Monday, December 26, 2005

Poetry Corner: Little Willies.

As the possessor of a somewhat morbid sense of humor, I've always had a fondness for an obscure form of Humor in Verse from early in the last century: droll little poems known as "Little Willies". Allow me to share a few of the better ones:

Willie found some dynamite.
Couldn't understand it, quite.
Curiosity never pays;
It rained Willie seven days.

Little Willie, in bows and sashes,
Fell in the fire and was burned to ashes.
Though Winter's come and days grow chilly,
Noone wants to poke up Willie.

Willie and some other brats
Licked up all the Rough-On-Rats.
Father said when Mother cried,
"Never mind, they'll die outside."

...and my personal favorite:

Willie fell down the elevator.
Wasn't found 'til six days later,
When all the neighbors sniffed "Gee whiz!"
"What a spoiled child Willie is!"

Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week. Try the veal.


Anonymous said...

you've left out the best one!

Willie studied chemistry
But Willie is no more
For what he took for H20
Was HClO4


Anonymous said...

I told Willie 'bout the rock
At the far end ot the dock
He could never 'bide advise
Guess I should have told him twice

Anonymous said...

This is close to the other: Little Willie was a chemist Little Willie is no more, What he thought was H2O, was H2SO4

Anonymous said...

The original closing line on the chemistry verse is "was H2So4". I remember reading it and several other Little Willy verses in Collier's Magazine around 1952.


Anonymous said...

do you know eugene field's "little willie" poems?

Dave Holbrook said...


Willie poisoned Auntie’s tea
Auntie died in agony
Uncle came and looked quiet vexed
Really Will, he said, what next.

And a correction:

Willie dressed in best of sashes
Fell in the grate and burnt to ashes
Pretty soon the room grew chilly,
But no on liked to poke up Willie.

Anonymous said...

I was thrilled to find this sight.

I grew up being told to "poke up Willie".

I didn't realize there were "Willie" poems other than the fire one.

Little Willie, all dressed in sashes
Fell in the fire and was burned to ashes
By and by, the room grew chilly
But nobody wanted to poke up Willie. (that's the way I learned it)

Anonymous said...

Have been looking for the source of the Willy Lines for a long time! Ours from Grandpa differs a bit from the others:
Little Willie in his bright red sashes
Fell in the fire and burned to ashes
By and by the room grew chilly
'Cause nobody bothered to stir up Willy.
(Thanks all!)

Anonymous said...

Little Willie on the track
Heard the engine squeal;
Now the engine's coming back,
Scraping Willy off the wheel.

jim said...

my favourite:

Little Willie from the mirror
licked the Mercury all off
thinking in his childish manner
it would cure his whooping cough
at the funeral Willie's mother
smartly said to Mrs. Brown
'twas a chilly day for Willie
when the Mercury went down.

Jim Donahoe said...

This is the original passage from the book, Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes, by Col. D. Streamer, 1901:

Billy, in one of his nice new sashes,
Fell in the fire and was burnt to ashes;
Now, although the room grows chilly,
I haven't the heart to poke poor Billy.

Anonymous said...

Another Willie and the train goes:

Willie, in a rage insane,
Threw his head beneath the train.
All were quite surprised to find
How it broadened Willie's mind.

And good advice for all:

Dr. Joners fell in the well
And dies without a moan.
He should have tended to the sick
\And left the well alone.

Anonymous said...

Into the cistern little Willie
Pushed his little sister Lily
Mother couldn't find her daughter
Now we sterilize our water
Into his family's water well
Willie pushed his sister Nell
She's down there yet, the water kilt her
Now we have to use a filter.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if Ogden Nash wrote "Little Willy" verses? I'd heard he did. About 35 years ago, I was told two verses that differ from the others.

Willy by the fireside
fell into the grate and died.
Now although the room grows chilly,
No one has the heart to rake up Willy.

Willy by the elevator
wasn't found till 8 days later.
Now the neighbors sniff, "Gee whiz,
What a spoiled boy that Willy is!"

Anonymous said...

Here is one I remember.....

Little Willy, feeling swell
Pushed his sister down the well
Mother said while drawing water...
"it's so hard to raise a daughter!"

Susan said...

I'm so excited to find all these!My grandfather's version was

"Little Willy, mad as hell,
Pushed his sister down the well.
Said his father, drawing water,
"It sure is hard to raise a daughter"

He had another that started out something like:
Little Willy in a barrel
Heading toward the falls,...

Cant remember the rest! Ring a bell with anyone?

Susan said...

ah, it came back to me:

Little Willie in a barrel
Heading toward the falls.
Said his father "Sad's the day
When your children drift away."

Anonymous said...

When I was a boy, I had a tiny book entitled "Little Willies" which had been published in 1909Most of the poems in the book are on this web site. Here is another which I don't find here.

Willie heard a buzz-saw buzz
like a bike he thought it was.
Willie's corpse is full of nicks.
Ain't he cute: he's cut in six.

Brianne said...

My shorthand teacher, back in the 50's, sometimes wrote Little Willy verses on the blackboard for us to translate. The first one was,
"Willy with his curls and sashes fell into the fire and burned to ashes. Now, tho the room is getting chilly, no one wants to stir up Willy."

Anonymous said...

My Dad was great at Willy poems and used to recite them very often, always with a smile since they reminded him of his youth! Here is one which I believe has not been published:

Little Willy on his way to Harridge
tumbled out of the railway carriage,
his father and mother sorrow tasted
at seeing Willy´s ticket wasted.

Anonymous said...

In addition to some of those cited, I remember these from a school English class, probably high school circa 1950.

Willy in a thirst for gore
Nailed the baby to the door.
Mother said with humor quaint,
"Don't do that dear, you'll chip the paint."

Little Willy with a shout
Gouged the baby's eyeballs out,
Stamped on them to make them pop.
Mother said, "Now willy, stop."

This one not from school:

Little willy with a grin
Drank up all his father's gin.
Father laughed to see him plastered,
"Go to bed, you little bastard!"

The provenance of that one, I suspect, is much later than that of the classic ones.

Anonymous said...

My father-in-law taught me this one:

Little Willy took the garden shears
And cut off both of baby's ears.
On seeing baby so unsightly
Mother raised her eyebrows... Slighty.

Jofish said...

I'm glad I can add another:
Little Willie lit a rocket
Put it in his Father's pocket
Proudly said to Uncle Dan
"Daddy is a travelin' man"

Anonymous said...

Little Willie, in a fit of glee
Put radium in Grandma's tea.
Now he finds it quite a lark
To see her shining in the dark.

jessie27marie said...

This one comes from my sainted grandmother, Ada Cheever Duffey, descendant of Ezekiel Cheever, original headmaster of the Boston Latin School, proving that good seeds can go bad:

Little Willie, ever lovin'
Put the baby in the oven,
Burnt him to a crispy tan,
Now ain't he mama's little man?

What's in a name? said...

Oswald Chambers quoted it this way:

Little Willie in best of sashes
Fell in the fire and was burned to ashes
Later on the room grew chilly
But no-one cared to poke poor Willy.

Canguro6969 said...

Willy found some dynamite,
couldn't understand it quite,
curiosity never pays,
it rained Willy's for 7 days.

Anonymous said...

Here's one I remember from my childhood, some 65 years ago.

Little Willie in the tub,
Little Willie rub-a-dub.
Little Willie pulled the chain,
Little Willie down the drain.


Caleb said...

My grandmother (born 1888) liked "Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes, by Col. D. Streamer, 1901." The later edition I saw had cartoon illustrations. A rhyme I memorized went like this:

Bob was bathing in the bay
When a shark passed that way
And punctured him in seven places,
And he made such FUNNY faces!

joe said...

Little Willie with bat and ball,
Lined one down the schoolhouse hall.
Through his door came Mister Hill.
Several teeth are missing still.

Wren said...

Little Willie at a passing gent,
Threw a batch of fresh cement.
Crying, "Wait until you dry,
then you'll be a real hard guy."