These are just some favourite verses of mine; mostly learnt at school. Some are the lyrics to songs which also stand well as poems in their own right.

Take What You Want From Life, Love

Take what you want from life, love,
Fill your cup to the brim,
For life is short and death is long,
Obey impulsive whim.
Give not a thought to others,
In hurting take no care,
Live for yourself, think not of me,
For I will not be there.

Excerpt from Horatius
(1842 - Thomas Babington Macaulay)

And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods.

Her Strong Enchantments Failing
(A E Houseman)
(From a children's book of spooky verse when I was 11)

Her strong enchantments failing,
Her towers of fear in wreck,
Her limbecks dried of poisons,
And the knife at her neck.

The Queen of air and darkness
Begins to shrill and cry,
"O young man, O my slayer,
Tomorrow you shall die"

O Queen of air and darkness,
I think 'tis true you say,
And I shall die tomorrow;
But you will die today.

A Man of Words
(This was a common reading at morning assembly)

A man of words and not deeds,
Is like a garden full of weeds;
And when the weeds begin to grow;
It's like a garden full of snow;
And when the snow begins to fall,
It's like a bird upon the wall;
And when the bird away does fly,
It's like an eagle in the sky:
And when the sky begins to roar,
It's like a lion at the door;
And when the door begins to crack,
It's like a stick across your back;
And when your back begins to smart,
It's like a penknife in your heart;
And when your heart begins to bleed,
You're dead, and dead, and dead indeed 

The Ancient Elf
(James Stephens)
(This was in a children's book of spooky verse which I received for my 11th birthday)

I am the maker,
The builder, the breaker,
The eagle-winged helper,
The speedy forsaker!

The lance and the lyre,
The water, the fire,
The tooth of oppression,
The lip of desire!

The snare and the wing,
They honey, the sting!
When you seek for me--look
For a different thing!

I, careless and gay,
Never mean what I say,
For my thoughts and my eyes
Look the opposite way!

Good Taste
(Christopher Logue)
(From a schoolbook when I was 14)

Travelling, a man met a tiger, so
He ran. The tiger ran after him
Thinking: how fast I run ... But

The road thought: how long I am ... then
They came to a cliff, yes. The man
Grabbed at an ash root and swung down

Over its edge. Above his knuckles, the tiger
At the foot of the cliff its mate. Two mice
One black, one white, began to gnaw the root.

And by the traveller's head grew one
Juicy strawberry, so hugging the root
The man reached out and plucked the fruit.

How sweet it tasted.

(Lyrics to a song, but I simply like the words)

In the year of '39 assembled here the volunteers,
In the days when lands were few,
Here the ship sailed out into the blue and sunny morn,
The sweetest sight ever seen.

And the night followed day,
So the storytellers say,
That the score brave souls inside,
For many a lonely day sailed across the milky seas,
Ne'er looked back, never feared, never cried.

Don't you hear me call though you're many years away,
Don't you hear me calling you.
Write your letters in the sand,
For the day I take your hand,
In the land that our grandchildren knew.

In the year of '39 came a ship in from the blue,
The volunteers came back that day,
And they bring good news of a world so newly born,
Tho' their hearts so heavily weigh.

For the earth is old and grey,
To a new home we'll away,
But my love this cannot be,
For so many years have gone, though I'm older but a year,
Your mother's eyes, in your eyes, cry to me.

Don't you hear my call though you're many years away,
Don't you hear me calling you,
All the letters in the sand cannot heal me like your hand,
For my life,
Still ahead,
Pity me.

(Elaine Morgan)
(Folk lyrics, but a haunting poem in its own right)

If you only knew what lies beyond
The frozen falls of sain
A land so rich in mysteries
A world without a time
For I am from the inbetweens
Where skies merge into seas
And in the void I have become
A queen within my dreams.

Kaleidoscopic lights unfold
Before my very eyes
I stand entranced and motionless
I feel no need to hide
Shadows from the past appear
And beckon me to come
To see the shape of time itself
Eclipsing the sun.

Floating on a chilling breeze
We move from shore and time
Across the wave of space itself
In an ever speeding climb
Into the dark we disappear
No shadows do we cast
Across the moons of Gladriel
To touch a timeless past.

And in the void I have become
A queen within my dreams
A queen within my dreams.

Bedtime Story (George Macbeth)
(Learnt at secondary school in English Lit classes)

Long, long ago when the world was a wild place
Planted with bushes and peopled by apes, our
Mission Brigade was at work in the jungle.
Hard by the Congo

Once, when a foraging detail was active
Scouting for green-fly, it came on a grey man, the
Last living man, in the branch of a baobab
Stalking a monkey.

Earlier men had disposed of, for pleasure
Creatures whose names we scarcely remember -
Zebra, rhinoceros, elephants, wart-hog,
Lion, rats, deer,

But After the wars had extinguished the cities
Only the wild ones were left half-naked
Near the Equator: and here was the last one,
Starved for a monkey.

By then the Mission Brigade had encountered
Hundreds of such men: and their procedure.
History tells us, was only to feed them:
Find them and feed them:

Those were the orders. And this was the last one
Nobody knew that he was, but he was, Mud
Caked on his flat grey flanks. He was crouched, half-
Armed with a shaved spear

Glinting between broad leaves, When their jaws cut
Swathes through the bark and he saw fine teeth shine,
Round eyes roll round and forked arms waver
Huge as the rough trunks

Over his head, he was frightened. Our workers
Marched through the Congo before he was born, but
This was the first time perhaps that he's seen one.
Staring in hot still

Silence, he crouched there: then jumped with a long swing
Down from his branch, he had angled his spear too
Quickly, before they could hold him, and hurled it
Hard at the soldier

Leading the detail. How could he know the Queen's
Orders were only to help him? The soldier
Winced when the tipped spear pricked him. Unsheathing his
Sting was a reflex.

Later the Queen was informed. There were no more
Men. An impetuous soldier had killed off,
Purely by chance, the penultimate primate.
When she was certain,

Squadrons of workers were fanned through the Congo
Detailed to bring back the man's picked bones to be
Sealed in the archives in amber. I'm quite sure
Nobody found them

After the most industrious search, through.
Where had the bones gone? Over the earth, dear.
Ground by the teeth of the termites, blown by the
Wind, like the dodo's.

The Horses
(Edwin Muir)
(Learnt at secondary school in English Lit classes)

Barely a twelvemonth after
The seven days war that put the world to sleep,
Late in the evening the strange horses came.
By then we had made our covenant with silence,
But in the first few days it was so still
We listened to our breathing and were afraid.
On the second day
The radios failed; we turned the knobs, no answer.
On the third day a warship passed us, headed north,
Dead bodies piled on the deck. On the sixth day
A plane plunged over us into the sea. Thereafter
Nothing. The radios dumb;
And still they stand in corners of our kitchens,
And stand, perhaps, turned on, in a million rooms
All over the world. But now if they should speak,
If on a sudden they should speak again,
If on the stroke of noon a voice should speak,
We would not listen, we would not let it bring
That old bad world that swallowed its children quick
At one great gulp. We would not have it again.
Sometimes we think of the nations lying asleep,
Curled blindly in impenetrable sorrow,
And then the thought confounds us with its strangeness.

The tractors lie about our fields; at evening
They look like dank sea-monsters crouched and waiting.
We leave them where they are and let them rust:
"They'll moulder away and be like other loam."
We make our oxen drag our rusty ploughs,
Long laid aside. We have gone back
Far past our fathers' land.
And then, that evening
Late in the summer the strange horses came.
We heard a distant tapping on the road,
A deepening drumming; it stopped, went on again
And at the corner changed to hollow thunder.
We saw the heads
Like a wild wave charging and were afraid.
We had sold our horses in our fathers' time
To buy new tractors. Now they were strange to us
As fabulous steeds set on an ancient shield
Or illustrations in a book of knights.
We did not dare go near them. Yet they waited,
Stubborn and shy, as if they had been sent
By an old command to find our whereabouts
And that long-lost archaic companionship.
In the first moment we had never a thought
That they were creatures to be owned and used.
Among them were some half a dozen colts
Dropped in some wilderness of the broken world,
Yet new as if they had come from their own Eden.
Since then they have pulled our ploughs and borne our loads,
But that free servitude still can pierce our hearts.
Our life is changed; their coming our beginning.

Prayer Before Birth
(Louis MacNiece)
(I came across this relatively recently)

I am not yet born, console me,
I fear that the human race
may with tall walls wall me,
with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me,
on black racks rack me, in blood baths roll me.

I am not yet born; provide me,
with water to dandle me,
grass to grow for me,
trees to talk to me,
sky to sing to me,
birds and a white light
In the back of my mind to guide me..

I am not yet born; Oh fill me ,
With strength against those who would freeze my humanity,
would dragoon me into a lethal automaton,
would make me a cog in a machine,
a thing with one face, a thing.
and against all those
who would dissipate my entirety, would blow
me like thistledown, hither and thither, or hither
and thither, like water held in the hands
would spill me.

Let them not drill me,
Let them not spill me.
Kill me.  

Bucket Of Water (There Is No Indispensable Man)
(Another one I learnt more recently)

Sometimes when you're feeling so important
Sometimes when your ego's in bloom
Sometimes when you take it for granted
Your the best informed man in the room
Sometimes when you think that your going
Would leave an unfillable hole
Just follow these instructions
And see how it humbles your soul

Take a bucket and fill it with water
Put your hands in it right up to the wrists
Pull them out and the hole that remains
Is a measure of how much you'll be missed
You may splash all you please as you enter
You may stir up the water galore
But stop, and in a moment
It looks just the same as before

The moral is quite simple
Do just the best that you can
Be proud of yourself and remember
There is no indispensable man.

Veteran Of The Psychic Wars
(Blue Oyster Cult)
(A rock song which I heard on an animation soundtrack, very sci-fi and evocative)

You see me now a veteran,
Of a thousand psychic wars,
I've been living on the edge so long,
Where the winds of limbo roar,
And I'm young enough to look at,
And far too old to see.
All the scars are on the inside,
I'm not sure that there's anything left to me.

Don't let these shakes go on,
It's time we had a break from it,
It's time we had some leave.
We've been living in the plains,
We've been eating out our brains,
Oh please, don't let these shakes go on.

You ask me why I'm weary,
Why I can't speak to you,
You blame me for my silence,
Say it's time I changed and grew,
But the war's still going on dear,
And there's no end that I know,
And I can't say if we're ever,
I can't say if we're ever gonna be free.

Don't let these shakes go on,
It's time we had a break from it,
It's time we had some leave.
We've been living in the flames,
We've been eating out our brains,
Oh please, don't let these shakes go on.

You see me now a veteran,
Of a thousand psychic wars,
My energy is spent at last,
And my armour is destroyed.
I have used up all my weapons,
And I'm helpless and bereaved,
Wounds are all I'm made of,
Did I hear you say that this is victory?

Don't let these shakes go on,
It's time we had a break from it,
Send me to the rear,
Where the tides of madness swell,
And beats lightning to hell,
Oh please, don't let these shakes go on,
Don't let these shakes go on,
Don't let these shakes go on.

Imperial Wizard
(David Essex)
(Song lyrics, but a wonderful protest poem in its own right)

Free the people - don't make em wait,
Pity the people don't make a mistake,
Let go your pressmen, undo your press gangs,
Hold your head high make one honest stand.
Cos you know what they want,
And you're here for the grace of God,
You send your generals to the front,
Any uprising will succumb to your guns.

You took free speech from the people that spoke,
Hungary is hungry and the people are broke,
Imperial Wizard - salt mine king,
What kind of state of mind must your state be in,
'Cos you know what they want,
And you're here for the grace of God,
You send your generals to the front,
Any uprising will succumb to your guns.

Too many people don't feel like they're free,
Your high ideals look the lowest too me,
Open your windows, let the sun shine on in,
There's more to life than killing, killing, killing ...
Cos you know what they want,
And you're here for the grace of God,
You send your generals to the front,
Any uprising will succumb to your guns.

The Listeners
(Walter de la Mare)
(I first heard this at primary school and have loved it ever since)

'Is there anybody there?' said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
Of the forest's ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller's head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
'Is there anybody there?' he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
By the lonely Traveller's call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
'Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
Louder, and lifted his head: --
'Tell them I came, and no one answered,
That I kept my word,' he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
When the plunging hoofs were gone.

O Where Are You Going?
(W.H. Auden)
(I learnt this at secondary school - one of the poems which English Lit classes didn't ruin for me!)

"O where are you going?" said reader to rider,
"That valley is fatal when furnaces burn,
Yonder's the midden whose odours will madden,
That gap is the grave where the tall return."

"O do you imagine," said fearer to farer,
"That dusk will delay on your path to the pass,
Your diligent looking discover the lacking
Your footsteps feel from granite to grass?"

"O what was that bird," said horror to hearer,
"Did you see that shape in the twisted trees?
Behind you swiftly the figure comes softly,
The spot on your skin is a shocking disease."

"Out of this house" -said rider to reader,
"Yours never will" -said farer to fearer,
"They're looking for you" -said hearer to horror,
As he left them there, as he left them there. 

The Planster's Vision
(John Betjeman)
(My mother was a great fan of Betjeman and taught me lots of his poems, but this is my personal favourite)

Cut down that timber! Bells too many and too strong,
Pouring their music through the branches bare,
From moon-white towers down the windy air,
Have pealed the centuries out with evensong.

Remove those cottages, a huddled throng!
Too many babies have been born in there,
Too many coffins, bumping down the stair,
Carried the old their garden paths along.

I have a Vision of the Future chum,
The workers' flats in fields of soya beans
Tower up like silver pencils, score on score:
And surging Millions hear the Challenge come
From microphones in communal canteens
"No Right! No Wrong! All's perfect evermore"

Little Boxes
(Malvina Reynolds)
(Used as a popular song, these verses are all about sameness and conformity)

Little boxes on the hillside - little boxes made of ticky-tacky,
Little boxes, little boxes, little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses all go to the university,
And they all get put in boxes, little boxes all the same,
And there's doctors and there's lawyers and business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course and drink their Martini Dry,
And they all have pretty children and the children go to school,
And the children go to summer camp and then to the university,
And they all get put in boxes, little boxes all the same.

And the boys go into business and marry and have a family,
And they all get put in boxes, little boxes all the same,
There's a green one and a pink one and a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same.

The Prophet's Song

Oh people of the earth,
Listen to the warning,
The seer he said,
Beware the storm that gathers here,
Listen to the wise man.

I dreamed I saw on a moonlit stair,
Spreading his hands on the multitude there,
A man who cried for a love gone stale,
And ice cold hearts of charity bare.

I watched as fear took the old man's gaze,
Hopes of the young in trouble graves,
I see no day, I heard him say,
So grey is the face of every mortal.

Oh people of the earth,
Listen to the warning,
The prophet he said,
For soon the cold of night will fall,
Summoned by your own hand.

Oh children of the land,
Quicken to the new life,
Take my hand,
Fly and find the new green bough,
Return like the white dove.

He told of death as a bone white haze,
Taking the lost and unloved babe,
Late too late all the wretches run,
These kings of beasts now counting their days.

From mothers love is the son estranged,
Married his own his precious gain,
The earth will shake, in two will break,
And death all around will be your dowry.

Oh people of the earth,
Listen to the warning,
The seer he said,
For those who hear and mark my words,
Listen to the good plan.

Oh - and two by two my human zoo,
They'll be
Running for to come,
Running for to come out of the rain.

Flee for your life,
Who heeds me not,
Let all your treasures make you,
Fear for your life,
Deceive you not,
The fires of hell will take you,
Should death await you.

God give you grace to purge this place,
And peace all around may be your future.

Oh children of the land,
Take my hand,
The vision fades, a voice I hear,
"Listen to the madman!"

But still I fear and still dare not,
Laugh at the madman.

The Madman
(The following is adapted from Lyndan Darby's account of the fall of Rhye; it follows on logically from The Prophet's Song)

The King is a wanton
His Queen is a whore,
Witless and a fool,
He is careless of lore,
Contrary and tainted since
The black queen's rule,
Cruel and unkind,
Hapless and blind
The thin worm of darkness
Grows fat on his mind.

Now for all wrong he stands,
Where once for all right,
Now drunken and greedy
And lightless as night,
As sun without ray
He is seven shades grey
Vain and unruly
Selfish and sad,
Heartless, unfeeling
Violent and mad.

The earth shall shake,
Its crust will break
In two.

Endless night will fall -
Summoned by your own hand.

Listen to the madman.

Mary's Ghost
(Thomas Hood)
(This poem is about body-snatching, once the only way doctors and anatomists could learn)

'Twas in the middle of the night,
To sleep young William tried,
When Mary´s ghost came stealing in,
And stood at his bed-side.

O William dear! O William dear!
My rest eternal ceases;
Alas! my everlasting peace
Is broken into pieces.

I thought the last of all my cares
Would end with my last minute;
But tho´ I went to my long home
I didn´t stay long in it.

The body-snatchers they have come,
And made a snatch at me;
It´s very hard them kind of men
Won´t let a body be!

You thought that I was buried deep
Quite decent like and chary,
But from her grave in Mary-bone
They´ve come and boned your Mary.

The arm that used to take your arm
Is took to Dr. Vyse;
And both my legs are gone to walk
The hospital at Guy´s.

I vow´d that you should have my hand,
But fate gives us denial;
You´ll find it there, at Dr. Bell´s
In spirits and a phial.

As for my feet, the little feet
You used to call so pretty,
There´s one, I know, in Bedford Row,
The t´other´s in the city.

I can´t tell where my head is gone,
But Doctor Carpue can:
As for my trunk, it´s all pack´d up
To go by Pickford´s van.

I wished you´d go to Mr. P.
And save me such a ride;
I don´t half like the outside place,
They´ve took for my inside.

The cock it crows - I must begone!
My William we must part!
But I´ll be yours in death, altho´
Sir Astley has my heart.

Don´t go to weep upon my grave,
And think that there I be;
They haven´t left an atom there
Of my anatomie.

Sally Simpkin's Lament Or John Jones's Kit-Catastrophe
(Thomas Hood)
(A childhood favourite because of its play on words, very similar to "Mary's Ghost")

"Oh! what is that comes gliding in,
And quite in middling haste?
It is the picture of my Jones,
And painted to the waist.

It is not painted to the life,
For where's the trousers blue?
Oh, Jones my dear! Oh, dear! my Jones,
What is become of you?"

"Oh Sally, dear, it is too true,
The half that you remark
Is come to say the other half
Is bit off by a shark!

Oh! Sally, sharks do things by halves,
Yet most completely do!
A bite in one place seems enough
But I've been bit in two.

You know I once was all your own,
But now a shark must share!
But let that pass - for now to you
I'm neither here nor there.

Alas! Death has a strange divorce
Effected in the sea,
It has divided me from you
And even me from me.

Don't fear my ghost will walk o' nights
To haunt, as people say;
My ghost can't walk, for, oh! my legs
Are many leagues away.

Lord think when I am swimming round
And looking where the boat is,
A shark just snaps away a half
Without "a quarter's notice".

One half is here, the other half
Is near Columbia placed,
Oh! Sally, I have got the whole
Atlantic for my waist.

But now, adieu - a long adieu!
I've solved death's awful riddle,
And would say more, but I am doomed,
To break off in the middle!

The Start Of A Memorable Holiday
(Roy Fuller)
(A poem from a children's book of spooky verse)

Good evening, sir. Good evening ma'am. Good evening, little ladies.
From all the staff, a hearty welcome to the Hotel Hades.
Oh yes sir, since you booked your rooms we have been taken over,
And changed our name - but for the better - as you'll soon discover.
Porter, Room 99! Don't worry sir - just now he took
Much bulkier things than bags on his pathetic iron hook.
The other room, the children's room? I'm very pleased to say
We've put the in the annexe half a mile across the way.
They'll have a nearer view there of the bats' intriguing flying,
And you, dear sir and madam, won't be troubled by their crying
- Although I'm sure that neither of them's frightened of the gloom
Besides, the maid will try to find a candle for their room.
Of course, ma'am, we've a maid there, she's the porter's (seventh) wife;
She'll care for these dear children quite as well as her own life.

The journey's tired them? Ah, tonight they won't be counting sheep!
I'll see they have a nice hot drink before they're put to sleep!
Don't be too late yourselves, sir, for the hotel's evening meal;
I hope that on the menu will be some roast milk-fed veal.
If you'll forgive me, I must stoke the ovens right away;
It's going to be (excuse the joke) hell in this place today!
Yes, I do all the cooking AND the getting of the meat:
Though we're so far from shops we've usually something fresh to eat.
Of course, it isn't always veal, and when the school terms start
Joints may get tougher. But our gravy still stays full of heart!

Morris Bishop (1893-1973)

I think I remember this moorland,
The tower on the top of the tor;
I feel in the distance another existence:
I think I have been here before.

And I think you were sitting beside me,
In a fold in the face of the fell,
For Time at its work'll go round in a circle,
And what is befalling, befell.

"I have been here before!" I asserted,
In a nook on a neck of the Nile.
I once in a crisis was punished by Isis,
And you smiled. I remember your smile.

I had the same sense of persistence
On the site of the seat of the Sioux;
I heard in the teepee the sound of a sleepy
Pleistocene grunt. It was you.

The past made a promise, before it
Began to begin to begone.
This limited gamut brings you again. Damn it,
How long has this got to go on?

Sarah Hartwell (2007)

I'm sure I remember the shoreline,
The cove with the caves in the cliff,
Where once we sheltered from tropical swelter,
These repeats are boring me stiff.

A far distant world in the future,
A monster mooched up with a moan,
An alien planet, but you are here, damn it!
Good grief can't you leave me alone?

Time is a terrible mistress,
She plays with the what and the when,
And makes a deception to fool my perception,
So that what has gone round comes again.



These are snatches of something scribbled down many years ago from a book and probably garbled! I have no idea who it was by and I am sure there was much more of it.

Another day is ending as it brings the failing light
All have left with shield and sword as they embrace the night,
On the highway and the byway to the city and the town,
The great halls now stand empty save for one who wears the crown,
The warriors lay along the path and black blood stains the way,
They fought, they shed, they gave their best, few live to fight another day.
Each battle faced with courage, each challenge met, but some,
With forces spent, withdrew their pride, their battle was now done,
The final challenge high and wide, a gathering from within,
Courage flows from heart to limb, to fortify, no eye to dim.
Silence now, the gathered throng, all eyes upon the chosen one,
The final fight to bring the end,
Pray let boldness be my friend.

The pressing shoulders, hand to hold, of words to come,
Less blood to flow as all agree in unison, this warrior is the one.
All now applaud the proclaimed words, all hands unite to greet the king,
All hearts burst forth as joy unfolds, as eyes betray the feelings from within.

Trophies adorn the feasting hall, the battle's fought, the victory's won,
A veil of joy spreads through the land to say the rightful king is come,
Silent now in quiet repose, the flick of pennants, the bended knee,
The memories flow from mind to heart, revived by he who is so near,
He who came and gave his all, who greets with not the downcast eye,
No lip does curl at victory's taste, no snarl for righteous men to fear,
To warriors and supporters all, to those who stood to fortify,
Whose hands were firm upon their steel, with inner fire sparked in the eyes,
Upon the fields in battle fierce, ten thousand men did fall,
All is now empty, silent, fled, save he who stands on castle wall.

To The Lady Who Tried To Swap 2 Ha'pennies For A Penny
(Taught to me by my mother when I was very small; it's in dialect)

Look lidy, foller Olive Snell,
To oom your accident befell,
It 'appened, as it duz to many,
That Olive went ter spend a penny.

She searched 'er bag an' 'ad jist one,
An' that wos bent so wot she dun,
She found 'erself a spinney shidey,
An' saved 'erself the penny, lidy.

(Taught to me by my mother - it really is spelt this way)

If all the trains at Clapham jn
Were suddenly to cease to fn
The people waiting at the stn
Would never reach their destinatn.

(Charles Causley)
(Another favourite from the same book as Sally Simpkin's Lament)

Colonel Fazackerley Butterworth-Toast
Bought an old castle complete with a ghost,
But someone or other forgot to declare
To Colonel Fazack 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 Fazack.
'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.

At The Ballet
(Learnt from my mother)

Lift her up tenderly,
Raise her with care,
Catch hold of one leg ...
And a handful of hair.

Swing her round savagely,
And when this palls,
Heave-ho! Away with her -
Into the stalls.


(Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935))

There was once a little animal,
No bigger than a fox,
And on five toes he scampered
Over Tertiary rocks.
They called him Eohippus,
And they called him very small,
And they thought him of no value -
When they thought of him at all;
For the lumpish old Dinoceras
And Coryphodon so slow
Were the heavy aristocracy
In days of long ago.

Said the little Eohippus,
"I am going to be a horse!
And on my middle finger-nails
To run my earthly course!
I'm going to have a flowing tail!
I'm going to have a mane!
I'm going to stand fourteen hands high
On the psychozoic plain!"

The Coryphodon was horrified,
The Dinoceras was shocked;
And they chased young Eohippus,
But he skipped away and mocked.
And they laughed enormous laughter,
And they groaned enormous groans,
And they bade young Eohippus
Go view his father's bones.
Said they, "You always were as small
And mean as now we see,
And that's conclusive evidence
That you're always going to be.
What! Be a great, tall, handsome beast,
With hoofs to gallop on?
Why! You'd have to change your nature!"
Said the Loxolophodon.
They considered him disposed of,
And retired with gait serene;
That was the way they argued
In "the early Eocene."

There was once an Anthropoidal Ape,
Far smarter than the rest,
And everything that they could do
He always did the best;
So they naturally disliked him,
And they gave him shoulders cool,
And when they had to mention him
They said he was a fool.

Cried this pretentious Ape one day,
"I'm going to be a Man!
And stand upright, and hunt, and fight,
And conquer all I can!
I'm going to cut down forest trees,
To make my houses higher!
I'm going to kill the Mastodon!
I'm going to make a fire!"

Loud screamed the Anthropoidal Apes
With laughter wild and gay;
They tried to catch that boastful one,
But he always got away.
So they yelled at him in chorus,
Which he minded not a whit;
And they pelted him with cocoanuts,
Which didn't seem to hit.
And then they gave him reasons
Which they thought of much avail,
To prove how his preposterous
Attempt was sure to fail.
Said the sages, "In the first place,
The thing cannot be done!
And, second, if it could be,
It would not be any fun!
And, third, and most conclusive,
And admitting no reply,
You would have to change your nature!
We should like to see you try!"
They chuckled then triumphantly,
These lean and hairy shapes,
For these things passed as arguments
With the Anthropoidal Apes.

There was once a Neolithic Man,
An enterprising wight,
Who made his chopping implements
Unusually bright.
Unusually clever he,
Unusually brave,
And he drew delightful Mammoths
On the borders of his cave.
To his Neolithic neighbours,
Who were startled and surprised,
Said he, "My friends, in course of time,
We shall be civilized!
We are going to live in cities!
We are going to fight in wars!
We are going to eat three times a day
Without the natural cause!
We are going to turn life upside down
About a thing called gold!
We are going to want the earth, and take
As much as we can hold!
We are going to wear great piles of stuff
Outside our proper skins!
We are going to have diseases!
And Accomplishments!! And Sins!!!"

Then they all rose up in fury
Against their boastful friend,
For prehistoric patience
Cometh quickly to an end.
Said one, "This is chimerical!
Utopian! Absurd!"
Said another, "What a stupid life!
Too dull, upon my word!"
Cried all, "Before such things can come,
You idiotic child,
You must alter Human Nature!"
And they all sat back and smiled.
Thought they, "An answer to that last
It will be hard to find!"
It was a clinching argument
To the Neolithic Mind!

This verse isn't just about evolution, it is also about aspiring to rise above one's station i.e. common folk wanting betterment and the established aristocracy wanting to keep the commoners in their place and having no real argument except "it has always been this way". As the 3 cited "similar cases" (Eohippus/horse, anthropoid/man and Neolithic/modern man) show, the establishment can protest all it likes, but ultimately it cannot prevent change. The "psychozoic" age means a geological age in which animals (or at least human animals) have minds.


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