My Problem With Children’s Poetry

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

There is a branch of poetry I haven’t mentioned all that often or added to for countless years and that is the poetry we read or recite to little children. That’s right, dear friends, the Nursery Rhyme. Just seconds after our little bottoms were smacked by a doctor (no doubt to vent his or her frustration with the Government’s abuse of the medical profession by constantly cutting their fees and the notoriously slow payment for services rendered) someone began to rattle off a line or two of some ancient verse to welcome us tots to the world.

In a similar vein, we have the bedtime story, commonly known as fairy tales. As much as doting parents assume these little fables are comforting to a small child, they are not. In some cases, instead of feeling loved the wee tot is frightened so badly he or she wets the bed until they are thirteen or fourteen years old, not a good thing when asked to sleep over at a friend’s house. In my case, the Billy Goat Gruff and the Bridge Ogre story scared me so badly I was unable to cross the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls without heavy sedation. That same medication practically ruined my honeymoon. I was unable to perform until several months later and even then I was only rated 4.2, 3.6, 4.9, 3.8 and a shocking -1 by the panel of judges witnessing the event. The -1 came from my wife which I thought was unfair since she slept through it.

As I was saying, most parents read or recite nursery rhymes to the kiddies. Children are not stupid and perhaps we should take a serious look at a few of these verses. It is not my intention to compose a new nursery rhyme today, but to examine the old standbys.

Three Blind Mice is a classic example of misinformation and I have attempted to analyse it. We read this tale as Gospel truth to a child who already has his own computer and has piggy-banked on line since his or her second birthday.

Three Blind Mice

Three blind mice; see how they run

They all ran after the farmer’s wife

She cut off their tails with a carving knife

Did you ever see such a thing in your life

as three blind mice?

Here we have three visually impaired rodents poking along, their little white canes clicking away on the tile floor, and they come upon a farmer’s wife. It could possibly be a linoleum floor, but I do not want to upset the agricultural community by suggesting they are backward folk although some certainly are. I have a cousin who wears overalls with nothing on underneath and so does her brother.

Now this is a bit of a stretch because the three blind mice chase the old dolly. On a good day they can’t even find their own holes and off they go running willy-nilly after some old broad. I have to assume they cornered her in the kitchen. Now I certainly don’t condone cruelty to animals, but after all the old dear was under attack. She managed to open a drawer, take out a carving knife and de-tail the little rascals. However I must confess I find the whole story hard to believe.

Oh, not the three blind mice business or even the chasing, I can go along with that. It’s the carving knife I can’t accept. At my house I can never find one. Last Christmas I cut my finger rooting through the silverware drawer, couldn’t find the flippin’ carver and finally ended up hacking the stupid turkey to pieces with a paring knife. I was bleeding, my grandchildren were crying and my wife was on the phone to her lawyer.

Next we look at another classic, of British origin I would imagine since no sane Canadian would name a child, Georgie.

Georgie Porgie

Georgie Porgie, puddin’ and pie

Kissed the girls and made them cry

When the boys came out to play

Georgie Porgie ran away

That no doubt made perfect sense when the poem was written in 1805 or whenever, but not today. I propose we modernise the verse, in particular the last two lines

When the boys came out to play

Georgie Porgie kissed them too.

It doesn’t rhyme that’s true, but at least the poem is current with the views held here in the 21st century. Georgie swung both ways. Why, because he is bisexual and flaunts it. Georgie, far from being ashamed, is comfortable with his own sexuality. Unfortunately, the YMCAs around Britain at the time were not as accepting of his sexual proclivities and his membership was revoked after that shameful incident in the ladies’ change room.

This next rhyme has been around for centuries and although popular and relatively tame, so to speak, does serve as a warning for shepherds and shepherdesses.

Little Bo-Peep

Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep

And doesn’t know where to find them

Leave them alone and they’ll come home

Wagging their tails behind them

That is true unless they should happen to bump into the farmer’s wife,

Mary, Mary

Mary, Mary, quite contrary

How does your garden grow?

With silver bells and cockle shells

And pretty maids all in a row.

There is very little to be disturbed about in this rhyme per se. However what the tale fails to mention is Mary lives next door to a horse farm. Her garden does grow, that’s true, but some credit must be given to the bushel after bushel of fresh horse-poop she layers on it every spring.

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