I was rummaging through some old books this weekend and I came across my Grandparents’ old copy of Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes by Col. D. Streamer (Harry Graham).
Have you heard of it? If not, you’re about to. As part of my Obscure Poetry journey I thought I’d share some of my favourite rhymes with you.
But first, a little background. Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes was published in 1898 and is full of delightfully cruel little rhymes, which are to the point and completely without moral.
The book was described in an editorial by the Times as embodying a world where ‘there are no values nor standards of conduct or feeling, and where the plainest sense is the plainest nonsense.’
Now, on with the rhymes. Enjoy!
Sam had spirits naught could check,
And to-day, at breakfast, he
Broke his baby sister’s neck,
So he shan’t have jam for tea!
The Stern Parent
Father heard his Children scream,
So he threw them in the stream,
Saying, as he drowned the third,
“Children should be seen, not heard!”
Nb I once read this poem (The Stern Parent) as part of my primary school’s Christmas production. My choice. I don’t think the teachers approved.
Nurse, who peppered baby’s face
(She mistook it for a muffin),
Held her tongue and kept her place,
“Laying low and sayin’ nuffin’”;
Mother, seeing baby blinded,
Said, “Oh, nurse, how absent-minded!”
The Fond Father
Of Baby I was very fond,
She’d won her father’s heart;
So, when she fell into the pond,
It gave me quite a start.
Misfortunes Never Come Singly
Making toast at the fireside,
Nurse fell in the grate and died;
And, what makes it ten times worse,
All the toast was burned with nurse.
I remember often reading these as a child, and pretending to find them funny to impress the adults, while all the while puzzling over why having jam taken away was a punishment.
As an adult I’m able to appreciate how bluntly hilarious and ahead of their time they are.
Oh, one more thing, the illustrations are great!