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The King's Breakfast -- A A Milne

       
(Poem #562) The King's Breakfast
 The King asked
 The Queen, and
 The Queen asked
 The Dairymaid:
 "Could we have some butter for
 The Royal slice of bread?"
 The Queen asked the Dairymaid,
 The Dairymaid
 Said, "Certainly,
 I'll go and tell the cow
 Now
 Before she goes to bed."

 The Dairymaid
 She curtsied,
 And went and told the Alderney:
 "Don't forget the butter for
 The Royal slice of bread."

 The Alderney said sleepily:
 "You'd better tell
 His Majesty
 That many people nowadays
 Like marmalade
 Instead."

 The Dairymaid
 Said "Fancy!"
 And went to
 Her Majesty.
 She curtsied to the Queen, and
 She turned a little red:
 "Excuse me,
 Your Majesty,
 For taking of
 The liberty,
 But marmalade is tasty, if
 It's very
 Thickly
 Spread."

 The Queen said
 "Oh!"
 And went to his Majesty:
 "Talking of the butter for
 The royal slice of bread,
 Many people
 Think that
 Marmalade
 Is nicer.
 Would you like to try a little
 Marmalade
 Instead?"

 The King said,
 "Bother!"
 And then he said,
 "Oh, deary me!"
 The King sobbed, "Oh, deary me!"
 And went back to bed.
 "Nobody,"
 He whimpered,
 "Could call me
 A fussy man;
 I only want
 A little bit
 Of butter for
 My bread!"

 The Queen said,
 "There, there!"
 And went to
 The Dairymaid.
 The Dairymaid
 Said, "There, there!"
 And went to the shed.
 The cow said,
 "There, there!
 I didn't really
 Mean it;
 Here's milk for his porringer
 And butter for his bread."

 The queen took the butter
 And brought it to
 His Majesty.
 The King said
 "Butter, eh?"
 And bounced out of bed.
 "Nobody," he said,
 As he kissed her
 Tenderly,
 "Nobody," he said,
 As he slid down
 The banisters,
 "Nobody,
 My darling,
 Could call me
 A fussy man -
 BUT
 I do like a little bit of butter to my bread!"
-- A A Milne
There is surely no body of verse in which strong rhythm has been more
effectively and enthusiastically used than in children's poetry, and Milne
is in this regard (as in several others) one of the very best. Today's poem
needs no real commentary, except to say that I find it no less delightful
today than I did as a child.

Links:

To see the illustrated version of the poem:
[broken link] http://www.crocker.com/~slinberg/poems/milne/kingsbreakfast.html

For another nice Milne poem, and a biography, see poem #463

Afterthought:

I was going to write a piece on why rhythmic verse is so appealing to
children, but realised that I didn't know too much about it myself. Perhaps
someone could comment with greater authority?

-martin

80 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Janice Barker said...

can anyone tell me if "The King's Breakfast" appears in any of AA
Milne's books of poetry and if so which one. I have been searching for
a book with it in it. I really wish there were a picture book of this
poem. Please let me know which, if any, book this poem is in.
Janice

Sullivan Gary said...

I stumbled on this poem in a large collection of children’s literature (I’m
sorry; I don’t have the title, but the editor was Clifton Fadiman), and my
4- and 6-year-old absolutely love it. They like to clap to keep the meter
going.

We’re Americans living in the city, so yes, we had to go look up “Alderney”
to make sure it was a kind of cow, but that just made it more fun.

Even at dinner, they’ll ask, “may I have a little bit of butter to my
bread?”

Gary S.

Paltiel Sarah R said...

This poem appears in _When We Were Very Young_, a collection of Milne's
poetry. This collection also contains Disobedience, Emmeline, the first
appearance of Winnie the Pooh, and Mary Jane with her *loverly* rice pudding
for dinner again.

Sarah Ruth Paltiel

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Happymint said...

I noticed you post on this poem on a website. I don't know if you have already gotten a response, but "The King's Breakfast" is published in the book "When We Were Very Young."

Ellen Sheridan said...

It also is in The World of Christopher Robin which is the collection of When We Were very young, And Now we are six. And in The complete poems of Winnie the Pooh. I am doing a report on this poem for Language Arts class

Jeremy Williams said...

I've always loved this poem.
Its so rhythmical and so simple that you don't really have to think about it like you do with so many poems.
I have an original edition of 'Now we are six' from my mum's guardian who used to live next door to Christopher Robin.
Its slightly tattered and the pages are yellowy but I reckon it would still probably be worth a bit. Not that I'd ever sell it!

Rebecca Williams

Hagen Margaret said...

When I was small my mother set this poem to a little tune and used it as a
combination lullaby and bedtime story. She used it again with her grandson.
I can still recite it from memory (I'm 64).

Shatz Erica said...

My mother was British and used to read me a lot of Poem's from A.A.
Milne's book. This is one of the one's I memorized but couldn't say it
as great as my mom who had the perfect accent! Thanks for posting this.
It is Poem in Your Pocket Day, April 21. I forgot my book at home so I
am grateful to find it on-line at Google.
Erica Shatz- Spry

SHARON MCCARTHY said...

I had a 78 rpm record when I was 4 years old [in Chicago] which had this poem, and others, one of which went "Christopher Robin went hoppity-hoppity-hoppity-hoppity-hop", all set to music. I can still recall the melodies, and sing them to myself when they pop into my mind, which is often. I am 59 now, so that was 55 years ago. The songs and poems made a huge impression on me, they were lilting and clever and I loved them. I played the record over and over. Does anyone have a clue what the name of the record was, or who made it?

david & patsy pierson said...

I wonder why this type of poetry is not offered to mid-schoolers as a fundamental exercise in the delight of the english language

steve said...

Milne's "A King's Breakfast" was published as a book in 1924-5 by E. P.
Dutton & Company, New York. I just discovered we have a copy of the book in
good condition. What is unusual is I found it in a collection of music and
sure enough, King's is Milne poetry set to music. The Introduction begins,
"Before we start singing 'The King's Breakfast' ..." The music is by H.
Fraser-Simson and the Decorations by E. H. Shepard. The poem of this name
quoted in this web site is the lyric in the book I have.

I'd like to know if the poem was ever published separately; I haven't found
it yet and I'm beginning to think the musical version may be the only
published version. I'd welcome any and all info anyone cares to send me
about A King's Breakfast.

Steve Sanford

Gary & Sherry Wargo said...

Charming and much -loved as this poem was in my childhood, in my adult years I learned another version (author unknown, but I think I found it in a gardening book) which charmed me even more:

The King asked the Queen and the Queen asked the Gardener,
"Could we have some compost for the Royal Flower Bed?"
"Certainly!" tha Gardener said.
"I'll go and ask the cow, now, before she leaves the shed."

Sherry Wargo

Lili Maginness said...

My son's class - Grade 2 (Melbourne, Australia) are doing poems this term and they had to bring some in. I couldn't help but think of my favourite poem read to me in class over and over again. It made me wonder about marmalade!!!! I will be giving The King's Breakfast to my son to take to class tomorrow.

L Maginness

Fran O'Rourke said...

To Janice Barker
I know that The King's Breakfast was in a volume of verse by AA Milne. My parents brought 4 Milne volumes with them from England, 2 were the Winnie the Pooh stories that Disney has poached so effectively and 2 were poetry. All were favourites with us growing up. I cannot remember all the titles, but I am sure one of the verse volumes was "Now We Are Six".
F O'Rourke

Edith Flohr said...

My grandmother who passed away in the early 80's, asked myself and my 3 sisters if we could memorize this poem, if we could she would give us each 25 cents. If I recall correctly, I was the only one who memorized it. For some reason it has stuck with me. I was just thinking of it tonight and decided to punch it into the search engine. I am printing it out and am going to memorize it again. I think it would be wonderful to have my own grandchildren memorize it, once I have some of course which shouldnt be too far in the future!! I am 49 yrs young.
Edith

Alice Lamy said...

Dear Sharon - an interesting man named John Frame has put the record you're perhaps searching for online for downloading.
i listened to this record when little also - I'm 54 - and had searched on and off for about 2 years! here you go-
http://www.queerradio.org/David_Tomlinson_When_We_Were_Very_Young.htm
Enjoy!

Fiona Margaret Fenton said...

I am a 48 year old teacher at a small rural school in Victoria,Australia. Our youngest,or prep class has been studying the olden days. Yesterday they made butter and the line,"a bit of butter to my bread" came from my subconscious. I loved the poems of AA Milne when I was very young and they still give me a lovely tickling feeling. I will take the poem to the class teacher and I am sure the lovelies will enjoy it being read to them. Thank you for making this poem so easily available. I could not even remember the title. From Fiona Fenton

Anonymous said...

My Mother, who passed away some years ago, used to read this to me when I was young. I am now 69.
I thank you for this, as I was searching for it for Morgan, my Grand Daughter
Ken

Anonymous said...

This was the favorite of many poems from the two Milne poetry books my mom read to me. (I'm 58). To this day I never use marmalade without saying to myself "Marmalade is tasty if it is very thickly spread!" I just learned that pure bred Alderneys are extinct; the Nazis ate the last one when they occupied the Channel Islands.

Anonymous said...

I came across this poem when I was in seminary. It was used as a reading for elocution. The poem rattles around in my head from time to time, but I did not know the source until now. The wonders of Google.

Felicity said...

My partner and I were just making the 'next days' lunches for our family when he said

"Honey, in future could you put a little more butter on my bread?"

I raced downstairs to find my A.A.Milne compendium of poems to share this poem. When I couldn't find it, I googled [as you do] and have just finished reading it to him.

He's now walking around the kitchen saying "A little bit of butter for my royal slice of bread". It truly is musical.

Thank you for posting this, it has led me to your site, which is now bookmarked for future lunch making scenarios & other important important life events.

Felicity
www.giftsofserendipity.com

Anonymous said...

It sounds sooo good in russian translated by russian poet Samuel Marschak

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Many people
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Marmalade
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Would you like to try a little
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Kika said...

Thanks for posting this! It's a favorite in my family, both my mum and grandmum can recite the entire thing and used to! It was so fun for us as kids, even if we didn't appreciate it so much as grouchy teenagers.

Anonymous said...

I love "The King's Breakfast." When I was growing up, we had a 78 rpm (!) recording of Milne poems that someone had set to music. TKB was one of them. NB: You have an error in the text: The cow doesn't say "Many people think that marmalade is nicer;" she says "Many people nowadays think marmalade is nicer." I not only remember that from childhood, but another poetry site with this poem on it has the "nowadays." Can you fix that? Thanks.

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Anonymous said...

I told my three year old daughter that I was going to read some poetry to her a few weeks ago.

She said "What's poetry ?"

So I said "it's a bit like music:
da-dee-dada, da-dee-dada,
da-dee-dada-dada;
da-dee-dada, da-dee-dada,
da-dee-dada-dada.
and then I read her "Disobedience" which starts
"James James, Morrison Morrison,
Wetherby Geaorge Dupree
Took great care of his mother,
Though he was only three..."

She rocked rythmically to the phrases as though dancing to music.

And now I can't get her and her 5 year-old brother off to sleep without a poem or three from this wonderful, hyptnotic book!

It was my dear, departed, dad who read these to me and my brother, and they stay with me even though he is gone.

That is the force of AA Milne's stories.

Nicholas Cram said...

OK so the #463 link is to Disobedience, funny coincidence although not a huge surprise :)
I have (really) linked to this page as I think there might be a lot more stuff to (re)discover

Thanks Martin (and Thomas)

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Anonymous said...

I am fascinated that this discussion has endured for twelve years. As I ate my piece of toast, marmalade, AND butter, I raced to the bookshelf to find this poem and read it to my husband. Ah, the joy! Then I delved for JJMMWGDuP, Timothy, Mary Jane, and all their friends. What a delightful morning!

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Surely marmalade AND butter is best? Tony , England

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Anonymous said...

I had 'When we were very young' read to me when I was 4 or so [I am 73]. I am sure that the line "Many people think that .. ' is right, not 'nowadays'. Can someone with the AA Milne text available settle this?

Anonymous said...

This is said twice - once by the Alderney and then by the Queen. When the cow speaks 'nowadays' is used, but not the second time when the Queen repeats the phrase.

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