Sunday, July 27, 2008

A "poet" and his influence

When I was small (it so happens that I was, once), my parents would read to me from a number of different sources, from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to Moby-Dick to the Old Testament. I confess, though, to a weakness for doggerel, especially the less-than-syrupy sort. My passion came early, before I was able to understand Robert Service or Edgar Guest or James Whitcombe Riley.

It so happens that my favorite book was The Barnes Book of Nursery Verse, largely due to one particular poem. Those who know me, know already that I have been able to recite this particular poet and his one particular bit of verse. Those who don't know me so well will, I suspect, be able to figure out why...

Rebecca, Who slammed Doors for Fun and Perished Miserably

A Trick that everyone abhors
In Little Girls is slamming Doors
A Wealthy Banker’s
Little Daughter
Who lived in Palace Green, Bayswater
(By name Rebecca Offendort),
Was given to the Furious Sport.

She would deliberately go
And Slam the door like Billy-Ho!
To make her Uncle Jacob start.
She was not really bad at heart,
But only rather rude and wild:
She was an aggravating child. . . .

It happened that a Marble Bust
Of Abraham was standing just
Above the Door the little Lamb
Had carefully prepared to Slam,
And Down it came! It knocked her flat!

It laid her out! She looked
like that.
* * * *
Her funeral Sermon (which was long
And followed by a Sacred Song)
Mentioned her Virtues, it is true,
But dwelt upon her Vices too,
And showed the Dreadful End of One
Who goes and slams the door for Fun.

The verse was written by Hilaire Belloc. Today is the 138th anniversary of his birth. I slam the door once more, in honor of the occasion (having first confirmed that there is no statue standing just above).

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