A Sampling of Poems by Laura E. Richards



Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant--
No! no! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone--
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I've got it right.)
Howe'er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee--
(I fear I'd better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

From The Hurdy-Gurdy (1902):


I sat beside a lady fair,
     A lady grave and sweet;
Withal so wise, that well I might
     Have sat me at her feet.
She stooped to pat the puppy dog
     That gambolled at her knee;
And when she spoke, 't was in a tongue
     Was wholly strange to me.
"A wizzy wizzy woggums, then!
     A ditty dotty doggums, then!
And diddy wanty dumpy up?
     A pitty witty pessums pup!"
I spoke to her of foreign climes,
     Of politics and popes;
Of Bishop Bylow's pious rhymes,
     And General Jingo's hopes.
She answered well and wittily,
     Then turned her eyes aside,
And tenderly she whispered to
     The creature by her side.
"A pupsy wupsy keeter, then!
     Was never nossing sweether, then!
A teenty tawnty tiny tot,
     A lovely dovely darling dot!"
I rose at length and strolled away,
     Not wishing to intrude;
Yet thought perhaps she'd bid me stay,
     And rather hoped she would.
But no! she never raised her head.
     I turned the corner near,
And as I went, her silver tones
     Still floated to my ear.
"A toodle toodle toodle, then!
     A wisky wasky woodle, then!
A 'toopid manny gone, my joy,
     My diddy doddy dorglums boy!"


Little Prince Tatters has lost his cap!
     Over the hedge he threw it;
Into the river it fell Kerslap!
     Stupid old thing, to do it!
Now Mother may sigh and Nurse may fume
For the gay little cap with its eagle plume.
"One cannot be thinking all day of such matters!
Trifles are trifles!" says little Prince Tatters.
Little Prince Tatters has lost his coat!
     Playing, he did not need it;
     "Left it right there, by the nanny-goat,
     And nobody never seed it!"
Now Mother and Nurse may search till night
For the new little coat with its buttons bright;
But "Coat sleeves or shirt sleeves, how little it matters!
Trifles are trifles!" says little Prince Tatters.
Little Prince Tatters has LOST HIS BALL!
     Rolled away down the street!
Somebody'll have to find it, that's all,
     Before he can sleep or eat.
Now raise the neighborhood quickly, do!
And send for the crier and constable, too!
"Trifles are trifles, but serious matters,
They must be seen to," says little Prince Tatters.
Commentary and illustrations for "Prince Tatters"


Once a Gargoyle and a Griffin
Thought they'd go and take their tiffin
With the eminent Confucius, just outside the temple wall;
So they started off together
In the charming Chinese weather,
But when they reached the spot, Confucius was n't there at all.
He had gone to the Bazaar, sir,
With his little cup and sarcer,
For an emptiness was in him that he could not well abide;
And there he saw a Gorgon,
Who was playing on the organ,
A sight that's rare in China, and in other lands beside.
The Gargoyle and the Griffin
Gave a mournful, scornful sniff in
The direction of the temple, then they followed on his track;
For they said, "There may be food there,
And the cigarettes are good there,
And if Confushy does not treat, we'll treat him -- to a whack!"
So they toddled on together
In the charming Chinese weather,
Till they reached the great Bazaar where all the people used to go.
And they too saw the Gorgon,
Who was playing on the organ,
And they said, "What may this creature be, we do not, do not know!"
Now Confucius was retiring
In his nature, and admiring,
He stood behind the Gorgon while he listened to her lay;
But the other two stood staring
With their goggle-eyes a-glaring,
Till the Gorgon chanced to look at them; and then -- alas, the day!
Said the Gargoyle to the Griffin,
"Sir, I feel a trifle stiff in
My joints, and I propose that we retire from this spot!"
Said the Griffin to the other,
"I would gladly go, my brother,
But a feeling's o'er me stealing that retire I -- can -- not!"
Not for long they made their moan there;
They were both turned into stone there,
And their stony, bony carcasses adorned the public way;
While the cheerful little Gorgon
Played away upon her organ,
And enjoyed herself immensely the remainder of the day.
But the Eminent Confucius
Cried aloud, "My goodness grucious!
My neighbors are converted into granite in my sight.
Let me flee from this Bazaar, sir,
With my little cup and sarcer,
For really, for the moment, I have lost my appetite!"

From The Piccolo (1906):

The Rummy-jums, the Rummy-jums,
     Are very funny people;
(Very, very, very, very,
     Very funny people!)
They run as hard as they can go,
     And clamber up the steeple;
(Clamber-climber, climber-clamber,
     Clamber up the steeple!)
And when they get up to the top,
They say, "Good gracious, we must stop!"
And turn about with grief and pain,
And clamber-climber down again.
The Viddipocks, the Viddipocks,
     Have very pretty bonnets;
(Very, very, very, very,
     Very pretty bonnets!)
And when they wear them upside down
     They write most lovely sonnets;
(Lovely-dovely, dovely-lovely,
     Lovely-dovely sonnets!)
And sitting on the new-mown hay,
They wirble-warble all the day;
"For oh," they say, "at such a time,
Our very ribbons flow in rhyme!"
The Wiggle-wags, the Wiggle-wags,
     They never know their mind, sir;
(Never, never, never, never,
     Never know their mind, sir!)
Sometimes they hook their frocks before,
    (Hook them, crook them, crook them, hook them,
     Hook them up behind, sir!)
And first they turn them inside out,
Then outside-inside with a shout;
"For oh," they say, "there's no one knows
Which way the most our beauty shows!"


As Jeremi' and Josephine
Were walky-talking on the green,
They met a man who bore a dish
Of (anything you like to wish!)
They stared to see the man so bold;
They really thought he must be cold,
For he was clad, though chill the day,
In (anything you choose to say!)
The man returned their stare again;
But now the story gives me pain,
For he remarked in scornful tone,
(I'll let you manage this alone!)
And there is even worse to come;
The man (I've been informed by some)
Inflicted on the blameless two
(I leave the punishment to you!)
This simple tale is thus, you see,
Divided fair 'twixt you and me,
And nothing more I've heard or seen
Of Jeremi' or Josephine.


This is the Wiggledywasticus,
     Very remarkable beast.
Nose to tail an eighth of a mile;
Took him an acre or two to smile;
Took him a quarter 'f an hour to wink;
Swallowed a pond for his morning drink
Oh! would it had been vouchsafed to us
Upon the Wiggledywasticus
     Our wondering eyes to feast!
This is the Ptoodlecumtumpsydyl,
     Rather unusual bird.
Hand a mouth before and behind;
Ate whichever way he'd a mind;
Spoiled his digestion, so they say,
Pindled and dwindled quite away,
Or else he might have been living still,
The singular Ptoodlecumtumpsydyl.
     A pity, upon my word!
This is the Ichthyosnortoryx,
     Truly astonishing fish.
Used to snort in a terrible way;
Scared the lobsters to death, they say;
Had a nose like a tea-kettle spout;
Broke it snorting, and so died out.
Sad! if he had n't got into this fix,
We might have made of the 'Snortoryx
     A very acceptable dish.

[A Lesson in Politeness]

Alphonso, Alphonso, Alphonso and Arabella
     They happened to meet
     A man in the street,
Who carried a gingham umbrella.
Alphonso possessed neither manners nor grace,
He made at this person a hideous face;
But how different the conduct of sweet Arabella,
Who praised with politeness the gingham unbrella.
The man was a nobleman, deeply disguised;
The compliment courteous he pointedly prized;
"Sweet creature," he said, "come away from this feller,
And take both my heart and my gingham umbrella!"
The very next morning they met in the church,
And foolish Alphonso was left in the lurch;
And they said, "In the future you'll know how to tell a
Great lord from a loon, by his gingham umbrella!"


In Araby, in Araby,
In Araby the blest,
There lived a man who thought he'd like
To travel to the west.
On a lumpy humpy camel he
Departed with hs family;
His uncle's name was Sammy Lee,
But I forgot the rest.
From Araby, from Araby,
From Araby the free,
They amble-ramble-gambolled
Till they came unto the sea.
But the camel could not swim, you know,
It disagreed with him, you know,
He waved his hinder limb, you know,
And yelled ferociously.
To Araby, to Araby,
To Araby the fair,
They turned their faces home again
In anguish and despair.
But the camel, they'd such grief of him,
They wished to find relief of him,
And so they made corned beef of him,
And ate him then and there.

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