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Children's Poems by Casely-Hayford

The Vulture

The vulture's the untidiest bird that I have
    ever seen;
His nails are always dirty, his mouth is
    seldom clean.
He wears his waistcoat crooked, then he
    forgets his tie.
He wears his top coat inside out, and winks
    a lazy eye,
Then ogles up with flattery, whenever you
    pass by.
One sees from the whole jumble of clothing
    that he wears,
He sleeps without undressing, and he never
    says his prayers.
The vulture never has the time for a
    refreshing bath,
But muddles through its filth and dirt and
    never has a laugh.
The vulture's the unhappiest bird that ever
    lived, I ween.
No home, no friends, no people, and a heart
    unclean, unclean.


"Nancy, Nancy, where are you going?"

"Down to the brook to wash my clothes."

"How will you know the direction, Nancy?"

"I shall hear the brook singing and follow
    my nose."

"'What will you do when you got there, Nancy?"

"Wade into the stream, when I've climbed
    down the slope."

"And what will you do in the stream then,

"Soak the clothes well; then I’ll rub them
    with soap."

"But what will you do when you've soaped
    them, Nancy?"

"I shall beat them with my patta; I shall
    rub them,
Dub them, scrub them and bleach them in the

"Then what will you do when you've done that,

"Rinse them and dry them -- then my work is

[Patta = A kind of short paddle used for beating clothes clean]

The Ant

I met the daintiest little ant,
Her waist was slim and narrow --
    "I wonder if you've bones?" I asked,
    "And are they filled with marrow?
    Where are they situated,
    Is what I'd like to know?
    And are they lubricated
    Like people's bones or no?
    Surely you must have a skull,
    Protection for your brains,
    To know the rate and the exchange
    Of market goods and gains?"
But by the time I'd finished
My wonderful oration,
My dainty ant, distinctly bored,
Had changed her situation.

The Lizard

I met a handsome lizard upon the gravel walk,
And so I stopped politely and asked him for
    a talk;
He nodded once, he nodded twice to make his
    meaning plain,
Glanced up at me with wee bright eyes and
    nodded once again.

I said, "You live on flies. Do you eat them
    alive or dead?
And when you eat them, do they still keep
    buzzing in your head?"
He shrugged, then very haughtily inclined to
    me his ear
Insinuating it was time I made my meaning

"I'm sorry," I began, "but please, this
    question if I may;
Do you, Sir, shake your head for no and nod
    your head for aye?"
He glanced at me with cold disdain, ignoring
    me, until
He slowly and deliberately climbed on the
He turned, he nodded once, twice, thrice to
    make his meaning plain,
Glanced up at me, with wee bright eyes and
    nodded once again.


Said Baby Rat to Father Rat, "Why are you
    doing that?"

"To make another tunnel, son, away from

Said Baby Rat to Father Rat. "Say, Pa,
    whatever for?"

"Tradition says of exits, a rat should have
    quite four."

Said Baby Rat to Father Rat, "There's a
    fragrance on the breeze."

"It's nothing much, my son" Pa said, "but
    good odiferous cheese."

"Say, Pa, are you a carpenter?" enquired
    Baby Rat;

"My whiskers! What impertinence? Take
    this -- and that -- and that."

The squealing, yells and scampering feet,
    had their own tale to tell.
Pa Rat was thrashing Baby Rat, and he
    deserved it well.

The Leaf

"I am still alive, I cling to my parent
A young leaf was crying.
    "I am still

But the night wind caught her and held her
    soft sighing;
He had chilled her heart.
She was

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