poetry month: Milne

And the last one for today.

First I’ve got to come clean: I never have been much of a Winnie the Pooh fan. Even before Disney got hold of that dopey bear, the stories didn’t make much of an impression on me.

But A.A. Milne also wrote poetry for children, and that I can’t get enough of. I read many of his poems to the Girlchild when she was little and she could recite along with me on her favorites.

This poem (you MUST read it outloud to get the full effect) is my all time favorite of his.

The King’s Breakfast

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
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

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

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

The King said,
And then he said,
“Oh, deary me!”
The King sobbed, “Oh, deary me!”
And went back to bed.
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
“Nobody,” he said,
As he slid down
The banisters,
My darling,
Could call me
A fussy man –
I do like a little bit of butter to my bread!”

11 Replies to “poetry month: Milne”

  1. I saw the movie, then read the book a few years ago. The movie was ok, but the book made me cry and stayed with me for a long time. I never felt that John Coffey was stereotyped. Sure there was racism, but that was a reality of that time and place.

  2. It’s strange to me that I never heard the plot lines of this book/movie. I’ve never seen it, just clips when it was nominated for Academy Awards. And I wouldn’t have guessed the nature of the story or the racial overtones from those clips. Seems so long ago, I hardly remember what I saw, some prison scenes, Tom Hanks, the big black man, and that’s it.

    You’ve given me something to think about.

  3. I’ve been following the discussion and taking it in, but I’ve got a few questions.
    Is this an North American/British phenomenon? I don’t know how race is perceived in other countries (without history of black slavery) and if it effects how the stories would be viewed.
    Are MNs written exclusively by white authors?
    Is it an attempt to make modern-fairy tales? Not flattering of course, but I can see fairy godmothers etc. in a similar light.
    Lastly, what do you (anyone) think is the next step? Will the general public be so offended that MN cease to exist, or will other races be targeted?
    Just Curious-

  4. Fascinating discussion. I must admit, until I read your posts, I had never heard of the SDMN cliche. Being Asian however, I did notice that Asian characters tend to be stereotyped in movies. In many Hollywood movies, the Asian character is often protrayed either as a ‘wise teacher’ or ‘evil villain’. There are very few movies that portray Asians as real, complex characters.

    I’m not sure if the MN phenomenon exists in films made outside of Britain/US. But, in my experience of having watched many non-English language films, I would say that it is a stereotype that does not seem to appear in non-English language films. Which is not to say only English language films are the only ones with race stereotypes in them. In Asian films, you are not even likely to find a multi-racial cast. And if there is a character of a different race from the rest in the movie, that character is likely to be a minor, two-dimensional one or a (minor, two-dimensional) villain. Nobody complains about the lack of white characters in Asian movies though, never mind about stereotypes!

    As for Coffey, I agree with your analysis. I haven’t read the book, but I did watch the movie and I don’t think Coffey counts as an MN. For the simple reason that his race, as well as his ‘magical’ abilities are central to the story. As a matter of fact, his character, rather than that of Paul, is the one that’s central to the story. In most stories featuring an MN, it’s the white character who’s central to the story. If the MN did not exist, some other character, or some other plot device could have been found to achieve the same object. In Green Mile, Coffey IS the story.

  5. Doh,Rosina made my points about Coffey’s actions against Percy and Billy already! That movie and “Shawshank Redemtion” were two good examples of that time and place. Shawshank Redemtion,hmmm…

  6. I’ve let my elephant stay in the room all weekend, and he won’t go away. The Wikepedia definition of noble savage also fits the Christian version of Jesus. Before you posted it I was already thinking about these MN’s being, hmmm how shall I say it, literary versions of a Jesus figure. Even Jesus became important when viewed as “other,” that is, by Romans, Franks, etc. rather than by his fellow Jews. I think the DaVinci Code brouhaha was, to a large extent, the notion of descendents of Jesus, going against the MN tradition of “Kill off the MN so he won’t go forth and multiply.” Now how many people have I offended?

  7. Not me. Not offended in the least. It’s an interesting parallel, I’ll have to think about it.

  8. Tourist help, please! Daughter #2 wants the 2 of us to spend a week in/around Seattle next month. I only know it rains a lot. Do you have suggestions for sightseeing?

  9. I love it, it rolls off the tongue so sweetly. I am going to copy it and start reading it to my 2 year old. It sounds like a song, thanks rosina.

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