Poetry Friday: The ABC (Spike Milligan)

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The ABCA lovely antidote to last week’s sad affair! One of the fabulous things about literature, and poetry in particular, is that there’s something suitable for all occasions and this is a great cheerful poem from a great nonsense writer. I’m not often a fan of nonsense poetry – as a writer and teacher I love searching for hidden meanings, and the way that poetry expresses emotions in perfect little translucent bubbles of language.

But – I love this poem. The second stanza for some reason sticks in my head more than any other poem I know! I think it’s so playful and entertaining, and obviously the work of someone who loves language – the use of LL making I Ill and then J rushing in to save the day is a brilliant image, along with H’s frustration of being dropped all the time! It conjures up that magical scene of the schoolroom or playroom after dark, when everything comes to life. As a poem too it sounds so playful. Milligan’s use of rhythm makes it energetic and fun, while the rhyme  adds to that memorability which suggests a poem that could be learned by heart just for the fun of it. When I have children, a version of this will definitely be going on their wall!

The ABC

‘Twas midnight in the schoolroom
And every desk was shut
When suddenly from the alphabet
Was heard a loud “Tut-Tut!”

Said A to B, “I don’t like C;
His manners are a lack.
For all I ever see of C
Is a semi-circular back!”

“I disagree,” said D to B,
“I’ve never found C so.
From where I stand he seems to be
An uncompleted O.”

C was vexed, “I’m much perplexed,
You criticise my shape.
I’m made like that, to help spell Cat
And Cow and Cool and Cape.”

“He’s right” said E; said F, “Whoopee!”
Said G, “‘Ip, ‘Ip, ‘ooray!”
“You’re dropping me,” roared H to G.
“Don’t do it please I pray.”

“Out of my way,” LL said to K.
“I’ll make poor I look ILL.”
To stop this stunt J stood in front,
And presto! ILL was JILL.

“U know,” said V, “that W
Is twice the age of me.
For as a Roman V is five
I’m half as young as he.”

X and Y yawned sleepily,
“Look at the time!” they said.
“Let’s all get off to beddy byes.”
They did, then “Z-z-z.”

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