From Cautionary Tales for Children, a book of verse written by Hilaire Belloc and illustrated by Basil T. Blackwood. Cautionary tales were popular during the Edwardian era, and Belloc’s were considered among the best. Described as “humorous poems with an implausible moral,” these stories seem written as much for the amusement of adults as for children.
Who ran away from his Nurse, and was eaten by a Lion.
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,
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—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—
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’ miserable end,
And always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.
From Cautionary Tales for Childen: Designed for the Admonition of Children between the ages of eight and fourteen years.
Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) was an orator, poet, satirist, man of letters, and political activist. He is most notable for his Catholic faith, which had a strong impact on most of his works, and for his writing collaboration with his friend, G. K. Chesterton. His most lasting legacy is probably his verse, which encompasses cautionary tales and religious poetry. (Read more at Wikipedia.)