Poetry Choice – confused… I am now!

First of all, you must see this PDF if you like the poem Cats – or if you just like Cats, or quite frankly just for the sheer hell of it!!


I have to choose four poems from the book 100 Best Poems, I wanted to choose two by men and two by women and had hoped to spread them across the age of the poems – ie one say 200yrs old, one say 100-120 years old, one say 50 years old and one say 10 years old. Yet the poems I thought were by women (due to the names) are actually men’s (Hilaire Belloc… who’d a thought it? a man! actually born Joseph Hilaire Belloc) and the ones I thought would be my contemporary poems, i.e. Cats and Eletelephony are actually both bloody old (Cats I can’t find a year of publication but could be 1900-1960 so at least 57 years old and Eletelephony is 1890 – 127 years old) !!

So, what I thought would be a relatively simple task i think i will have to put to pulling from a hat… Still, they are all great poems so I thought I’d put them here for you all, and as I found it so hard to find dates of publication I have this first (if applicable I have the book it was first published in after the date of publication,  after the authors name their sex, then birth and where applicable year of death).



1907 (Cautionary Tales, poetry collection) Matilda (who told lies, and was burned to death) by Hilaire Belloc, Male, (1870-1953)

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.

An alltime favourite of all three – Elijah is especially fascinated by it – the looks he gives when it is read out are priceless. The conversations we have for days and weeks to come……



1794 (Songs of Experience, poetry collection) The Tyger by  William Blake – Male, (1757-1827)

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
This has been a favourite of mine since I was very small. I have a collection of very very well read William Blake on my shelf, it is still a regular read by all in our home. This and the Sick Rose are ones I know by heart.

1871 (Through the Looking Glass – Novel) Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll – Male, (1832-1898)

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.


Now who isn’t entertained by Carroll??




(1900?-1965?) Cats by Eleanor Farjeon – Female (1881-1965)

Cats sleep
Any table,
Any chair,
Top of piano,
In the middle,
on the edge,
Open drawer,
Empty shoe,
Lap will do,
Fitted in a
Cardboard box,
In the cupboard,
With your frocks –
They don’t care!
Cats sleep


Simple yet everyone likes it… well nearly everyone (some may not)




1845 (Der Struwwelpeter) The Story of Little suck-a-thumb by Dr Heinrich Hoffmann – Male, (1809-1994)

view a brilliant translation with illustrations here:



I read this to my three as they all suffer from fingers in mouth… Needless to say so far no fingers in the mouths…..



1974 (If you should meet a crocodile: and other verse) Greedy Dog by James Hurley (if anyone knows birth year etc please let me know!)

This dog will eat anything

Apple cores and bacon fat,
Milk you poured out for the cat.
He likes the string that ties the roast,
And relishes hot buttered toast.
Hide your chocolates! He’s a thief,
He’ll even eat your handkerchief.
And if you don’t like sudden shocks,
Carefully conceal your socks.
Leave some soup without the lid,
And you’ll wish you never did.
When you think he must be full,
You find him gobbling bits of wool,
Orange peel or paper bags,
Dusters and old cleaning rags.

This dog will eat anything.
Except for mushrooms and cucumber.

Now what are wrong with those I wonder?


Annabelle saw the picture of the dog and asked for this one – after I read it to t was confused why a dog hem they all wondered why a dog wouldn’t love cucumbers like they do….



1906, A Smuggler’s Song by Rudyard Kipling – Male (1865-1936)

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,
And 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 carefull 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 given 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!

I vaguely remember this one from my childhood after reading it to Annabelle. She likes it too and keeps asking for it and bringing the anthology over to me.



1959 (Silly Verse for Kids) On the Ning Nang Song by Spike Milligan – Male (1918-2002)

On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
and the monkeys all say Boo!
There’s a Nong Nang Ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the mice go Clang!
And you just can’t catch ’em when they do!
So its Ning Nang Nong!
Cows go Bong!
Nong Nang Ning!
Trees go ping!
Nong Ning Nang!
The mice go Clang!
What a noisy place to belong,
is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!!


I have loved this since I was little – I remember my dad and Grandad reciting it too me alongside numerous Dr Suess… Obviously my three have had it since young – they love it too!



(1931-) Adventures of Isabel by Ogden Nash, male (1902-1971)

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

This is Elijah’s favourite now – he loves it when I change the names to theirs – especially when I change the verse about the giants to Elijah. It definitely produces a lot of giggles!



(?) The Race to get to Sleep by Brian Patten, Male (1946-)

Got an email back from the author this morning – first published in Thawing Frozen Frogs by Puffin Books in 1990 Hardback addition. So I was right in thinking I had heard this one at school!

Both the boys love this one! Annabelle too, they love to place bets on who’s going to win (despite knowing the ending!)



1890, Eletelephony by Laura E. Richards, female (1850-1943)

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!)


This is one of my favourites and was Isaac’s favourite as a toddler, and a favourite of all three of my children’s.



1806 (Rhymes for the Nursery) The Star by Jane Taylor, Female – (1783–1824)


Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are!

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky.


In the dark blue sky you keep

And often through my curtain peep,

For you never shut your eye

Till the sun is in the sky.


As your bright and tiny spark

Lights the traveller in the dark,

Though I know not what you are,

Twinkle, twinkle, little star.


This is Annabelle’s favourite song and is also the first song she learnt off by heart at 3. Now 3 1/2 we generally get a daily rendition.


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