(Poem #809) Jim
There was a Boy whose name was Jim; His Friends were very good to him. They gave him Tea, and Cakes, and Jam, And slices of delicious Ham, And Chocolate with pink inside And little Tricycles to ride, And read him Stories through and through, And even took him to the Zoo-- But there it was the dreadful Fate Befell him, which I now relate. You know--or at least you ought to know, For I have often told you so-- That Children never are allowed To leave their Nurses in a Crowd; Now this was Jim's especial Foible, He ran away when he was able, And on this inauspicious day He slipped his hand and ran away! He hadn't gone a yard when--Bang! With open Jaws, a lion sprang, And hungrily began to eat The Boy: beginning at his feet. Now, just imagine how it feels When first your toes and then your heels, And then by gradual degrees, Your shins and ankles, calves and knees, Are slowly eaten, bit by bit. No wonder Jim detested it! No wonder that he shouted "Hi!" The Honest Keeper heard his cry, Though very fat he almost ran To help the little gentleman. "Ponto!" he ordered as he came (For Ponto was the Lion's name), "Ponto!" he cried, with angry Frown, "Let go, Sir! Down, Sir! Put it down!" The Lion made a sudden stop, He let the Dainty Morsel drop, And slunk reluctant to his Cage, Snarling with Disappointed Rage. But when he bent him over Jim, The Honest Keeper's Eyes were dim. The Lion having reached his Head, The Miserable Boy was dead! When Nurse informed his Parents, they Were more Concerned than I can say:-- His Mother, as She dried her eyes, Said, "Well--it gives me no surprise, He would not do as he was told!" His Father, who was self-controlled, Bade all the children round attend To James's miserable end, And always keep a-hold of Nurse For fear of finding something worse.
Belloc's children's poems fall into two main categories - his animal poems, collected in 'The Bad Child's Book of Beasts' and 'More Beasts for Worse Children', and a series of cautionary tales collected, appropriately enough, in 'Cautionary Tales'. Today's poem is a fine example of the latter - like Roald Dahl after him, Belloc appealed to the more gruesome side of children's imaginations, while at the same time poking fun at the 'cautionary tales' in vogue during the Victorian era. When Belloc's heroes and heroines come to a Bad End, they come to a very bad end indeed, the details of which are expounded with glee and relish, in a manner that has doubtless delighted generations of children. Asides: Speaking of Dahl, he seems to have been influenced more than a little by Belloc. In particular, the cautionary tales in 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' and its sequel, 'Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator' seem to pay a definite tribute to Belloc's. Compare the sound and language of today's poem with this little excerpt from the sad saga of Goldie Pinklewseet: You see, how could young Goldie know, For nobody had told her so, That Grandmama, her old relation Suffered from frightful constipation. This meant that every night she'd give Herself a powerful laxative, And all the medicines that she'd bought Were naturally of this sort. -- Roald Dahl Also, here's Shel Silverstein on lions and children: It's Dark in Here I am writing these poems From inside a lion, And it's rather dark in here. So please excuse the handwriting Which may not be too clear. But this afternoon by the lion's cage I'm afraid I got too near. And I'm writing these lines From inside a lion, And it's rather dark in here. -- Shel Silverstein Links: There's a biography at poem #124 A review of a recording of some of Gilbert's poems and a few of Belloc's Cautionary Verses: http://www.cris.com/~oakapple/gasdisc/mdbabs.htm Some of Bentley's illustrations for Belloc's verses: http://www.adh.brighton.ac.uk/schoolofdesign/MA.COURSE/08/LCV.html -martin