On the Topic of Terrifying Children’s Literature
One of our family’s favorite poets to read is Ogden Nash. He takes up hilarious, unusual topics and delivers them with such endlessly clever and surprising rhymes. I have much more to say about him another day, but Lynne’s post on Beatrix Potter and dark narratives for children got me thinking about one of Nash’s poems in particular: “Don’t Cry, Darling, It’s Blood All Right” from Parents Keep Out. I think our tendency as adults is to be shocked by the thought of reading something violent or cruel to children, assuming that those unsoiled, innocent little imaginations need to be protected. But in “Don’t Cry, Darling, It’s Blood All Right,” Nash offers a far different perspective on the matter:
Whenever poets want to give you the idea that something is particularly meek and mild,
They compare it to a child,
Thereby proving that though poets with poetry may be rife
They don’t know the facts of life.
If of compassion you desire either a tittle or a jot,
Don’t try to get it from a tot.
Hard-boiled, sophisticated adults like me and you
May enjoy ourselves thoroughly with Little Women and Winnie-the-Pooh,
But innocent infants these titles from their reading course eliminate
As soon as they discover that it was honey and nuts and mashed potatoes instead of human flesh that Winnie-the-Pooh and Little Women ate.
Innocent infants have no use for fables about rabbits or donkeys or tortoises or porpoises,
What they want is something with plenty of well-mutilated corpoises.
Not on legends of how the rose came to be a rose instead of a petunia is their fancy fed,
But on the inside story of how somebody’s bones got ground up to make somebody else’s bread.
They’ll go to sleep listening to the story of the little beggarmaid who got to be queen by being kind to the bees and the birds,
But they’re all eyes and ears the minute they suspect a wolf or a giant is going to tear some poor woodcutter into quarters or thirds.
It really doesn’t take much to fill their cup;
All they want is for somebody to be eaten up.
Therefore I say unto you, all you poets who are so crazy about meek and mild little children and their angelic air,
If you are sincere and really want to please them, why just go out and get yourselves devoured by a bear.
So there you have it: Beatrix Potter is just giving the kids what they want!