It has recently come to my attention that, as a child, I may not have been exposed to the normal sort of things one expects at that age. Instead of watching cartoons, I’d beg my parents to let me see new nature programs on the Discovery Channel. I knew Chaplin before Carrey, watched more Fred and Ginger musicals than Disney movies, and had a strange fascination with Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” before I even understood all the words.
My mother is the kind of person who loves to memorize and recite poems, and introduced me to one of my most memorable childhood pleasures: cautionary poems by Hilaire Belloc. If you’re unfamiliar with Belloc’s work (if you were brought up outside the British Isles or after the early 1900’s, for example), then you’re in for a treat. A well-known author in his time, Belloc wrote numerous essays and historical texts, but I remember him for his fantastic, morally superior (and often vindictive) children’s poems.1 With titles like “Rebecca, Who Slammed Doors For Fun And Perished Miserably”, Belloc’s poems are irresistible. They’ve delighted me for years2, and they’ll probably delight you too. Even better, you can find out now! (Click to listen.)3
- JIM, Who ran away from his Nurse, and was eaten by a Lion. 4
- HENRY KING, Who chewed bits of string, and was early cut off in Dreadful agonies.
- MATILDA, Who told Lies and was Burned to Death
- FRANKLIN HYDE, Who caroused in the Dirt and was corrected by His Uncle
- GODOLPHIN HORNE, Who was cursed with the Sin of Pride, and, Became a Boot-black
- ALGERNON, Who played with a Loaded Gun, and, on missing his Sister, was reprimanded by his Father.
- HILDEBRAND, Who was frightened by a Passing Motor, and was brought to reason.
- LORD LUNDY, Who was too Freely Moved to Tears, and thereby ruined his Political Career.
- LORD LUNDY (Second Canto)
- REBECCA, Who Slammed Doors For Fun And Perished Miserably
- GEORGE, Who played with a Dangerous Toy, and suffered a Catastrophe of considerable Dimensions.
- CHARLES AUGUSTUS FORTESCUE, Who Always Did what was Right, and so Accumulated an Immense Fortune