Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cautionary Verses

Another book appeared in my hold pile at the library recently. I don't remember when I placed it on hold (or if I did) - or where I heard about the book, if I did place it on hold. It is called "Cautionary Verses" and is written by Hilaire Belloc.

At first glance I thought it was a book of poetry for children, but as I began to read - I had my doubts.

I wasn't sure whether these were stories to encourage good behavior in children or if it was a book of humor actually written for adults - but kind of in a children's storybook manner.

I began reading some of the stories to the kids - and they of course LOVED them. I did wonder if they were a bit too "dark"...

Each story/poem usually begins with the unfortunate child's name - followed by a caution, such as:

"Algernon, Who played with a Loaded Gun, and, on missing his Sister was reprimanded by his Father."

"Maria, Who made Faces and a Deplorable Marriage."

"George, Who played with a Dangerous Toy, and suffered a Catastrophe of considerable Dimensions."

and a favorite with the children and I...

"Jim, Who ran away from his Nurse, and was eaten by a Lion."

Here is the cautionary tale on Jim:

There was a Boy whose name was Jim;
His Friends were very good to him.
They gave him Tea, and Cakes, and Jam,
And slices of delicious Ham,
And Chocolate with pink inside
And little Tricycles to ride,
And read him Stories through and through,
And even took him to the Zoo--
But there it was the dreadful Fate
Befell him, which I now relate.

You know--or at least you ought to know,
For I have often told you so--
That Children never are allowed
To leave their Nurses in a Crowd;
Now this was Jim's especial Foible,
He ran away when he was able,
And on this inauspicious day
He slipped his hand and ran away!

He hadn't gone a yard when--Bang!
With open Jaws, a lion sprang,
And hungrily began to eat
The Boy: beginning at his feet.
Now, just imagine how it feels
When first your toes and then your heels,
And then by gradual degrees,
Your shins and ankles, calves and knees,
Are slowly eaten, bit by bit.
No wonder Jim detested it!
No wonder that he shouted ``Hi!''

The Honest Keeper heard his cry,
Though very fat he almost ran
To help the little gentleman.
``Ponto!'' he ordered as he came
(For Ponto was the Lion's name),
``Ponto!'' he cried, with angry Frown,
``Let go, Sir! Down, Sir! Put it down!''
The Lion made a sudden stop,
He let the Dainty Morsel drop,
And slunk reluctant to his Cage,
Snarling with Disappointed Rage.
But when he bent him over Jim,
The Honest Keeper's Eyes were dim.
The Lion having reached his Head,
The Miserable Boy was dead!

When Nurse informed his Parents, they
Were more Concerned than I can say:--
His Mother, as She dried her eyes,
Said, ``Well--it gives me no surprise,
He would not do as he was told!''
His Father, who was self-controlled,
Bade all the children round attend
To James's miserable end,
And always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.

Hilaire Belloc

I dislike having blog posts without any accompanying photos but a) my camera batteries need to be replaced b) I thought it my bother some of my readers to see the photo I planned on using (let's just say the decapitated head of my son's G.I. Joe that has been sitting on my computer monitor was going to have a starring role).


TheSaxonHus said...

Is this the same Hilaire Belloc who served in England's House of Commons and served as an editor of a weekly political magazine in the early 1900s? That Belloc did a considerable amount of writing and I am curious if he also penned this booklet.

The story of Jim is not a pleasant one and somewhat graphic for children's verse. Yet, I guess when we compare it with what is published today in print and video, it is quite tame. Too bad the lion wasn't!

Edi said...

Yes he is the same person.

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