Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town,
Up stairs and down stairs in his night-gown,
Tapping at the window, crying at the lock,
Are the children in their beds, for it’s ten o’clock?
Hey, Willie Winkie, are you coming in?
The cat’s singing purring sounds to the sleeping hen,
The dog’s sleeping on the floor, doesn’t give a cheep,
Why then such a wakeful boy, who will not fall asleep?
Anything but sleep you rogue! glowering like the moon,’
Rattling loud your iron jug, with your iron spoon,
Rumbling, tumbling round about, crowing like a cock,
Shriekin’ like some kinda ghost, waking sleeping folk.
Hey, Willie Winkie – the baby’s in her creel!
While you’re still a wriggling, squirming like an eel,
Tugging at the cat’s ear, confusing all her thrums
Hey there Willie Winkie – grab him here he comes!”
Weary is the mother with a dusty child,
Small short sturdy ones, that run a country mile,
Children that wage a battle, before they’ll close an eye
But one more kiss, from rosy lips, is strength anew to try.
I have been using this time of staying put indoors to clean out some closets and sort some items. I still have boxes from after my Mother’s death that I can’t quite figure out what to do. There is a box of children’s books that are not the originals from my childhood but are sturdier copies, less love worn, of some of the classics that she used in her kindergarten classroom for the final 20 years of her career. Books like the Velveteen Rabbit, Make Way For Ducklings, A Toad for Tuesday and many picture books. I sorted a box and a half and only found a couple that didn’t make sense to keep, not much help in winnowing the pile.
In among them was a newer book of children’s poetry. A mixture of modern verse and old classics and nursery rhymes. I was struck as I read so many of the nursery rhymes how perfectly metrical often the first stanzas that sound familiar to our ears and then subsequent stanzas of many feel broken and halting when read aloud. Is that because the words were not smoothed by millions of mothers and fathers reciting them each night? The first stanza is the one that was told, over and over and over again. Prior to all these screens that litter our houses, what did you do after the sun went down but read, make music and tell stories. Children learned the literature of their family through the rhymes they were told.
What is the literature of your family? Are their specific songs and rhymes that are part of your inner book? How many short verses can you recite from heart because someone in your life told them to you so many times to fill that space between bedtime and sleep? What poems are you keeping alive with your little ones, making sure the family treasure is passed down to the next generation?
Two Little Black Birds
Traditional Nursery Rhyme
(With a new verse by T. A. Fry)
Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill.
One named Jack and one named Jill.
Fly away Jack, fly away Jill.
Come back Jack, come back Jill.
Two little blackbirds flying in the sky.
One named Low and one named High.
Fly away Low, fly away High.
Come back Low, come back High.
Two little blackbirds sitting on a pole.
One named Fast and one named Slow.
Fly away Fast, fly away Slow.
Come back Fast, come back Slow.
Two little blackbirds sitting on a gate.
One named Early and one named Late.
Fly away Early, fly away Late.
Come back Early, come back Late.
Two little blackbirds sitting in a tree.
One named Fool and one named Free.
Fly away Fool, fly away Free.
Come back Fool, come back Free.
Retold in equity by T. A. Fry
(For no sister should be whipped for her brother’s clumsiness).