Carolyn Wells

(1869-1942 / the United States)

A Phenomenal Fauna


The Reg'lar Lark's a very gay old Bird;
At sunrise often may his voice be heard
As jauntily he wends his homeward way,
And trills a fresh and merry roundelay.
And some old, wise philosopher has said:
Rise with a lark, and with a lark to bed.


Although a learned Entomologist
May doubt if Humbugs really do exist,
Yet each of us, I'm sure, can truly say
We've seen a number of them in our day.
But are they real?--well, a mind judicial
Perhaps would call them false and artificial.


The Poppycock's a fowl of English breed,
And therefore many think him fine indeed.
Credulous people's ears he would regale,
And so he crows aloud and spreads his tale.
But he is stuffed with vain and worthless words;
Fine feathers do not always make fine birds.


The Haycock cannot crow; he has no brains,
No,--not enough to go in when it rains.
He is not gamy,--fighting's not his forte,
A Haycock fight is just no sort of sport.
Down in the meadow all day long he'll bide,
(That is a little hay-hen by his side.)


A Theory, by scientists defended,
Declares that we from monkeys are descended.
This being thus, we therefore clearly see
The Powder-Monkey heads some pedigree.
Ah, yes,--from him descend by evolution,
The Dames and Daughters of the Revolution.


The sportive Tree Calf here we see,
He builds his nest up in a tree;
To this strange dwelling-place he cleaves
Because he is so fond of leaves.
'Twas his ancestral cow, I trow,
Jumped o'er the moon, so long ago.
But he is not so great a rover,
Though at the last he runs to cover.


The Military Frog, as well you know,
Is the famed one who would a-wooing go.
And on the soldier's manly breast displayed,
He wins the heart of every blushing maid.
But, as a frog, I think he's incomplete,
He has no good hind legs that we may eat.


This animal of which I speak
Is a most curious sort of freak.
Though Serpent would its form describe,
Yet it is of the feathered tribe.
And 'tis the snake, I do believe,
That tempted poor old Mother Eve,
For never woman did exist
Who could its subtle charm resist.


Oft through the stillness of the summer night
We see the Brick Bat take his rapid flight.
And, with unerring aim, descending straight,
He meets a cat on the back garden gate.
The little Brick Bat could not fly alone,--
Oh, no; there is a power behind the thrown.


The Cat O' Nine Tails is not very nice,--
No good at all at catching rats and mice;
She eats no fish, though living on the sea,
And no one's friend or pet she seems to be.
Yet oft she makes it lively for poor Jack,--
Curls round his legs, and jumps upon his back.


Here's the Round Robin, round as any ball;
You scarce can see his head or tail at all.
He's not a carrier-pigeon, though he brings
Important messages beneath his wings.
And 'tis this freak of ornithology
They mean who say, 'A little bird told me.'


The Iron Spider is an insect strange,
He loves to stand upon a red-hot range.
Unlike his race, he's not an octoped,
He has but three legs and he has no head.
Had this but been the kind Miss Muffet saw
'Twould not have filled the maiden with such awe.


The Bookworm's an uninteresting grub,
Whether he's all alone or in a club.
Of stupid books which seem to us a bore,
The Bookworm will devour the very core.
Did Solomon or somebody affirm
The early reed-bird catches the bookworm?


The Black Sheep is a beast all men should shun--
He has no fleece yet fleeces every one;
Though without horns, oft with a horn he's seen;
Though not a lamb, he gambles on the green.
Perhaps he's not a sheep, as some suggest,
But a grim wolf who's in sheep's clothing dressed.


Time Flies are well-known insects; sages claim
That Tempus Fugit is their rightful name.
When we're on idleness or pleasure bent,
They sting our conscience and our fun prevent.
We hear them winter mornings ere we rise,
And oft in fly-time we observe Time Flies.


In country villages is found
The Apple Bee with buzzing sound.
And when our ears it does regale
We find a sting is in its tale.
As to its food,--the Apple Bee
Is fond of doughnuts, cheese and tea.


See the Welsh Rabbit--he is bred on cheese;
(Or cheese on bread, whichever way you please.)
Although he's tough, he looks so mild, who'd think
That a strong man from this small beast would shrink?
But close behind him follows the nightmare,
Beware of them, they are a frightful pair.


The Cricket Bat is very often seen
Flying perchance around the village green;
But unlike many other bats, its flight
Is always made by day and not by night.
There may be one exception though,--and that
Is when it's aimed at some stray neighboring Cat.


The Common Swallow is so swift of flight,
We scarcely see him ere he's out of sight.
One does not make a summer, it is true,
But many of them cause a fall or two.
The Swallow's strong when he is in his prime,
And yet a man can down him every time.


The Tomahawk's a fearsome bird, we deem;
Though feathered tribes hold him in great esteem;
A bird of prey, he whizzes through the air,
And clutches his pale victim by the hair.
Gory and grewsome,--he is the mainstay
Of the historic novel of to-day.


This is a Jail-bird. Isn't it a shame
To keep him in a cage and try to tame
His wild desires for freedom? See him droop
Behind his bars. He wants to fly the coop.
But to beguile his tedious, lonely hours
Kind ladies bring him nosegays of bright flowers.


This noble beast's impressive form is seen
'Mong the possessions of a king or queen.
Hard-favored, yet so valuable is he,
He's ever kept beneath a lock and key.
And, since his temper can't find vent in speech,
He stamps and punches everything in reach.


Here are two Fire Dogs--they are queer, indeed;
They seem to come of a three-legged breed.
They have no tails, their bark is on their back;
They hunt in couples, never in a pack.
The day's work over, 'tis a pleasant sight
To find them waiting by the fire at night.


This funny little Mackerel Kit
Is not like other cats a bit;
She cannot mew or scratch or purr,
She has no whiskers and no fur.
Yet, like all cats, her dearest wish
Is just to be filled up with fish;
But (and this isn't so feline)
She always takes them steeped in brine.


This is the merry Golf Lynx, as you see;
An amiable beast, and fond of tee.
Indigenous to all the country round,
His snaky length lies prone along the ground.
It is the fashion o'er this beast to rave,
But have a care, lest you become his slave.


The Traveling Crane's a bird, of course,
Yet he possesses wondrous force.
A bird of burden he must be,
He lifts and pulls so mightily.
And sometimes he will grasp his prey,
And with it rise and soar away.
His plumage is not fine, but then,
He's of the greatest use to men.


The Flying Buttress, every day and night,
Continues in his long, unwearied flight.
He's not a song-bird, but he's said to be
Famed for his beauty and his Symmetry.
He frequents an old abbey or a manse;
The ostrich eats him if he gets a chance.


In ocean waters the Sea Puss is found,
Cat-like, forever chasing round and round.
She has no claws, but crouching sly and low
She stealthily puts out her undertow.
And when an old seadog comes in her way
I'll warrant you there is the deuce to pay!


This is the Battering Ram, a fearful beast,
I think he weighs a thousand tons at least.
Stronger than any other kind of butter,
He goes his way calmly, without a flutter.
Big as an elephant, bigger than a horse,
He seems the best example of brute force.


Here's the Spring Chicken. I have heard
They manufacture this queer bird
From bits of leather and of strings
All joined and worked by tiny springs.
Whenever this fine fowl is broiled,
Each of his springs should be well oiled,
Or he may spring across the room
And plunge his carver into gloom.


The Shuttlecock's a handsome fowl to see,
His feathers grow straight upward like a tree.
He cannot crow, but oftentimes his flight
Will reach up to a most astounding height.
He is a gamecock, and, in fighting trim,
There are not many birds that equal him.


The Saw-Buck is a fearsome beast.
The tramp objects to it, at least.
When to the housewife he applies
For coffee or for apple-pies,
Right speedily he'll turn and leave her
When he is seized with Saw-Buck Fever.


The Pigeon Toad's a funny little beast,
He's found in every land from West to East.
The children bring him in, to our amaze,
And though we try to turn him out, he stays.
He's never seen with soldiers, nor with fops,
But with the schoolboys how he jumps and hops.


Perhaps because it's easily approached,
The Golden Buck's a game that's often poached.
'Tis sometimes mild, again 'tis strong and hearty,
It may be found at many a gay stag-party.
No branching antlers this strange beast adorn,
But with the Golden Buck we take a horn.


This is the Bumblepuppy. He's quite tame,
Although he's said to be a sort of game.
You scorn him, yet you must--ah, there's the rub--
Accept him at your table or your club.
He has his points, yet he's a pest, indeed;
I would we could exterminate the breed.


This useful animal we keep
To guard our treasure while we sleep.
A pointer, not a setter, yet
He's of no use unless he's set.
Gaze on his open, honest face,--
There's no deception in his case.
He is attached to us, 'tis plain,
Though often by a slender chain.


Here's the Gold Eagle. Very rare. They say
This bird is worth ten dollars any day.
He has no wings, apparently, yet I
Or you, or anyone can make him fly.
He's very powerful--held in great esteem;
And money talks, so let the eagle scream.


Of all the fearsome beasts beneath the sun
The Bugbear is the most appalling one.
At night he comes and hovers o'er our bed,
Filling us with a nameless fear and dread.
He is not half so terrible by day--
Sometimes he shrinks and dwindles quite away.


Among the stock jokes it is oft averred
The Irish Bull is best of all the heard.
He has no points, he has no head or tail,
But many a jovial party he'll regale.
And all his hearers will with laughter choke,
Except his brother John, who sees no joke.


'Tis very strange, and yet, upon my word,
This silly fellow thinks he is a bird!
He lives on hayseed,--everywhere he's found,
But in the country he does most abound.
And at the approach of winter, (more's the pity),
A flock of jays will migrate to the city.


Mis led by certain signs of form and shape,
Some think we are descended from the ape.
But recent science now the truth declares
The human race descended from Forebears.
And since we're so inclined to war, I'll wager
One of our Forebears was the Ursa Major.


The High Horse often takes a foremost place
Among the winners of the human race.
They say one needs both brawn and brain to ride him,
And even then 'tis very hard to guide him.
His jockeys gaily prance and boldly scoff,
But soon or late they're sure to tumble off.

Submitted: Monday, September 13, 2010

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