Out of the rain to shelter himself.

Under the toadstool, sound asleep,
Sat a big Dormouse all in a heap.

Trembled the wee Elf, frightened and yet
Fearing to fly away lest he get wet.

To the next shelter—maybe a mile!
Sudden the wee Elf smiled a wee smile.

Tugged till the toadstool toppled in two.
Holding it over him, gaily he flew.

Soon he was safe home, dry as could be.
Soon woke the Dormouse—”Good gracious me!

“Where is my toadstool?” loud he lamented.
—And that’s how umbrellas first were invented.


Oliver Herford
1863 - 1935


Child’s Song In Spring

The silver birch is a dainty lady,
She wears a satin gown;
The elm tree makes the old churchyard shady,
She will not live in town.

The English oak is a sturdy fellow,
He gets his green coat late;
The willow is smart in a suit of yellow,
While brown the beech trees wait.

Such a gay green gown God gives the larches –
As green as He is good!
The hazels hold up their arms for arches,
When Spring rides through the wood.

The chestnut’s proud and the lilac’s pretty,
The poplar’s gentle and tall,
But the plane tree’s kind to the poor dull city –
I love him best of all!


Edith Nesbit
1858 - 1924



Beyond, beyond the mountain line,
The grey-stone and the boulder,
Beyond the growth of dark green pine,
That crowns its western shoulder,
There lies that fairy land of mine,
Unseen of a beholder.

Its fruits are all like rubies rare,
Its streams are clear as glasses;
There golden castles hang in air,
And purple grapes in masses,
And noble knights and ladies fair
Come riding down the passes.

Ah me! they say if I could stand
Upon those mountain ledges,
I should but see on either hand
Plain fields and dusty hedges:
And yet I know my fairy land
Lies somewhere o’er their edges.


Cecil Frances Alexander
1818 - 1895


The Frog

Be kind and tender to the Frog, And do not call him names, As ‘Slimy skin,’ or ‘Polly-wog,’ Or likewise ‘Ugly 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).


Matilda told such Dreadful Lies, It made one Gasp and Stretch one's Eyes; Her Aunt, who, from her Earliest Youth, Had kept a Strict Regard for Truth, Attempted to Believe Matilda: The effort very nearly killed her, And would have done so, had not She Discovered this Infirmity. For once, towards the Close of Day, Matilda, growing tired of play, And finding she was left alone, Went tiptoe to the Telephone And summoned the Immediate Aid Of London's Noble Fire-Brigade. Within an hour the Gallant Band Were pouring in on every hand, From Putney, Hackney Downs, and Bow With Courage high and Hearts a-glow They galloped, roaring through the Town 'Matilda's House is Burning Down!' Inspired by British Cheers and Loud Proceeding from the Frenzied Crowd, They ran their ladders through a score Of windows on the Ball Room Floor; And took Peculiar Pains to Souse The Pictures up and down the House, Until Matilda's Aunt succeeded In showing them they were not needed; And even then she had to pay To get the Men to go away! It happened that a few Weeks later Her Aunt was off to the Theatre To see that Interesting Play The Second Mrs Tanqueray. She had refused to take her Niece To hear this Entertaining Piece: A Deprivation Just and Wise To Punish her for Telling Lies. That Night a Fire did break out- You should have heard Matilda Shout! You should have heard her Scream and Bawl, And throw the window up and call To People passing in the Street- (The rapidly increasing Heat Encouraging her to obtain Their confidence)-but all in vain! For every time She shouted 'Fire!' They only answered 'Little Liar'! And therefore when her Aunt returned, Matilda, and the House, were Burned.

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Hilaire Belloc
1870 - 1953


What The Fly Thinks

A fly went buzzing over my head;
Buzz-z! Buzz-z!
And what do you think the little fly said?
Buzz-z! Buzz-z!

I saw two babies as I flew by
Begin to quarrel and then to cry!
Pretty children, their Grandma thinks,
Calls them her “Rosy-posy pinks!”

What does it mean when the babies cry?
Isn’t it better to be a fly?
Babies laugh though, coo and smile,
Shriek with laughter once in a while.

Wonder what creatures with two legs do!
I never would live with so very few!
How do they ever get about?
Wonder who pulled their other legs out!

There! They’re going! How queer they crawl!
Funny world! Said the fly on the wall!
A fly went buzzing over my head,
Buzz-z! Buzz-z!
And these are the words the little fly said,
Buzz-z! Buzz-z!


Gertrude Heath
1859 - 1935


A Bicycle Built for Two

There was an ambitious young eel
Who determined to ride on a wheel;
But try as he might,
He couldn’t ride right,
In spite of his ardor and zeal.

If he sat on the saddle to ride
His tail only pedalled one side;
And I’m sure you’ll admit
That an eel couldn’t sit
On a bicycle saddle astride.

Or if he hung over the top,
He could go, but he never could stop;
For of course it is clear
He had no way to steer,
And under the wheel he would flop.

His neighbor, observing the fun,
Said, “I think that the thing can be done,
If you’ll listen to me,
You’ll quickly agree
That two heads are better than one.

“And this is my project, old chap,
Around our two waists I will wrap
This beautiful belt
Of bottle-green felt
And fasten it firm with a strap.”

This done, with a dignified mien
The two squirmed up on the machine,
And rode gayly away,
Or at least, so they say,
Who witnessed the wonderful scene.


Carolyn Wells
1862 - 1942


The Song of Wandering Aengus

I went out to the hazel wood, Because a fire was in my head, And cut and peeled a hazel wand, And hooked a berry to a thread; And when white moths were on the wing, And moth-like stars were flickering out, I dropped the berry in a stream And caught a little silver trout. When I had laid it on the floor I went to blow the fire a-flame, But something rustled on the floor, And someone called me by my name: It had become a glimmering girl With apple blossom in her hair Who called me by my name and ran And faded through the brightening air. Though I am old with wandering Through hollow lands and hilly lands, I will find out where she has gone, And kiss her lips and take her hands; And walk among long dappled grass, And pluck till time and times are done, The silver apples of the moon, The golden apples of the sun.

To A Squirrel At Kyle-Na-No

Come play with me; Why should you run Through the shaking tree As though I'd a gun To strike you dead? When all I would do Is to scratch your head And let you go.

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W.B. Yeats
1865 - 1939



Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amythysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.


John Masefield
1878 - 1967


Lady Icicle

Little Lady Icicle is dreaming in the north-land And gleaming in the north-land, her pillow all a-glow; For the frost has come and found her With an ermine robe around her Where little Lady Icicle lies dreaming in the snow. Little Lady Icicle is waking in the north-land, And shaking in the north-land her pillow to and fro; And the hurricane a-skirling Sends the feathers all a-whirling Where little Lady Icicle is waking in the snow. Little Lady Icicle is laughing in the north-land, And quaffing in the north-land her wines that overflow; All the lakes and rivers crusting That her finger-tips are dusting, Where little Lady Icicle is laughing in the snow. Little Lady Icicle is singing in the north-land, And bringing from the north-land a music wild and low; And the fairies watch and listen Where her silver slippers glisten, As little Lady Icicle goes singing through the snow. Little Lady Icicle is coming from the north-land, Benumbing all the north-land where’er her feet may go; With a fringe of frost before her And a crystal garment o’er her, Little Lady Icicle is coming with the snow.

Lullaby Of The Iroquois

Little brown baby-bird, lapped in your nest, Wrapped in your nest, Strapped in your nest, Your straight little cradle-board rocks you to rest; Its hands are your nest; Its bands are your nest; It swings from the down-bending branch of the oak; You watch the camp flame, and the curling grey smoke; But, oh, for your pretty black eyes sleep is best,— Little brown baby of mine, go to rest. Little brown baby-bird swinging to sleep, Winging to sleep, Singing to sleep, Your wonder-black eyes that so wide open keep, Shielding their sleep, Unyielding to sleep, The heron is homing, the plover is still, The night-owl calls from his haunt on the hill, Afar the fox barks, afar the stars peep,— Little brown baby of mine, go to sleep.

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E. Pauline Johnson
1861 - 1913


A Smuggler’s Song

IF you wake at midnight, and hear a horse's feet, Don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street, Them that ask no questions isn't told a lie. Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by. Five and twenty ponies, Trotting through the dark - Brandy for the Parson, 'Baccy for the Clerk. Laces for a lady; letters for a spy, Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by! Running round the woodlump if you chance to find Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine, Don't you shout to come and look, nor use 'em for your play. Put the brishwood back again - and they'll be gone next day ! If you see the stable-door setting open wide; If you see a tired horse lying down inside; If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore; If the lining's wet and warm - don't you ask no more ! If you meet King George's men, dressed in blue and red, You be careful what you say, and mindful what is said. If they call you " pretty maid," and chuck you 'neath the chin, Don't you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one's been ! Knocks and footsteps round the house - whistles after dark - You've no call for running out till the house-dogs bark. Trusty's here, and Pincher's here, and see how dumb they lie They don't fret to follow when the Gentlemen go by ! 'If You do as you've been told, 'likely there's a chance, You'll be give a dainty doll, all the way from France, With a cap of Valenciennes, and a velvet hood - A present from the Gentlemen, along 'o being good ! Five and twenty ponies, Trotting through the dark - Brandy for the Parson, 'Baccy for the Clerk. Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie - Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by !

The Eggshell

The wind took off with the sunset— The fog came up with the tide, When the Witch of the North took an Egg-shell With a little Blue Devil inside. “Sink,” she said, “or swim,” she said, “It’s all you will get from me. And that is the finish of him!” she said, And the Egg-shell went to sea. The wind fell dead with the midnight— The fog shut down like a sheet, When the Witch of the North heard the Egg-shell Feeling by hand for a fleet. “Get!” she said, “or you’re gone,” she said, But the little Blue Devil said “No!” “The sights are just coming on,” he said, And he let the Whitehead go. The wind got up with the morning— The fog blew off with the rain, When the Witch of the North saw the Egg-shell And the little Blue Devil again. “Did you swim?” she said. “Did you sink?” she said, And the little Blue Devil replied: “For myself I swam, but I think,” he said, “There’s somebody sinking outside.”

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Rudyard Kipling
1865 - 1936


Paper Boats

Day by day I float my paper boats one by one down the running stream.
In big black letters I write my name on them and the name of
the village where I live.

I hope that someone in some strange land will find them and
know who I am.

I load my little boats with shiuli flowers from our garden, and hope that these blooms of the dawn will be carried safely to land in the night.
I launch my paper boats and look up into the sky and see the little clouds setting their white bulging sails.
I know not what playmate of mine in the sky sends them down the air to race with my boats!
When night comes I bury my face in my arms and dream that my paper boats float on and on under the midnight stars.
The fairies of sleep are sailing in them, and the lading is their baskets full of dreams.


Rabindranath Tagore
1861 - 1941


Some One

Someone came knocking
At my wee, small door;
Someone came knocking,
I’m sure — sure — sure;
I listened, I opened,
I looked to left and right,
But nought there was a-stirring
In the still, dark night;
Only the busy beetle
Tap-tapping in the wall,
Only from the forest
The screech owl’s call,
Only the cricket whistling
While the dewdrops fall,
So I know not who came knocking,
At all, at all, at all.


Walter de la Mare
1873 - 1956


Overheard On A Saltmarsh

Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?
Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?
Give them me.
Give them me. Give them me.
Then I will howl all night in the reeds,
Lie in the mud and howl for them.

Goblin, why do you love them so?

They are better than stars or water,
Better than voices of winds that sing,
Better than any man’s fair daughter,
Your green glass beads on a silver ring.

Hush I stole them out of the moon.

Give me your beads. I desire them.
I will howl in a deep lagoon
For your green glass beads, I love them so.
Give them me. Give them.


Harold Monro
1879 - 1932


The Little Turtle

There was a little turtle.
He lived in a box.
He swam in a puddle.
He climbed on the rocks.

He snapped at a mosquito.
He snapped at a flea.
He snapped at a minnow.
And he snapped at me.

He caught the mosquito.
He caught the flea.
He caught the minnow.
But he didn’t catch me.


Vachel Lindsay
1879 - 1931


Song for a Banjo Dance

Shake your brown feet, honey, Shake your brown feet, chile, Shake your brown feet, honey, Shake ’em swift and wil’– Get way back, honey, Do that rockin’ step. Slide on over, darling, Now! Come out With your left. Shake your brown feet, honey, Shake ’em, honey chile. Sun’s going down this evening– Might never rise no mo’. The sun’s going down this very night– Might never rise no mo’– So dance with swift feet, honey, (The banjo’s sobbing low) Dance with swift feet, honey– Might never dance no mo’.


Little snail,
Dreaming you go.
Weather and rose
Is all you know.
Weather and rose
Is all you see,
The dewdrop’s

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Langston Hughes
1902 - 1967


Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Robert Frost
1874 - 1963


On A Night Of Snow

Cat, if you go outdoors, you must walk in the snow.
You will come back with little white shoes on your feet,
little white shoes of snow that have heels of sleet.
Stay by the fire, my Cat. Lie still, do not go.
See how the flames are leaping and hissing low,
I will bring you a saucer of milk like a marguerite,
so white and so smooth, so spherical and so sweet–
stay with me, Cat. Outdoors the wild winds blow.

Outdoors the wild winds blow, Mistress, and dark is the night,
strange voices cry in the trees, intoning strange lore,
and more than cats move, lit by our eyes’ green light,
on silent feet where the meadow grasses hang hoar–
Mistress, there are portents abroad of magic and might,
and things that are yet to be done. Open the door!


Elizabeth Coatsworth
1893 - 1986



Little lamps of the dusk
You fly low and gold
When the summer evening
Starts to unfold.
So that all the insects,
Now, before you pass,
Will have light to see by
Undressing in the grass.

But when night has flowered,
Little lamps agleam,
You fly over tree-tops
Following a dream.
Men wonder from their windows
That a firefly goes so far.
They do not know your longing
To be a shooting star.


Carolyn Hall
- -


The Land Where The Taffy Birds Grow

There’s a lemondrop monkey that whistles and sings
And marshmallow chickens with sugary wings.
Eating wee gumdrop worms that the mother hen brings.
In the Land Where the Taffy Birds Grow.

The rivers are gold-colored honey so sweet,
And a licorice dog, you are certain to meet.
With a lollipop pig that has caramel feet,
In the Land Where the Taffy Birds Grow.

There’s a chocolate mouse and a peppermint cat,
And a sugarplum cow in a cocoanut hat.
Baking cinnamon cookies, so puffy and fat.
In the Land Where the Taffy Birds Grow.

You’ll see round doughnut stars playing peek-a-boo.
And a big yellow moon smiling at you,
(A gingerbread man told me these things were true)
In the Land Where the Taffy Birds Grow.


Margaret McBride Hoss
- -


Tony The Turtle

Tony was a Turtle, Very much at ease, Swimming in the sunshine Through the summer seas, And feeding on the fishes Irrespective of their wishes, With a "By your leave" and "Thank you" And a gentlemanly squeeze. Tony was a Turtle Who loved a civil phrase; Anxious and obliging, Sensitive to praise. And to hint that he was snappy Made him thoroughly unhappy; For Tony was a Turtle With most engaging ways. Tony was a Turtle Who thought, before he fed, of other people's comfort, And as he ate them said: "If I seem a little grumpy, It is not that you are lumpy." For Tony was a Turtle Delicately bred.

Sir Smasham Uppe

Good afternoon, Sir Smasham Uppe ! We're having tea : do take a cup ! Sugar and milk ? - Now let me see - Two lumps, I think? . . . Good gracious me ! The silly thing slipped off your knee ! Pray don’t apologize, old chap : A very trivial mishap! So clumsy of you ? How absurd ! My dear Sir Smasham, not a word ! Now do sit down and have another, And tell us all about your brother – You know, the one who broke his head. Is the poor fellow still in bed ? – A chair - allow me, sir ! . . . Great Scott ! That was a nasty smash ! Eh, what ? Oh, not at all : the chair was old – Queen Anne, or so we have been told. We’ve got at least a dozen more : Just leave the pieces on the floor. I want you to admire our view : Come nearer to the window, do ; And look how beautiful . . . Tut, tut ! You didn’t see that it was shut ? I hope you are not badly cut ! Not hurt ? A fortunate escape ! Amazing ! Not a single scrape ! And now, if you have finished tea, I fancy you might like to see A little thing or two I’ve got. That china plate ? Yes, worth a lot : A beauty too . . . Ah, there it goes ! I trust it didn’t hurt your toes ? Your elbow brushed it off the shelf ? Of course : I’ve done the same myself. And now, my dear Sir Smasham – Oh, You surely don’t intend to go ? You must be off ? Well, come again So glad you’re fond of porcelain !

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E.V. Rieu
1887 - 1972


Something Told The Wild Geese

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go.
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered,—”Snow.”
Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned,—”Frost.”
All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.
Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,—
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.


Rachel Field
1894 - 1942


Macavity: The Mystery Cat

Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw —
For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime — Macavity’s not there!

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
He’s broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime – Macavity’s not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air –
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity’s not there!

Macavity’s a ginger cat, he’s very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he’s half asleep, he’s always wide awake.

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
For he’s a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square –
But when a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there!

He’s outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard’s.
And when the larder’s looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke’s been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair –
Ay, there’s the wonder of the thing! Macavity’s not there!

And when the Foreign Office find a Treaty’s gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scrap of paper in the hall or on the stair –
But it’s useless to investigate – Macavity’s not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
‘It must have been Macavity!’ – but he’s a mile away.
You’ll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,
Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:
At whatever time the deed took place – MACAVITY WASN’T THERE!
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!


T.S. Eliot
1888 - 1965



I’d really hate to go to bed
Just swinging from some wall.
But bats, they say, do just that way.
I’d not wish to at all.
I’d hate to swing down from my toes,
All upside-down, and try to doze.


Mary Effie Lee Newsome
1885 - 1979



When I live in a Cottage I shall keep in my Cottage Two different Dogs, Three creamy Cows, Four giddy Goats, Five Pewter Pots, Six silver Spoons, Seven busy Beehives, Eight ancient Appletrees, Nine red Rosebushes, Ten teeming Teapots, Eleven chirping Chickens, Twelve cosy Cats with their kittenish Kittens and One blessed Baby in a Basket. That's what I'll have when I live in my Cottage.

It Was Long Ago

I’ll tell you, shall I, something I remember? Something that still means a great deal to me. It was long ago. A dusty road in summer I remember, A mountain, and an old house, and a tree That stood, you know, Behind the house. An old woman I remember In a red shawl with a grey cat on her knee Humming under a tree. She seemed the oldest thing I can remember, But then perhaps I was not more than three. It was long ago. I dragged on the dusty road, and I remember How the old woman looked over the fence at me And seemed to know.

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Eleanor Farjeon
1881 - 1965


Grim and Gloomy

Oh, grim and gloomy, So grim and gloomy Are the caves beneath the sea. Oh, rare but roomy And bare and boomy, Those salt sea caverns be. Oh, slim and slimy Or grey and grimy Are the animals of the sea. Salt and oozy And safe and snoozy The caves where those animals be. Hark to the shuffling, Huge and snuffling, Ravenous, cavernous, great sea-beasts! But fair and fabulous, Tintinnabulous, Gay and fabulous are their feasts. Ah, but the queen of the sea, The querulous, perilous sea! How the curls of her tresses The pearls on her dresses, Sway and swirl in the waves, How cosy and dozy, How sweet ring-a-rosy Her bower in the deep-sea caves! Oh, rare but roomy And bare and boomy Those caverns under the sea, And grave and grandiose, Safe and sandiose The dens of her denizens be.

The Ceremonial Band

The old King of Dorchester, He had a little orchestra, And never did you hear such a ceremonial band. ‘Tootle-too,’ said the flute, ‘Deed-a-reedle,’ said the fiddle, For the fiddles and the flutes were the finest in the land. The old King of Dorchester, He had a little orchestra, And never did you hear such a ceremonial band. ‘Pump-a-rum,' said the drum, ‘Tootle-too,’ said the flute, ‘Deed-a-reedle,’ said the fiddle, For the fiddles and the flutes were the finest in the land. The old King of Dorchester, He had a little orchestra, And never did you hear such a ceremonial band. ‘Pickle-pee,’ said the fife, ‘Pump-a-rum.' said the drum, ‘Tootle-too,’ said the flute, ‘Deed-a-reedle,’ said the fiddle, For the fiddles and the flutes were the finest in the land. The old King of Dorchester, He had a little orchestra, And never did you hear such a ceremonial band. ‘Zoomba-zoom,’ said the bass, ‘Pickle-pee,’ said the fife, ‘Pump-a-rum,' said the drum, ‘Tootle-too,’ said the flute, ‘Deed-a-reedle,’ said the fiddle, For the fiddles and the flutes were the finest in the land. The old King of Dorchester, He had a little orchestra, And never did you hear such a ceremonial band. ‘Pah-pa-rah,’ said the trumpet, ‘Zoomba-zoom,’ said the bass, ‘Pickle-pee,’ said the fife, ‘Pump-a-rum,' said the drum, ‘Tootle-too,’ said the flute, ‘Deed-a-reedle,’ said the fiddle, For the fiddles and the flutes were the finest in the land, Oh! the fiddles and the flutes were the finest in the land!

The Catipoce

‘Oh Harry, Harry! hold me close — I fear some animile. It is the horny Catipoce With her outrageous smile!’ Thus spoke the maiden in alarm; She had good cause to fear: The Catipoce can do great harm, If any come too near. Despite her looks, do not presume The creature’s ways are mild; For many have gone mad on whom The Catipoce has smiled. She lurks in woods at close of day Among the toadstools soft, Or sprawls on musty sacks and hay In cellar, barn, or loft. Behind neglected rubbish-dumps At dusk your blood will freeze Only to glimpse her horny humps And hear her fatal sneeze. Run, run! adventurous boy or girl— Run home, and do not pause To feel her breath around you curl, And tempt her carrion claws. Avoid her face: for underneath That gentle, fond grimace Lie four-and-forty crooked teeth— My dears, avoid her face! ‘Oh Harry, Harry! hold me close, And hold me close awhile; It is the odious Catipoce With her devouring smile!’

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James Reeves
1909 - 1978



I’m shouting
I’m singing
I’m swinging through trees
I’m winging sky-high
with the buzzing black bees.
I’m the sun
I’m the moon
I’m the dew on the rose.
I’m a rabbit
whose habit
is twitching his nose.
I’m lively
I’m lovely
I’m kicking my heels.
I’m crying “Come dance”
To the freshwater eels.
I’m racing through meadows
without any coat
I’m a gamboling lamb
I’m a light leaping goat
I’m a bud
I’m a bloom
I’m a dove on the wing.
I’m running on rooftops
and welcoming spring!


Karla Kuskin
1932 - 2009


My Brother Bert

Pets are the Hobby of my brother Bert. He used to go to school with a Mouse in his shirt. His hobby it grew, as some hobbies will, And grew and GREW and GREW until - Oh don't breathe a word, pretend you haven't heard. A simply appalling thing has occurred - The very thought makes me iller and iller: Bert's brought home a gigantic Gorilla! If you think that's really not such a scare, What if it quarrels with his grizzly bear? You still think you could keep your head? What if the Lion from under the bed And the four Ostriches that deposit Their football eggs in his bedroom closet And the Aardvark out of his bottom drawer All danced out and joined in the Roar? What if the pangolins were to caper Out of their nests behind the wallpaper? With the fifty sorts of Bats That hang on his hatstand like old hats, And out of a shoebox the excitable Platypus Along with the Ocelot or Jungle-Cattypus? The Wombat, the Dingo, the Gecko, the Grampus - How they would shake the house with their Rumpus! Not to forget the Bandicoot Who would certainly peer from his battered old boot. Why it could be a dreadful day, And what Oh what would the neighbours say!


You need your Cat. When you slump down All tired and flat With too much town With too many lifts Too many floors Too many neon-lit Corridors Too many people Telling you what You just must do And what you must not With too much headache Video glow Too many answers You will never know Then stroke the Cat That warms your knee You’ll find her purr Is a battery For into your hands Will flow the powers Of the beasts who ignore These ways of ours And you’ll be refreshed Through the Cat on your lap With a Leopard’s yawn And a Tiger’s nap.

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Ted Hughes
1930 - 1998


Jamaica Market

Honey, pepper, leaf-green limes,
Pagan fruit whose names are rhymes,
Mangoes, breadfruit, ginger-roots,
Granadillas, bamboo-shoots,
Cho-cho, ackees, tangerines,
Lemons, purple Congo-beans,
Sugar, akras, kola-nuts,
Citrons, hairy coconuts,
Fish, tobacco, native hats,
Gold bananas, woven mats,
Plantains, wild-thyme, pallid leeks,
Pigeons with their scarlet beaks,
Oranges and saffron yams,
Baskets, ruby guava jams,
Turtles, goat-skins, cinnamon,
Allspice, conch-shells, golden rum.
Black skins, babel – and the sun
That burns all colours into one.


Agnes Maxwell-Hall
1894 - 1984


The Door

Go and open the door.
Maybe outside there’s
a tree, or a wood,
a garden,
or a magic city.

Go and open the door.
Maybe a dog’s rummaging.
Maybe you’ll see a face,
or an eye,
or the picture
of a picture.

Go and open the door.
If there’s a fog
it will clear.

Go and open the door.
Even if there’s only
the darkness ticking,
even if there’s only
the hollow wind,
even if
is there,
go and open the door.

At least
there’ll be
a draught.


Miroslav Holub
1923 - 1998


Colonel Fazackerley Butterworth-Toast

Colonel Fazackerley Butterworth-Toast Bought an old castle complete with a ghost, But someone or other forgot to declare To Colonel Fazak that the spectre was there. On the very first evening, while waiting to dine, The Colonel was taking a fine sherry wine, When the ghost, with a furious flash and a flare, Shot out of the chimney and shivered, 'Beware!' Colonel Fazackerley put down his glass And said, 'My dear fellow, that's really first class! I just can't conceive how you do it at all. I imagine you're going to a Fancy Dress Ball?' At this, the dread ghost made a withering cry. Said the Colonel (his monocle firm in his eye), 'Now just how you do it I wish I could think. Do sit down and tell me, and please have a drink.' The ghost in his phosphorous cloak gave a roar And floated about between ceiling and floor. He walked through a wall and returned through a pane And backed up the chimney and came down again. Said the Colonel, 'With laughter I'm feeling quite weak!' (As trickles of merriment ran down his cheek). 'My house-warming party I hope you won't spurn. You must say you'll come and you'll give us a turn!' At this, the poor spectre - quite out of his wits - Proceeded to shake himself almost to bits. He rattled his chains and he clattered his bones And he filled the whole castle with mumbles and moans. But Colonel Fazackerley, just as before, Was simply delighted and called out, 'Encore!' At which the ghost vanished, his efforts in vain, And never was seen at the castle again. 'Oh dear, what a pity!' said Colonel Fazak. 'I don't know his name, so I can't call him back.' And then with a smile that was hard to define, Colonel Fazackerley went in to dine.

I Am The Song

I am the song that sings the bird. I am the leaf that grows the land. I am the tide that moves the moon. I am the stream that halts the sand. I am the cloud that drives the storm. I am the earth that lights the sun. I am the fire that strikes the stone. I am the clay that shapes the hand. I am the word that speaks the man.

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Charles Causley
1917 - 2003



“I cannot go to school today,”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox
And there’s one more–that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut–my eyes are blue—
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke–


My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is–what?
What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is. . .Saturday?
G’bye, I’m going out to play!”


Shel Silverstein
1930 - 1999


Mosquito One

Mosquito one,
Mosquito two,
Mosquito jump in de callaloo.

Mosquito three,
Mosquito four,
Mosquito fly out de ol’ man door.

Mosquito five,
Mosquito six,
Mosquito break up de ol’ man bricks.

Mosquito seven,
Mosquito eight,
Mosquito open de ol’ man gate.


Anonymous 1978
- -


Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf

As soon as Wolf began to feel
That he would like a decent meal,
He went and knocked on Grandma’s door.
When Grandma opened it, she saw
The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin,
And Wolfie said, “May I come in?”
Poor Grandmamma was terrified,
“He’s going to eat me up!” she cried.
And she was absolutely right.
He ate her up in one big bite.
But Grandmamma was small and tough,
And Wolfie wailed, “That’s not enough!
I haven’t yet begun to feel
That I have had a decent meal!”
He ran around the kitchen yelping,
“I’ve got to have a second helping!”
Then added with a frightful leer,
“I’m therefore going to wait right here
Till Little Miss Red Riding Hood
Comes home from walking in the wood.”
He quickly put on Grandma’s clothes,
(Of course he hadn’t eaten those).
He dressed himself in coat and hat.
He put on shoes, and after that
He even brushed and curled his hair,
Then sat himself in Grandma’s chair.
In came the little girl in red.
She stopped. She stared. And then she said,

“What great big ears you have, Grandma.”
“All the better to hear you with,” the Wolf replied.
“What great big eyes you have, Grandma.”
said Little Red Riding Hood.
“All the better to see you with,” the Wolf replied.

He sat there watching her and smiled.
He thought, I’m going to eat this child.
Compared with her old Grandmamma
She’s going to taste like caviar.

Then Little Red Riding Hood said, “But Grandma,
what a lovely great big furry coat you have on.”

“That’s wrong!” cried Wolf. “Have you forgot
To tell me what BIG TEETH I’ve got?
Ah well, no matter what you say,
I’m going to eat you anyway.”
The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature’s head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.
A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, “Hello, and do please note
My lovely furry wolfskin coat.”


Roald Dahl
1916 - 1990


Spell of The Air

I am the impulse of all whispers, I
Am the place for a rush of birds,
I am the whole intention of the sky
And the place for coining words.

I am your life breathing in and out,
I set your senses free,
I sort the truth from complicated doubt,
I am necessity.


Elizabeth Jennings
1926 - 2001


The Mrs Butler Blues

I’ve got the
Teach-them-in-the-afternoon blues.
My head’s like a drum;
My feet, cold and sore.
I’m feeling so glum;
Can’t take any more.
I’ve got the
Teach-them-in-the-afternoon blues.

I’ve got the
Miss-I’ve-broke-my-ruler blues.
My hair’s full of chalk.
There’s paint on my dress.
It hurts when I talk.
My handbag’s a mess.
I’ve got the
Miss-I’ve-broke-my-ruler blues.

I’ve got the
Don’t-get-home-till-midnight blues.
I know it’s a job
That has to be done,
But I’d rather rob
A bank with a gun.
I’ve got the
Don’t-get-home-till-midnight blues.

One more time:
Teach-them-in-the-morning blues.
How’d you like to be in my…shoes?


Allan Ahlberg
1938 -


The Secret Place

There’s a place I go, inside myself,
Where nobody else can be,
And none of my friends can tell it’s there –
Nobody knows but me.

It’s hard to explain the way it feels,
Or even where I go.
It isn’t a place in time or space,
But once I’m there, I know.

It’s tiny, it’s shiny, it can’t be seen,
But it’s big as the sky at night …
I try to explain and it hurts my brain,
But once I’m there, it’s right.

There’s a place I know inside myself,
And it’s neither big nor small,
And whenever I go, it feels as though
I never left at all.


Dennis Lee
1939 -


Fishbones Dreaming

Fishbones lay in the smelly bin.
He was a head, a backbone and a tail.
Soon the cats would be in for him.

He didn’t like to be this way.
He shut his eyes and dreamed back.

Back to when he was fat, and hot on a plate.
Beside green beans, with lemon juice
squeezed on him. And a man with a knife
and fork raised, about to eat him.

He didn’t like to be this way.
He shut his eyes and dreamed back.

Back to when he was frozen in the freezer.
With lamb cutlets and minced beef and prawns.
Three month he was in there.

He didn’t like to be this way.
He shut his eyes and dreamed back.

Back to when he was squirming in a net,
with thousands of other fish, on the deck
of a boat. And the rain falling
Wasn’t wet enough to breathe in.

He didn’t like to be this way.
He shut his eyes and dreamed back.

Back to when he was darting through the sea,
past crabs and jellyfish, and others
likes himself. Or surfacing to jump for flies
And feel the sun on his face.

He liked to be this way.
He dreamed hard to try and stay there.


Matthew Sweeney
1952 - 2018


Indian Cooking

The bottom of the pan was a palette–
paprika, cayenne, dhania
haldi, heaped like powder-paints.

Melted ghee made lakes, golden rivers.
The keema frying, my mother waited
for the fat to bubble to the surface.

Friends bought silver-leaf.
I dropped it on khir–
special rice pudding for parties.

I tasted the landscape, customs
of my father’s country–
its fever on biting a chilli.


Moniza Alvi
1954 -


If You Were A Carrot

If you were a carrot
and I was a sprout
I’d boil along with you
I’d sit on your plate

If you were a tadpole
and I was a frog
I’d wait till your legs grew
I’d teach you to croak

If you were a conker
and I was a string
we’d win every battle
we’d beat everything

If you were a jotter
and I was a pen
I’d write you a message
again and again

If you were a farmer
I’d be in your herd
if you were a popsong
I’d sing every word

I wish I could tell you
that I like you a lot
but you’re like a secret
and I’m like a knot.


Berlie Doherty
1943 -


Fisherman Chant

Sister river
Brother river
Mother river
Father river
O life giver
O life taker
O friend river
What have you
in store
for a poor

From my boat
I cast my net
to your heart
O friend river
and I hope
you return it
gleaming with silver
O friend river

Sister river
Brother river
Mother river
Father river
O life giver
O life taker
O friend river
What have you
in store
for a poor fisherman


John Agard
1949 -


Vegan Delight

Ackees, chapatties
Dumplins an nan,
Channa an rotis
Onion uttapam,
Masala dosa
Green callaloo
Bhel an samosa
Corn an aloo.
Yam an cassava
Pepperpot stew,
Rotlo an guava
Rice an tofu,
Puri, paratha
Sesame casserole,
Brown eggless pasta
An brown bread rolls.

Soya milked muesli
Soya bean curd,
Soya sweet sweeties
Soya’s de word,
Soya bean margarine
Soya bean sauce,
What can mek medicine?
Soya of course.

Soya meks yoghurt
Soya ice-cream,
Or soya sorbet
Soya reigns supreme,
Soya sticks liquoriced
Soya salads
Try any soya dish
Soya is bad.

Plantain an tabouli
Cornmeal pudding
Onion bhajee
Wid plenty cumin,
Breadfruit an coconuts
Molasses tea
Dairy free omelettes
Very chilli.
Ginger bread, nut roast
Sorrell, paw paw,
Cocoa an rye toast
I tek dem on tour,
Drinking cool maubi
Meks me feel sweet,
What was dat question now?
What do we eat?


Benjamin Zephaniah
1958 -


For Forest

Forest could keep secrets Forest could keep secrets...  
We hope to have the full text of this poem here soon. Until then, you can read and listen to it on the website of the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education here.


Lying on the sofa all curled and meek...  
We hope to have the full text of this poem here soon. Until then, you can read and listen to it on the Children’s Poetry Archive website here.

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Grace Nichols
1950 -


Instructions For Growing Poetry

Shut your eyes.
Open your mind.
Look inside.
What do you find?
Something funny?
Something sad?
Something beautiful,
mysterious, mad?
Open your ears.
Listen well.
A word or phrase
begins to swell?
Catch its rhythm,
hold its sound.
Gently, slowly
roll it round.
Does it please you?
Does it tease you?
Does it ask
to grow and spread?
Now those little
words are sprouting
inside your head.


Tony Mitton
1951 -


The Boneyard Rap

This is the rhythm
of the boneyard rap,
knuckle bones click
and hand bones clap,
finger bones flick
and thigh bones slap,
when you’re doing the rhythm
of the boneyard rap.

It’s the boneyard rap
and it’s a scare.
Give your bones a shake-up
if you dare.
Rattle your teeth
and waggle your jaw
and let’s do the boneyard rap
once more.

This is the rhythm
of the boneyard rap,
elbow bones clink
and backbones snap,
shoulder bones chink
and toe bones tap,
when you’re doing the rhythm
of the boneyard rap.

It’s the boneyard rap
and it’s a scare.
Give your bones a shake-up
if you dare.
Rattle your teeth
and waggle your jaw
and let’s do the boneyard rap
once more.

Ths is the rhythm of the boneyard rap,
ankle bones sock
and arm bones flap,
pelvic bones knock
and knee bones zap,
when you’re doing the rhythm
of the boneyard rap.


Wes Magee
1939 -


Lament of An Arawak Child

Once I played with the hummingbirds
and sang songs to the sea
I told my secrets to the waves
and they told theirs to me.

Now there are no more hummingbirds
the sea’s songs are all sad
for strange men came and took this land
and plundered all we had.

They made my people into slaves
they worked us to the bone
they battered us and tortured us
and laughed to hear us groan.

Today we’ll take a long canoe
and set sail on the sea
we’ll steer our journey by the stars
and find a new country.


Pamela Mordecai
1942 -


Granny Is

Granny is
fried dumplin’ an’ run-dung,
coconut drops an’ grater cake,
fresh ground coffee smell in the mornin’
when we wake.

Granny is
loadin’ up the donkey,
basket full on market day
with fresh snapper the fisherman bring back
from the bay.

Granny is
clothes washin’ in the river
scrubbin’ dirt out on the stone
haulin’ crayfish an’ eel from the water
on her own.

Granny is
stories in the moonlight
underneath the guangu tree
and a spider web of magic
all round we.

Granny say,
‘Only de best fe de gran’children,
it don’ matter what de price,
don’t want no one pointin’ finger.’

Granny nice.


Valerie Bloom
1956 -



Sharp eyes, peeping in terror through a crack,
Slow death, rolling heavily onto its back,
Lost world, vanishing without trace or track.

Last flight home to the desolate empty nest,
Sweet song robbed of its perfect pitch and zest,
Heartbeat stilled in a stolen treasure-chest.

First came the giving, now comes the taking away,
The grabbing of greed at the end of a darkening day
And if this goes then that goes then everything may.

And a world that’s been finally lost is beyond recall
Like a vast egg unmendable after its fall
Or as dead, as we say, as the dodo, and shame on us all.


John Mole
1941 -



Shell at my ear - come share how I hear busy old sea in whispers. Moans rise from ancient depths in ocean sighs like crowds of ghost monsters. Waves lash and fall - in roars and squalls with all a mystery ahhh!

Isn’t My Name Magical?

Nobody can see my name on me. My name is inside and all over me, unseen like other people also keep it. Isn’t my name magical? My name is mine only. It tells me I am individual, the one special person it shakes when I’m wanted. Even if someone else answers for me, my message hangs in the air haunting others, till it stops with me, the right name. Isn't your name and my name magic? If I’m with hundreds of people and my name gets called, my sound switches me on to answer like it was my human electricity. My name echoes across the playground, it comes, it demands my attention, I have to find out who calls, who wants me for what. My name gets blurted out in class, it is terror, at a bad time, because somebody is cross. My name gets called in a whisper, I am happy, because my name may have touched me with a loving voice. Isn’t your name and my name magic?

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James Berry
1924 - 2017


Faster and Faster and Faster She Went

Faster and faster and faster she went,
and all she rolled over got broken and bent.
Who on earth was she and why was she sent?

Though many were questioned, nobody knew,
but the faster she went, the bigger she grew,
and the bigger she grew, the faster she went–

some gathered to wonder at what it all meant
and others to ask what she might represent,
but still none could guess what might be the intent

of her surging and burgeoning whirling descent,
none could make sense of it, none could prevent
the flattening violence the world underwent,

till someone threw up a great wall of cement,
right in the path of the way she was headed,
and that’s where she stopped at last, slightly imbedded.

Then a laugh was heard, “Excellent! Just what I needed!
I wanted to stop–now I’ve finally succeeded!
And look, I’ve gone back to my regular size!”

And when she rose up, she looked so angelic it
seemed that to chastise her would be indelicate.
Right then they decided they might as well hide it–

and so they concealed from the innocent, guiltless
(though none would say harmless), and guileless girl,
their flattened, destabilized, half-destroyed world.


JonArno Lawson
1968 -


How To Cut A Pomegranate

Never,’ said my father,
‘Never cut a pomegranate
through the heart. It will weep blood.
Treat it delicately, with respect.

Just slit the upper skin across four quarters.
This is a magic fruit,
so when you split it open, be prepared
for the jewels of the world to tumble out,
more precious than garnets,
more lustrous than rubies,
lit as if from inside.
Each jewel contains a living seed.
Separate one crystal.
Hold it up to catch the light.
Inside is a whole universe.
No common jewel can give you this.’

Afterwards, I tried to make necklaces
of pomegranate seeds.
The juice spurted out, bright crimson,
and stained my fingers, then my mouth.

I didn’t mind. The juice tasted of gardens
I had never seen, voluptuous
with myrtle, lemon, jasmine,
and alive with parrots’ wings.

The pomegranate reminded me
that somewhere I had another home.


Imtiaz Dharker
1954 -


Time Transfixed

by René Magritte

In the Thinking Room
at Childhood Hall,
the brown clock ticks
with the sound of the kiss
that my Grandma makes
against my cheek
again and again
when we first meet
after a week
of all the hours
that the brown clock’s tick
has kissed away
today, to-
morrow, yesterday

are all the same
to the plum steam-train
that I sometimes hear
in the Thinking Room
at Childhood Hall –
it has no passengers at all,
till I grow old enough
and tall
to climb aboard
the plum steam-train
and blow a kiss
as I chuff away to to-
morrow, yesterday, today.


Carol Ann Duffy
1955 -


Pirate Pete

Pirate Pete
had a ship on the sea
had a fish for his tea
had a peg for a knee
and a tiny little parrot called…Polly

Pirate Pete
had a book with a map
had a skull on his cap
had a cat on his lap
and another little parrot called…Dolly

Pirate Pete
had a trunk full of treasure
had a belt made of leather
had a cap with a feather
and another little parrot called…Jolly

Pirate Pete
had a patch on his eye
had a flag he would fly
had a plank way up high
and another little parrot called…Molly

So, Pirate Pete
and the parrots four
they sailed the world
from shore to shore –
collecting gold
and gifts galore.
And that’s their tale –
there is no more!


James Carter
1959 -


Double Trouble

We were rich and poor.
We were bought and sold.

We were black and white.
We were young and old.

We were life and death.
We were north and south.

We were hand in hand.
We were foot and mouth.

We were good and bad.
We were war and peace.

We were day and night.
We were man and beast.

We were hunger and greed.
We were water and land.

We were empty and full.
We were lost and found.

We had two strings to our bow.
We were in it together.

We were the spitting image.
We were the doppelganger.

We were terrible twins.
We were happy and sad.

We were alter ego.
We were sane and mad.

We were two-faced.
We were two-a-penny.

We spat, ‘Double or quits.’
We sneered, ‘Double the money.’

We liked to two-time.
We stayed in a twin-town.

We led a double life.
We lived in a two-up-two-down.

We were too much.
We were entwined.

We were a right pair.
We were in two minds.

We peered through bifocals.
We talked in double entendres.

We walked double-quick.
We never wandered.

We were a double act.
We were Morecambe and Wise.

We were Laurel and Hardy.
We were Jekyll and Hyde.

We were Romeo and Juliet.
We were tragedy and comedy.

We spoke tête-à-tête.
We were a carbon copy.

We dreamt in a double bed.
We were fluently bilingual.

We were in two minds.
We were never single.

We drove on dual carriageways.
We insisted on equal pay.

We were twinned; we were mated.
We loved and we hated.

We could not be separated.
We could not be separated.


Jackie Kay
1961 -


A Ballroom For St Bernards

(In the  Craigslands Hotel in Ilkley, Yorkshire, there is a large space called St Bernard’s Ballroom. Can it be for dancing dogs?)

Head to head
And paw to paw,
The big St Bernards
Tread the floor.

Round and round
The room they go
In a quickstep that
Is rather slow…

For at huge weights
They tip the scales,
Lolling their tongues
And wagging their tails!

Paw to paw
And snout to snout
St Bernards all
Go stepping out,

And each tells each
As they foot it finely:
‘My Great Big Darling,
You dance divinely!’


Kit Wright
1944 -



Governments rule most countries,
Bankers rule most banks,
Captains rule their football teams
And piranhas rule fish tanks.

There are rules for gnobling gnomes
And rules for frying frogs,
There are rules for biting bullies
And for vexing vicious dogs.

There are rules for driving motor cars
And crashing into chums,
There are rules for taking off your pants
And showing spotty bums.

There are rules for nasty children
Who tie bangers to old cats,
There are rules for running riots
And rules for burning bats.

There are rules in the classroom.
There are rules in the street.
Some rules are wild and woolly
And some are tame and neat.

And some are pretty sensible
And some are pretty daft;
Some I take quite seriously,
At others I have laughed,

But there is one special rule
You should not be without:
If you do not like the rules


Brian Patten
1946 -


The Book

We hope to have this poem here soon. Until then, you can read and listen to it on the Children’s Poetry Archive website here.


Michael Rosen
1946 -



We live in books and photographs,
our stories all begin with ‘Once’,
three, two, going, going…gone.

Barbary Lion, Atitlan Grebe,
Caribbean Monk Seal, Carolina Parakeet.

We tasted good, our forests were yours
Our horn was valuable, you wore our furs,
three, two, going, going…gone.

Laughing Owl, Passenger Pigeon,
Javan Tiger, Japanese Sea Lion.

We flew and swam beneath the sun,
nested, hunted, raised our young,
three, two, going, going…gone.

Western Black Rhinoceros, Aldabra Snail,
Pyrenean Ibex, Wake Island Rail

Shells, tails, whiskers and bone,
three, two, going, going…


Mandy Coe
1957 -


‘Please do not feed the animals…’

Please do not feed the ostriches

or the polar bears

Do not offer the wombats

or the rattle-snakes

Remember that piranhas
are not allowed bananas

or partridges

Never approach a stork
with things on a fork

or the bustard
with a plate of custard.

No leopard
likes anything peppered

and meerkats
dislike Kit Kats.

Remember that grapes
upset apes

and meringues
do the same for orang-utans.

Most importantly–
do not feed the cheetah

your teacher.


Robert Hull
- -


The Potatoes My Dad Cooks

Let me now praise the potatoes my dad cooks
for truly they are epic;

for they come from the oven smelling so sweet,
their smell delights my nostrils

and when they sit steaming in their dish,
their crispy coatings delight my eyes

and when I take one up and bite it,
the coating breaks with a crunch

and when I chew that mouthful,
the mouthful delights my tongue

and then it delights my throat,
and then, oh then it warms my insides,

for truly the potatoes of my dad are epic.
The potatoes of his enemies will fail.


Joanne Limburg
1970 -


In The Tree’s Defence

Trees are good at what they do,
at being oak or beech or yew.

They shake their leaves to make a breeze
and pop out blossom for the bees.

In crook of branch they’ll hold a nest
which, birds concur, is for the best.

On rainy days they shield the feller
who’s forgot his umbrella.

In summer they provide the shade
for picnickers out in the glade.

Inside their sturdy hearts of wood
trees are simply doing good.


A.F. Harrold
1975 -



I’m a spinning, winning, tripping, zipping, super-sonic ice queen:
see my moon zoom, clock my rocket, watch me splutter tricksy space-steam.

I’m the dust bomb, I’m the freeze sneeze, I’m the top galactic jockey
made (they think) of gas and ice and mystery bits of something rocky.

Oh I sting a sherbet orbit, running rings round star or planet;
should I shoot too near the sun, my tail hots up: ouch – OUCH – please fan it!

And I’m told I hold the answer to the galaxy’s top question:
that my middle’s made of history (no surprise I’ve indigestion)

but for now I sprint and skid and whisk and bolt and belt and bomb it;
I’m that hell-for-leather, lunging, plunging, helter-skelter COMET.


Kate Wakeling
- -



Kicking the pebbles along Eastbourne beach
as the orange-pink of sunset
plays with the ebbing tide,
my mother asks…

“What do you want to do when you’re older?”

There is every colour of pebble beneath my feet,
grey lumps of flint winking their sharp, shining
gritty ovals of sandstone pregnant with fossils,
worn amulets of glass of every sparkle.

They crunch and shift under synced steps
as we stroll, towels wrapped around sand-dusted
The sea sings with the pebbles,
knocking a tone from each,
forming a hushing melody.

Sunbursts dip into the wispy clouds,
bounce from the greens, blacks and purples of the
rock pools,
shine red and gold and white from the sea.
There is every colour in the sun.

My baby sister toddles alongside my grandmother,
the years between them
like the ghosts of waves already ebbed
and the years to come
like the promise of tides,
as their silhouettes whisper in the sunshine.

“What do I want to be when I’m older?”

The question bounces around my head
like light and wind and water and time
and I smile…

“I don’t know.”


Joseph Coelho
- -


Waterfall’s Song

born in some long-ago
flicker of time
water arrives
a fragile drop
a quiet trickle till
another time-tremble
sends it braiding through earth
surging all the way to

rock-rolling down cliffs
a ceaseless torrent plunging
into perpetual swirls
dangerous dark pools

and all the while
crystalline spray wildly
laces through air
a bonanza of rainbow flecks
sparkling with abandon

the wind is enchanted

hurriedly flies off
(colourful new mist in tow)
vanishing in a breath from

only to be found
slow-seeping into
long ago legends
or trickling quietly

into the future


Zaro Weil
- -