I bought a beautifully illustrated book of poetry at a charity sale today. It has lots of the classics as well as some I’ve never seen before. Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’ for instance , which I remember hearing at school. I wonder if the teacher would have read it to us if he had known that it was composed during a drug induced delirium?  

I loved it for its sounds, even when I did not understand the language, nor did I know where Xanadu was or what a zither sounded like.

Also included right at the back of the book are some of those silly rhymes so many English speakers learn when they are young, such as this one which, if heard, seems quite complicated, but when written down is much easier to understand:-

Whether the weather be fine
Or whether the weather be not;
Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not.

Did you notice the three different ways in words that sound like ‘weather’ were used?  

There was whether, meaning ‘if’ in this case. Then ‘weather’ referring to the current climate, and finally  there was ‘weather’ used as a verb meaning to endure. or to last out, as when a sailor might say that his boat ‘weathered the storm.’

Another poem taught to very young children is ‘Incy Wincy Spider’ It is a movement  rhyme as all the fingers are used to climb ‘up the water spout’ i.e. the drain pipe,  usually using someone’s  arm and then tickling them under the chin as a  finale. Even one year olds learn to squeal in anticipation and are playing the game long before they can say the words.

They even included ‘One potato, two potato; a game generations of youngsters have used when counting out sides for a game.  

Every language has such rhymes and games I’m sure. What are yours about? Often they have very ordinary topics relating to country life, as until quite recently more people lived in the countryside than in towns and big cities. The ordinariness of the topics doesn’t mean that they are any less fun.

My children have grown up loving poetry and word play. I remember my youngest daughter really laughing out loud for the first time at the silly sounds of a nonsense poem which began ‘On the Ning Nang Nong where the cows go bong.’ It was by comedian Spike Milligan and one day in a trip to Harrogate we went into a rather posh restaurant ( They don’t have any other kind there. It is that kind of place, but very nice.)  While we waited for our lunch someone pulled out a book  - it was Spike Milligan again, and she was soon reading out loud. We enjoyed it, but the people on the next table were choking on their treacle tarts as they tried not to laugh.  

I wonder what your favourite poem or rhyme is? What is the first one you remember?  Mine is probably a nonsense one about 5 little pigs which English mothers use as they dry a child’s toes after a bath. They point to the big toe first and then go along the line.

This little piggy went to market, (The big toe)
This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy ate roast beef,
And this little piggy had none.
And this little piggy (The little toe) 
Cried WEEE WEEE WEEE all the way home.

!Tip - Find a book of English poems, perhaps one meant for children, adults can enjoy them too, but the language will be simpler. Enjoy.

More silly rhymes.