Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Cautionary Tales

I grew up with The Penguin Book of Comic and Curious Verse, as I've mentioned before - and I loved those Cautionary Tales the best.

Matilda with her dreadful lies, Henry King (pictured left) who chewed string, Jim - who ran away from nurse and was eaten by a lion... the great Hillaire Belloc was the author of many of my favourites which can be found, nicely illustrated by The Baldwin Project which 'brings yesterday's classics to today's children.

It wasn't the horrible fates in themselves that attracted me, it was more the style of writing - faux serious, ridiculous rhymes and romping rhythms - and the escalating series of disasters where one thing led to another.

I attempted to write a cautionary tale this week - on the dangers of giving up blogging. It was addressed to Dave, (who is often first to comment on my blog): Reverend East – who gave up his blog but then realised he had nothing better to do. It sorto of works, but it's not nearly dark enough and while I was writing it he decided to start blogging again, which rather spoiled the ending I'd originally planned.

According to Wikipedia, authors of the cautionary tale were not obliged to abide by the usual rules of etiquette and gruesomeness was positively encouraged because they were meant to horrify a small child into Sensible Behaviour and Right Thinking.

I can't help thinking this sort of thing is probably a bit frowned on these days by those same right-thinking people due to their delight in disaster and uncomfortable overtones of child abuse.

There are no right-thinking people still reading this, are there? No? Then here's one you may never have come across . . .


Who caroused in the Dirt and was corrected by His Uncle

His Uncle came on Franklin Hyde

Carousing in the Dirt.

He Shook him hard from Side to Side

And Hit him till it Hurt,



  1. Yes, more discipline is what is needed.
    I urge all of those who have not yet read your ode to the padre to hurry over and read it (perhaps skip the padre's ponderings).

  2. Second!!

    I think the original ending should also be included, for the sake of future historians of poetry. And my biographers.

  3. Apparently, more than one fellow blogger has commented on my habit of murdering my wife in my comic poems but I am refusing to submit to psychoanalysis...

  4. PS your blog list now needs updating.

  5. Franklin Hyde's uncle is the image of my old 'head of year' at secondary school. Although it was he who probably preferred to be on the receiving end of a caning.

  6. Vicus - I generally skip straight to the comments where the quality material is!

    Dave - Perhaps

    Peter - Hmmmm... *strokes imaginary beard*

    Dave - PS nag, nag, nag - please don't let the fact that I have been at (or travelling to/from) work for 22 of the last 34 hours since you started the new blog deter you from expecting me to prioritise updating my blog list... only required due to your fannying around!!

    Martin - I;m intrigued how you reached this conclusion about your erstwhile schoolmaster?

  7. Shall we just say, an incident in a metalwork lesson, as a result of which, he was caused to nurse a nasty burn from a soldering iron, for several days.

  8. BB . . is that the volume with a poem titled "Sapphics" - about a housewife, Mrs.Hargeaves who lived with Mr.Hargeraves in a house called "Balmoral" She's doing her shopping in the local High Street and all the shopkeepers, plus the vicar, are driven wild with lust.
    "Even the vicar shades his eyes and mutters 'O dea certe'" (Surely a Goddess)
    My parents ran a local grocery at the time, so the poem seemed apt as well as comical.
    Our copy got cleared out yonks ago and I've always regretted losing that fabulously funny poem

  9. Martin - You are such a tease!

    Doctor FTSE - I couldn't tell you off the top of my head. I have the original and a follow-up both dated early sixties but the indexes in both are author and first line, not title - do you happen to recall the first line?