My Dad, who was normally a rather serious and often even stern individual, used to recite a little poem to us when we were kids. It has stuck in my head I guess cos it was rare to see my Dad indulging in nonsense at all, and this one was dolled out regualarly. I remember him first recounting it for us over at Straddie and then BigSal and myself rock hopping around Point Lookout reciting it –
Picking his nose like mad
Rolling them into little balls
And flicking ’em at his Dad!
We thought it was hilarious at the time, and I always thought was a stupid little thing to be taken about as seriously as a limerick. The other day I was wondering if there was more to it than that… maybe it had more nonsense verses out there somewhere… maybe it would be a good one to teach to Angel to take to school 🙂 So I did a bit of a hunt around and found some more parodies –
Playing a game of cricket
The ball flew down his trouser leg
And hit his middle wicket!
The boy stood on the burning deck
Eating a tuppeny Walls*
A bit dropped down his trouser leg
And paralysed his balls!
Anyway, what mostly came up about this poem wasn’t nonsense at all. The original poem that has spawned these was called Casabianca and was written by a woman named Felicia Hemans. It’s a tragically serious poem that commemorates the courage (fear?) of a small boy of about 12/13 who wouldn’t desert his post when his ship, L’Orient, was on fire and sinking during the Battle for the Nile in 1798 for fear of disappointing his father or perhaps…. and more likely, fearing retribution for doing so. So the actual opening lines of the poem reads –
Whence all but he had fled
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
Shone round him o’er the dead.
And now I find that the parodies aren’t so funny anymore. My Dad was obviously forced to study this poem in primary school and no doubt to recite it from memory ad nauseum in that especially torturous delightful way educators use as they attempt to drill appreciation of poetry into the heads of unwilling children. (I have rather traumatic Clancy of the Overflow memories that resemble this myself!). Anyway this poem is well worth a read and while you’re at it say a little thanks for not being born in Victorian England.