Our favourite poems for children

26 May 2016

A selection of our favourite children's poems, from William Blake to Robert Louis Stevenson.

A Smuggler's Song 
Rudyard Kipling

If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse's feet,
Don't go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street,
Them that ask no questions isn't told a lie.
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by.

Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark -
Brandy for the Parson, 'Baccy for the Clerk.
Laces for a lady; letters for a spy,
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by!

Running round the woodlump if you chance to find
Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-wine,
Don't you shout to come and look, nor use 'em for your play.
Put the brishwood back again - and they'll be gone next day!

If you see the stable-door setting open wide;
If you see a tired horse lying down inside;
If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore;
If the lining's wet and warm - don't you ask no more!

If you meet King George's men, dressed in blue and red,
You be careful what you say, and mindful what is said.
If they call you " pretty maid," and chuck you 'neath the chin,
Don't you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one's been!

Knocks and footsteps round the house - whistles after dark -
You've no call for running out till the house-dogs bark.
Trusty's here, and Pincher's here, and see how dumb they lie
They don't fret to follow when the Gentlemen go by!

'If you do as you've been told, 'likely there's a chance,
You'll be give a dainty doll, all the way from France,
With a cap of Valenciennes, and a velvet hood -
A present from the Gentlemen, along 'o being good!

Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark -
Brandy for the Parson, 'Baccy for the Clerk.
Them that asks no questions isn't told a lie -
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by! 

From Puck of Pook's Hill by Rudyard Kipling, chosen by Sophie. 

 

Time to Rise 
Robert Louis Stevenson

A birdie with a yellow bill
Hopped upon the window sill,
Cocked his shining eye and said:
'Ain't you 'shamed, you sleepy-head?'

From A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, chosen by Tom. 

 

The Tyger
William Blake

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water'd heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

From The Works: Every Kind of Poem You Will Ever Need at School, chosen by Mumbi. 

 

Henry King
Hilaire Belloc

The chief defect of Henry King
Was chewing little bits of string.
At last he swallowed some which tied
Itself in ugly Knots inside.
Physicians of the Utmost Fame
Were called at once; but when they came
They answered, as they took their Fees,
“There is no cure for this Disease.
Henry will very soon be dead.”
His parents stood about his Bed
Lamenting his Untimely Death,
When Henry with his Latest Breath,
Cried: “Oh, my Friends, be warned by me
That Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch and Tea
Are all the Human Frame requires . . .”
With that the Wretched Child expires

From Cautionary Verses by Hilaire Belloc, chosen by Lee.

 

How doth the little crocodile
Lewis Carroll

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!

How cheerfully he seems to grin!
How neatly spread his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!

From Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, chosen by Sophie.

 

The Fairies 
William Allingham

Up the airy mountain,
   Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
   For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
   Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
   And white owl’s feather!

Down along the rocky shore
   Some make their home,
They live on crispy pancakes
   Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds
   Of the black mountain-lake,
With frogs for their watchdogs,
   All night awake.

High on the hill-top
   The old King sits;
He is now so old and grey
   He’s nigh lost his wits.
With a bridge of white mist
   Columbkill he crosses,
On his stately journeys
   From Slieveleague to Rosses;
Or going up with the music
   On cold starry nights,
To sup with the Queen
   Of the gay Northern Lights.

They stole little Bridget
   For seven years long;
When she came down again
   Her friends were all gone.
They took her lightly back,
   Between the night and morrow,
They thought that she was fast asleep,
   But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since
   Deep within the lake,
On a bed of fig-leaves,
   Watching till she wake.

By the craggy hillside,
   Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn trees
   For my pleasure, here and there.
Is any man so daring
   As dig them up in spite,
He shall find their sharpest thorns
   In his bed at night.

Up the airy mountain,
   Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t  go a-hunting
   For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
   Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
   And white owl’s feather!

Chosen by Elle. 

 

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat
Edward Lear
 
The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
    In a beautiful pea-green boat.
They took some honey, and plenty of money
    Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
    And sang to a small guitar,
‘O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
    You are,
    You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!’
 
Pussy said to Owl, ‘You elegant fowl!
    How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
    But what shall we do for a ring?’
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
     To the land where the Bong-Tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood,
With a ring at the end of his nose,
    His nose,
    His nose!
With a ring at the end of his nose.
 
‘Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
    Your ring?’ Said the Piggy, ‘I will.’
So they took it away, and were married next day
     By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dinèd on mince, and slices of quince,
    Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand
  They danced by the light of the moon,
    The moon,
    The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
 
From 101 Poems for Children Chosen by Carol Ann Duffy, chosen by Naomi. 

 

Who Killed Cock Robin? 
Anon

Who killed Cock Robin?
"I," said the sparrow,
"With my litle bow and arrow,
I killed Cock Robin."

Who saw him die?
"I," said the fly,
"With my little eye,
I saw him die."

Who'll dig his grave?
"I," said the owl,
"With my spade and trowel
I'll dig the grave."

Who'll be the parson?
"I," said the rook,
"With my little book,
I'll be the parson."

Who will be chief mourner?
"I," said the dove,
"For I mourn my love,
I shall be chief mourner."

Who'll sing the psalm?
"I," said the thrush,
"As I sit in a bush.
I'll sing a psalm."

Who'll carry the coffin?
"I," said the kite,
"If it's not in the night,
I'll carry the coffin."

Who'll toll the bell?
"I," said the bull,
"Because I can pull,
I'll toll the bell."

All the birds of the air
Fell sighing and sobbing,
When the heard the bell toll
For poor Cock Robin. 

Chosen by Lauren. 

 

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