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Television -- Roald Dahl

(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?
 '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.
-- Roald Dahl
 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?



 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

        -- EB

There's more at [broken link]

[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

63 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Lisa J Enever said...

What a genius this man was. So wonderfully irreverent and so funny and so TO THE POINT. What a shame it is that so many of our kids spend their lives with faces plastered against the TV screen. Books rule!


Shorter said...

On the poem Television - I love it - how true and how sad. I threw away our television once and it changed my son's personality - unfortunately it sneaked in again eventually. Now that my kids are grown I've been outvoted about it going. Ngaire Shorter

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Bac Pham said...

this poem is so funny but it is still very true
but i cant go a day w/out watchin tv
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jamster124 said...

if my parents ever touch my tv there dead !!!

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