(Poem #818) Television
The most important thing we've learned, So far as children are concerned, Is never, NEVER, NEVER let Them near your television set -- Or better still, just don't install The idiotic thing at all. In almost every house we've been, We've watched them gaping at the screen. They loll and slop and lounge about, And stare until their eyes pop out. (Last week in someone's place we saw A dozen eyeballs on the floor.) They sit and stare and stare and sit Until they're hypnotised by it, Until they're absolutely drunk With all that shocking ghastly junk. Oh yes, we know it keeps them still, They don't climb out the window sill, They never fight or kick or punch, They leave you free to cook the lunch And wash the dishes in the sink -- But did you ever stop to think, To wonder just exactly what This does to your beloved tot? IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD! IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD! IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND! IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND! HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE! HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE! HE CANNOT THINK -- HE ONLY SEES! 'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say, 'But if we take the set away, What shall we do to entertain Our darling children? Please explain!' We'll answer this by asking you, 'What used the darling ones to do? 'How used they keep themselves contented Before this monster was invented?' Have you forgotten? Don't you know? We'll say it very loud and slow: THEY ... USED ... TO ... READ! They'd READ and READ, AND READ and READ, and then proceed To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks! One half their lives was reading books! The nursery shelves held books galore! Books cluttered up the nursery floor! And in the bedroom, by the bed, More books were waiting to be read! Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales And treasure isles, and distant shores Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars, And pirates wearing purple pants, And sailing ships and elephants, And cannibals crouching 'round the pot, Stirring away at something hot. (It smells so good, what can it be? Good gracious, it's Penelope.) The younger ones had Beatrix Potter With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter, And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland, And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and- Just How The Camel Got His Hump, And How the Monkey Lost His Rump, And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul, There's Mr. Rate and Mr. Mole- Oh, books, what books they used to know, Those children living long ago! So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install A lovely bookshelf on the wall. Then fill the shelves with lots of books, Ignoring all the dirty looks, The screams and yells, the bites and kicks, And children hitting you with sticks- Fear not, because we promise you That, in about a week or two Of having nothing else to do, They'll now begin to feel the need Of having something to read. And once they start -- oh boy, oh boy! You watch the slowly growing joy That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen They'll wonder what they'd ever seen In that ridiculous machine, That nauseating, foul, unclean, Repulsive television screen! And later, each and every kid Will love you more for what you did.
From "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", 1964. Sung by the Oompa-Loompas, upon the terrible fate that befalls Mike Teavee. The song is untitled in the original. Roald Dahl's gorgeously gruesome books have been thrilling me from a very young age, so it was with a sense of meeting old friends that I chanced upon a Dahl exhibition last night, at a bookstore here in Tokyo. I came home laden with a haul of goodies, which I promptly proceeded to read and reread, and it was in that process that I rediscovered today's poem. Immortal verse it might not be, but as a rant against television and a rave about the magic of books, it says all I've ever wanted to say. What more could one ask for? thomas. [Biography] born Sept. 13, 1916, Llandaff, Wales died Nov. 23, 1990, Oxford, Eng. British writer, a popular author of ingenious, irreverent children's books and of adult horror stories. Following his graduation from Repton, a renowned British public school, in 1932, Dahl avoided a university education and joined an expedition to Newfoundland. He worked from 1937 to 1939 in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika (now in Tanzania), but he enlisted in the Royal Air Force (RAF) when World War II broke out. Flying as a fighter pilot, he was seriously injured in a crash landing in Libya. He served with his squadron in Greece and then in Syria before doing a stint (1942-43) as assistant air attaché in Washington, D.C. There the novelist C.S. Forester encouraged him to write about his most exciting RAF adventures, which were published by the Saturday Evening Post. Dahl's first book, The Gremlins (1943), was written for Walt Disney and later became a popular movie. He achieved best-seller status with Someone like You (1953; rev. ed. 1961), a collection of stories for adults, which was followed by Kiss, Kiss (1959). His children's book James and the Giant Peach (1961; film 1996), written for his own children, was a popular success, as was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964), which was made into the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). His other works for young readers include Fantastic Mr. Fox (1970), The Enormous Crocodile (1978), and Matilda (1988; film 1996). Dahl also wrote several scripts for movies, among them You Only Live Twice (1967) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). -- EB There's more at [broken link] http://www.roalddahl.org/index2.htm [Minstrels Links] Poem #91, Cottleston Pie -- A. A. Milne Poem #463, Disobedience -- A. A. Milne Poem #562, The King's Breakfast -- A. A. Milne Poem #576, Tra-la-la, tra-la-la -- A. A. Milne Poem #799, Mr Toad -- Kenneth Grahame Poem #564, Warning to Children -- Robert Graves Poem #2, The Listeners -- Walter de la Mare Poem #725, Silver -- Walter de la Mare Poem #630, To Walter de la Mare -- T. S. Eliot Poem #809, Jim -- Hilaire Belloc Poem #811, The Insect God -- Edward Gorey