February- To Read

The Tale of Custard the Dragon by Ogden Nash

A few months ago I was sitting in a writer’s group and we were talking about prompts for the next meeting. As usual, we talked about many other things and it devolved into a discussion on childhood. I shared that my Mom would read us kids poems. How much I loved them! My very favorite as a kid was The Tale of Custard The Dragon. The rest of the group said that they were not read poems to and that I was lucky to have grown up that way. I was shocked. Like many others, I felt everyone grew up like I did, listening to poems, reading stories, gospel and other religious music on Sunday, and all kinds of music every other day. My favorite music was anything Tchaivosky and Gilbert and Sullivan. Water Music by Handel was a close runner-up.

As did my mother so did I

Reading to my children was also something I did. Says something for the whole nurture side of rearing a kid. My grandma read to my mom and my mom to me and me to mine. Bedtime tales for my children as toddlers. I don’t think they were as enamored of the poetry as I was as a kid. Yet reading to them both gave them a boost to their imagination, which of course, boosts their problem-solving skills. A book with too many pictures does force them to “see” the action in their heads. What does a cowardly dragon look like?

When I grew up I had other favorites, such as Invictus by William Ernest Henley, but The Tale of Custard The Dragon by Ogden Nash remains my favorite of all poems. Here is that poem with Invictus following.

The Tale of Custard the Dragon

by Ogden Nash

Belinda lived in a little white house,
With a little black kitten and a little gray mouse,
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon,
And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.

Now the name of the little black kitten was Ink,
And the little gray mouse, she called her Blink,
And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard,
But the dragon was a coward, and she called him Custard.

Custard the dragon had big sharp teeth,
And spikes on top of him and scales underneath,
Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose,
And realio, trulio, daggers on his toes.

Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs,
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Belinda tickled him, she tickled him unmerciful,
Ink, Blink and Mustard, they rudely called him Percival,
They all sat laughing in the little red wagon
At the realio, trulio, cowardly dragon.

Belinda giggled till she shook the house,
And Blink said Week!, which is giggling for a mouse,
Ink and Mustard rudely asked his age,
When Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Suddenly, suddenly they heard a nasty sound,
And Mustard growled, and they all looked around.
Meowch! cried Ink, and Ooh! cried Belinda,
For there was a pirate, climbing in the winda.

Pistol in his left hand, pistol in his right,
And he held in his teeth a cutlass bright,
His beard was black, one leg was wood;
It was clear that the pirate meant no good.

Belinda paled, and she cried, Help! Help!
But Mustard fled with a terrified yelp,
Ink trickled down to the bottom of the household,
And little mouse Blink was strategically mouseholed.

But up jumped Custard, snorting like an engine,
Clashed his tail like irons in a dungeon,
With a clatter and a clank and a jangling squirm
He went at the pirate like a robin at a worm.

The pirate gaped at Belinda’s dragon,
And gulped some grog from his pocket flagon,
He fired two bullets but they didn’t hit,
And Custard gobbled him, every bit.

Belinda embraced him, Mustard licked him,
No one mourned for his pirate victim
Ink and Blink in glee did gyrate
Around the dragon that ate the pyrate.

Belinda still lives in her little white house,
With her little black kitten and her little gray mouse,
And her little yellow dog and her little red wagon,
And her realio, trulio, little pet dragon.

Belinda is as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chase lions down the stairs,
Mustard is as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard keeps crying for a nice safe cage.

Invictus

By William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.

Painting of George Frideric Handel (left, with right arm extended) with King George I of Great Britain, traveling by barge on the Thames River while musicians play in the background. The painting is an artist’s rendering of the first performance of Handel’s Water Music in 1717.
By Canaletto – http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/1669225, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=131960
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