Tuesday 19 April 2016

Oliver Herford's Book of Animals - Part Two

A second helping as promised…

The Tortoise is, to say the Least,
A very Contradictory Beast.
Though he may walk the wide world o'er
He cannot step outside his Door.
The Slowest Creature 'neath the Sun
He's Noted for a Race he Won.
Ignoblest of Created Things
His Shield has Many Quarterings,
and Lastly, though Devoid of Hair
His Combs are Famous Everywhere.

This noble Beast - But, why discourse 
Upon the Virtues of the Horse?
They are too numerous to tell
Save when you have a Horse to Sell.
No Beast has done so much as He
To elevate Society.
How could Society Get on
(Or off), my child, if He were gone?
We owe him Much, yet who can say
He ever asked us to Repay?
Ah, Child! How Bright the World would be,
If Creditors were All as He. 

Oh, shun the Crocodile, my child;
He is not Tractable and mild,
Nor like the Dog, the Friend of Man.
He's built upon a Different Plan,
He is not Diffident or Shy,
He will not shrink whey you say "Fie!"
and though he's said Sometimes to Cry,
Be not Responsive to his Wail,
Nor Pat him if he wag his Tail.
This Picture's true to Every Line
Except the Smile. (The Smile is mine.)

This Pleasing Bird, I grieve to own
Is now Extinct. His Soul has Flown
To Parts Unknown, beyond the Styx
To Join the Archoeopteryx.
What Strange, Inexplicable Whim
Of Fate, was it to banish him?
When Every Day the numbers swell
Of Creatures we could spare so well:
Insects that Bite, and snakes that sting,
and many another Noxious Thing.
All these, my Child, had I my Say,
Should be Extinct this very Day.
Then would I send a Special Train
To bring the Do-do back again.

The Devil fish, or Octopus,
Has often been Held Up to us
To typify the Greedy Lusts
Of Grasping Syndicates and Trusts.
This Picture (from an Early print)
Gives us, if true, a Fearful Hint
Of his Great Size, and throws some Light
On his tremendous Appetite.
But let us, Child, whate'er we do,
Give the poor Devil fish his Due!
The Picture, I forgot to say,
Is Quite Untrue in every way.
The Moral's Plain as Plain can be:
Don't believe Everything you See. 

Oliver Herford’s Book of Animals
With pictures by the Author.
Published by Bickers & Son, London, 1906.

This one hundred and ten year old book is not in the best of condition. It has been used and enjoyed over the years, and that is what gives it its character. If you would like to know more about Oliver Herford, please see last weeks post here.

Could this be the 'early print' referred to in the Octopus poem?

*Pierre Dénys de Montfort , 1810

Thanks for calling in, have a great week.

*Pierre Dénys de Montfort  was a French naturalist, remembered for his pioneering inquiries into the existence of the gigantic octopus. Wikipedia 


  1. These are wonderful, Barabara. I especially love the octopus, and think that's definitely the 'early print' that's referred to. The size is exaggerated, somewhat.

    Thank you for sharing these.

    Have a perfect evening xx

    1. Thank you Yvonne, they are pretty special aren’t they. Have a lovely rest of the week. x

  2. Love these, especially the tortoise. Do you remember our "Big Fred" that we had at Northbrook, Barbara? xxx

    1. I do Sue. Do you remember the one we put in the bedroom cupboard to hibernate? The poor thing didn’t survive the winter which just proves how cold it was in that bedroom. I used to collect icicles and see how long they would stay frozen in that cupboard so why did I think the tortoise would be warm enough? xx

  3. Wonderful Barbara! You know I love animals and this is just delightful! The poems are informative as well as lyrical! I must go back and read your previous post! Well you may guess what my post will be this week.. the image of the turtle reminds me to keep and eye out for them around our little lake, still haven't seen any yet. A few of our frogs have returned and I am thrilled! Have a splendid week!
    ~ Diane

    1. Hi Diane, I misread your Tweet and assumed both the frogs, and turtles had returned. But it’s exciting to know the frogs are back – I will keep my fingers crossed for the turtles.
      I’m so pleased you enjoyed this post thank you for leaving a comment. xx

    2. Hi Barbara... just back reading through some of your past posts that I missed and saw your reply... well the turtles may be back, but they are very shy, often we just hear the splash as they jump back into the water after sunning themselves. We had a mild winter, so they should have made it through with no problems. Off to read more...

    3. I've been thinking about the frogs and turtles since your post of last year so it's really good to know they are back.

  4. Ooooo, my favorite of all, THE HORSE! What sweet rhythm and rime to pay hommage to the creatures of fairytale and every day life once upon a time....

    1. Hello Anita, I just knew you would enjoy these. Thank you so much for calling in. Barbara x

  5. Lovely poems and drawing...I put drawings,
    as l can't spell illustrations...! And, l
    have to confess, l love things in black/white.
    I think pictures look better in black and white,
    and dare l say it..sexier! :)

    My favourite would be the octopus..! Marvellous
    and interesting creature...Oh! and very nice to
    eat to! Especially made as a Ragu..Typical Sicilian
    dish...And, when l make it...HeHe! Less said..! :).

    The octopus reminded me of one of Ronnie Corbett's
    monologues...on The Two Ronnie's.....
    A keeper, on his first day working in a zoo, was
    asked to clean out the octopus tank. He was give a
    shovel, and told to get on with it...Off he went, but,
    every time he prised a tentacle away from the glass,
    the octopus would put one back on the glass! And, so
    it went on. After a couple of hours, he went back to
    the keeper, and told him, he was'nt having any luck!
    He then ask...What was the shovel for...?
    The keeper then said....Well..You take the shovel, and
    'hit' the octopus over the head with it..When he grabs
    his head with his eight tentacles...You just lift him out
    of the tank! :0).

    1. Much like you Willie, Ronnie Corbett always made me laugh. I enjoyed the story of the octopus thank you for sharing it.

      I can’t say I’ve ever eaten octopus. It's bad enough eating something with four legs never mind eight! Terry tells me it can be very tasty – so I will take his and your word for it. I’m very unadventurous when it comes to food. Give me a nice green salad any day!

      Have a lovely day Willie, enjoy the sunshine. xx

    2. HeHe! Now look...An octopus has arms...
      Not legs...!! :). Commonly known as tentacles,
      Phew! Glad l spelt that right...! :).

      I just been reading about Oliver Herford....
      Also known as the American Oscar Wilde..!
      He was also known for his sayings/quotes...
      This one l like...
      'A woman's mind is cleaner than a man's...
      She changes it more often'. :0).

      With that sheer brilliance..I'm off for a
      lemon tea and a fruit scone out on the patio!

    3. Smarty pants!
      We are having lunch out today; I shall disregard all the legs and arms! On the menu and eat something green and wholesome.
      Enjoy your lemon tea. x

  6. These are quite splendid. I love the style and typography, and the verses are brilliant! Their wit reminds me a little of the verses by Ogden Nash which accompany Saint-Saens 'Carnival of the Animals'. When I was a little girl, we had a record of that with Noel Coward reading the verses.

    1. Hi Sue, I didn’t give a thought to Ogden Nash but having just read the ‘Carnival of the Animals' I see exactly what you mean. I was reminded of Edward Lear and his alphabet poem -
      A was once an ant,
      In the groundy
      Little ant!


  7. Loving this feature. Having always wanted a tortoise as a child I was especially taken with this verse.

    1. Hi Tracy, I’m so pleased you enjoyed it.

  8. That is wonderful. I love animals and poetry. Thank you.

    1. Thanks so much Eve. I’m overdue a visit to your blog, which is rather nice because it gives me something to look forward to. I will be over in the next couple of days. x

  9. Dear Barbara, I chuckled at the realization that the tortoise, being bald, has been used to make combs! Never saw that irony until now. This 110-year-old book is a treasure. And yes, I wish there's a special train that'd bring the do-do back!

    I'm off to check out the first post now. Sorry I missed it. I was on a family vacation. The nieces were sick throughout. Still we managed to have a nice time. Hope you and Terry have a great weekend ahead!

    1. Hello Claudine, it somehow didn’t dawn on me that tortoiseshell combs were actually made from tortoise shell! That sounds really silly but I always imagined it was some kind of imitation tortoiseshell – not the real thing! Thank goodness the trade is now banned.
      I’m glad you enjoyed your holiday despite your nieces being unwell. Thank goodness you didn’t catch whatever it was. Thanks for your kind wishes. We wish the same for you. xx

  10. Hi Barbara, Thank you for finding me via Carolyn and visiting me. I have been enjoying reading your blog and revisiting old favourites from my childhood! Sarah x

    1. Hi Sarah, thank you so much for returning the visit, it’s lovely to have you here. Barbara x

  11. Dear Barbara,

    These old books are wonderful and I really love the sweet illustrations. Thanks for sharing and I am pleased that you found Sarah and her lovely blog.
    Happy Sunday

    1. Hello Carolyn, I’m so pleased you enjoy these books. It's lovely to share them.
      I’m a big fan of Sarah’s blog already – thanks to finding it via your blog.
      Hugs back, Barbara.

  12. When books are well loved for many years it gives them extra charm and I feel like they hold extra stories in them from all the readers who have left a bit of themselves in the pages. :)

    What a great book! I especially love the one about the tortoise.

    1. Stephanie you are so right! There is a shared history with books, and it’s something you can almost feel.

  13. Oh, Barbara - you really do find some amazing books and some wonderful people to comment on your posts. What would we do without you? Xxx

    1. Thank you for that Marilyn, you made my day! But it’s the people who comment that make the blog. xxx


I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx