I can’t believe there’s no butter

AA Milne is, in my estimation at least, one of the finest poets for children. The power of his words can still bring a tear to my eye and I’m thirty years older than the recommended reading age (remember “King John was not a good man, he had his little ways, and sometimes no one spoke to him for days and days and days”?). His poems continue to delight children young and old, English or otherwise, but sadly haven’t yet made it onto the Italian schools curriculum. So I’ve taken it upon myself to introduce Christopher Robin et al to the bambini in my class and it’s been a great success. The poems have a pleasing rhythm and are repetitive, making them easy on young ears. The only criticism is that the vernacular is somewhat dated. One of my young charges, having devoured “The King’s Breakfast” stumped his teacher at school by proffering “dairymaid” when asked for an English word which began with “d”. I think she was expecting dog. Or Dad. Not wishing to embarrass my Italian counterparts further, I refrained from reading about poor Christopher Robin and his “wheezles and sneezles”.

Below is one of AA Milne’s most famous poems and the greatest ode to butter ever written. Now, living in a butter forsaken country I have more sympathy for the King than I ever did as a child. Keats wrote something about the eternal emotion and the power of poetry which is fine for the Italian curriculum but has no place here. For Keats never wrote about butter.

    The King’s Breakfast by AA Milne (illustrations by E H Shepherd)

The King asked
The Queen, and
The Queen asked
The Dairymaid:
“Could we have some butter for
The Royal slice of bread?”
The Queen asked the Dairymaid,
The Dairymaid
Said, “Certainly,
I’ll go and tell the cow
Now
Before she goes to bed.”

The Dairymaid
She curtsied,
And went and told the Alderney:
“Don’t forget the butter for
The Royal slice of bread.”
The Alderney said sleepily:
“You’d better tell
His Majesty
That many people nowadays
Like marmalade
Instead.”

The Dairymaid
Said “Fancy!”
And went to
Her Majesty.
She curtsied to the Queen, and
She turned a little red:
“Excuse me,
Your Majesty,
For taking of
The liberty,
But marmalade is tasty, if
It’s very
Thickly
Spread.”

The Queen said
“Oh!”
And went to his Majesty:
“Talking of the butter for
The royal slice of bread,
Many people
Think that
Marmalade
Is nicer.
Would you like to try a little
Marmalade
Instead?”

The King said,
“Bother!”
And then he said,
“Oh, deary me!”
The King sobbed, “Oh, deary me!”
And went back to bed.
“Nobody,”
He whimpered,
“Could call me
A fussy man;
I only want
A little bit
Of butter for
My bread!”

The Queen said,
“There, there!”
And went to
The Dairymaid.
The Dairymaid
Said, “There, there!”
And went to the shed.
The cow said,
“There, there!
I didn’t really
Mean it;
Here’s milk for his porringer
And butter for his bread.

The queen took the butter
And brought it to
His Majesty.
The King said
“Butter, eh?”
And bounced out of bed.
“Nobody,” he said,
As he kissed her
Tenderly,
“Nobody,” he said,
As he slid down
The banisters,
“Nobody,
My darling,
Could call me
A fussy man –
BUT
I do like a little bit of butter to my bread!

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