Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Bad Child's Book of Beasts

We have entered the “terrible two’s” here, which haven’t actually been all that terrible. There’s just been a slight increase in mischief and tantrums which, though short-lived, try my patience. I love these verses first published in 1897 by Hilaire Belloc (we have a second copy somewhere but with illustrations inferior to the ones by Wallace Tripp). He starts the book off with a warning to children:

Child! do not throw this book about;
     Refrain from the unholy pleasure
Of cutting all the pictures out!
     Preserve it as your chiefest treasure.

Child, have you never heard it said
     That you are heir to all the ages?
Why, then, your hands were never made
     To tear these beautiful thick pages!

Your little hands were made to take
     The better things and leave the worse ones:
They also may be used to shake
     The Massive Paws of Elder Persons.

And when your prayers complete the day,
     Darling, your little tiny hands
Were also made, I think, to pray
     For men that lose their fairylands.

Hilaire Belloc
illustrated by Wallace Tripp 1982

I particularly like the Tiger rhyme. When I first read it to Madeleine and Henry they exclaimed, “That’s awful!”. Of course I would never let a Tiger devour my children no matter how naughty they were being. (Though I have on occasion threatened to sell them to the gypsies.)

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