Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Below are some of my favorite children's poems. It's chic to be interested in children's literature--thus, the topic, children's poems. The truth is, they are some of my favorites, and I'm an adult more than 3 times over.

For all you grandparents out there, here's a word to you. Memorize poetry and teach it to the little ones. If you don't get them before they reach eight, you'll never get them at all. Start as soon as they're talking. I say this to grandparents because most parents are too busy to memorize and teach poetry. As grandparents, if we're not memorizing and doing all sorts of other memory and verbal exercises, we'll be locked up sooner that we want to be.

So here are some poems I've memorized. I'll quote only so far as I know them. You can surf the web for the entire poems.

"The Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert Service

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold,
And the arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold.
The northern lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was the night on the marge of Lake LaBarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now, Sam McGee was from Tennessee
Where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the south to roam
'Round the pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold
Seemed to hold him like a spell,
Though he'd often say, in his homely way,
He'd sooner live in hell.

On a Christmas day we were mushing our way
Over the Dawson Trail.
Talk of your cold--through the parka's fold
It stabbed like a driven nail. . . .

"O Captain! My Captain" By Walt Whitman
(A tribute to Abraham Lincoln)

Oh Captain! My Captain!
Oh Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won.
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring,
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead. . . .

"September" by Helen Hunt Jackson

The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.
The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.
The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook,
From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes' sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.
By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And autumn's best of cheer. . . .

"My Shadow" by Robert Louis Stephenson

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed. . . .

"The First Snowfall" by James Russell Lowell

The snow had begun in the gloaming.

And busily all the night

Had been heaping field and highway

With a silence deep and white.

Every pine and fir and hemlock

Wore ermine too dear for an earl,

And the poorest twig on the elm tree
Was ridged inch-deep with pearl.

From sheds new-roofed with Carrara

Came Chanticlear's muffled crow;

The stiff rails softened to swan's down,

And still fluttered down the snow.

I stood and watched by the window

The noiseless work of the sky,

And the sudden flurries of snowbirds,

Like brown leaves whirling by.

I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn

Where a little headstone stood;

How the flakes were folding it gently,

As did robins the babes in the wood.

Up spoke our own little Mable,

Saying, "Father, who makes it snow?"

And I told of the good All-Father

Who cares for us here below.

Again I looked at the snowfall,

And thought of the leaden sky

That arched o'er our first great sorrow,

When that mound was heaped so high.

I remembered the gradual patience

That fell from the cloud like snow,

Flake by flake, healing and hiding

The scar that renewed our woe.

And again to the child I whispered,

"The snow that husheth all,

Darling, the merciful Father

Alone can make it fall!"

Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her;

And she, kissing back, could not know

That my kiss was given to her sister,

Folded close under deepening snow.

There are many more children's poems that I love. I'll end this post with a favorite the grandkids will enjoy.

(uncertain author, poem circulating on web)

The computer swallowed grandma.
Yes, honestly its true.
She pressed 'control' and 'enter'
And disappeared from view. . . .


  1. Thanks for those! I remember memorising 'My Shadow' for school, and we had to know 'The Jabberwocky' because we used it on my grandpa after a night out to test if he was sober enough to drive. (Not sure it would pass today's tests...) He could beat anyone in a poetry battle.

    I find it difficult to memorise poetry, but much easier if it's set to music. Here's a current favourite:

    © Jerry Bryant

    In Brooklyn, New York, at the turn of the century,
    Lived two young Norwegians so brave and so bold,
    Frank Samuelson only halfway through his twenties,
    George Harbo had just become thirty years old.
    Now, Harbo had spent all his life on the water,
    He shipped in square riggers when only a lad,
    His partner likewise was no stranger to working,
    No matter the task he gave all that he had.
    That year a rich publisher offered a challenge, That men in a vessel no matter the size,
    Couldn’t cross the Atlantic without steam or canvas,
    Ten thousand dollars he named as the prize.
    Now dredging up oysters by hand is no picnic,
    And these two Norwegians were tough as a whip.
    Says Frank, “If we row only four miles an hour,
    In fifty-four days we could finish the trip.”

    chorus “We’ll see you in France or we’ll see you in Heaven,”
    Cried Harbo and Samuelson out on the bay,
    Two hardy young oystermen after adventure,
    And no one believed they could row all the way.

    Obtaining a sponsor they started their training,
    They ordered a dory of cedar and oak. Just eighteen feet long with a draft of eight inches,
    Fox was the name of their cockleshell boat.
    On the sixth day of June, eighteen-ninety and six,
    Messrs. Harbo and Samuelson started to row.
    They took food and water to last them till August,
    And the newspapers said they were foolish to go.
    From the slips of Manhattan they rowed through the narrows,
    Out onto the gulf stream and over the deep,
    Each day they would row eighteen hours together,
    At night they took turns getting three hours sleep.
    Their stove wouldn’t light so they ate cold provisions,
    Their arms and their legs became swollen and cramped.
    The odd passing vessel that took them on board ,
    Was their only relief from the cold and the damp.
    Then out on the Grand Banks the weather attacked them,
    The wind humped the water into mountainous waves.
    They lashed down their oars and tied on their lifelines
    And prayed they were not going straight to their graves.
    Then out of the dark came a monstrous wave,
    Capsizing the Fox and her terrified crew,
    Their lifelines held fast, but they lost half their water,
    And most of their food it was swept away, too.
    They carefully rationed the little remaining,
    Praying for help as they rowed o’er the brine,
    Then, out in the distance they spied a tall ship,
    With the colors of Norway a floating behind.
    The Captain could not be convinced
    they weren’t crazy,
    But he gave them supplies and they went on their way.
    By the lines on the charts they were half-way to Europe,
    But now they must row sixty miles every day.

    The weather held fair
    and the two men kept pulling,
    All through each long day and far into each night,
    Then early one morning before the sun rose,
    Far out on the horizon they spotted a light.

    On August the first they made land off St. Mary’s,
    On the south coast of England just by Bishop’s Rock,
    In amazement the townsfolk gathered down by the water,
    Where Harbo and Samuelson barely could walk.
    Most men would have stopped there to bask in the glory,
    After having been sunbeaten, capsized and starved,
    But they were both back in their boat the next morning,
    And in less than a week they arrived at Le Havre.
    So those of you listening who yearn for adventure,
    Like Harbo and Samuelson so long ago,
    Like them, be prepared for the task you are facing,
    They were not only brave but by God they could row!

  2. I found your blog because I was searching for favorite childrens' poetry. Just last night I typed in a few words from a favorite but forgotten poem and found it, like an old friend.

    My mother had a couple of old books of children's poems--falling apart by the fifties--and I recall with fondness how she would read to us at bedtime.

    I was introduced to Robert Service while our family was driving to Alaska in the early sixties. Out of nowhere, my Dad started reciting "The Cremation of Sam Magee" and "The Shooting of Dan McGrew." His generation and earlier ones had been required to memorize poetry for class--I think that is a lost treasure now.

  3. Here is an old favorite of mine...

    Kitten's Night Thoughts
    by Oliver Herford

    When human folk put out the light
    And think they've made it dark as night,
    A pussycat sees every bit
    As well as when the lights are lit.

    When human folk have gone upstairs
    And shed their skins and said their prayers,
    And there is no one to annoy,
    Then Pussy may her life enjoy.

    No human hands to pinch or slap,
    Or rub her fur against the nap,
    Or throw cold water from a pail,
    Or make a handle of her tail.

    And so you will not think it wrong,
    When she can play the whole night long,
    With no one to disturb her play,
    That pussy goes to bed by day.