Poem a Day 2014: Kings and Queens in Verse (#6)

Hardback book coverTo strike a playful note for today, the poem I chose comes from a lovely children’s book titled Kings and Queens, by Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon, illustrated by Rosalind Thornycroft. This book was first published in 1932, and my new edition was published by the British Library in 2011.

Of course every good little anglophile should know their English kings and queens; this book documents every English monarch, from William I (1066) to the current queen Elizabeth II, with a witty poem and a striking illustration. What caught my attention was the complex meter each poem uses; today’s choice, a poem about the terrible king Edward II (the first Marlowe play I ever saw), uses a triple rhyme scheme to great effect. As you should be doing with all these poems, please read it aloud:

The lovely work of Rosalind Thornycroft

The lovely work of Rosalind Thornycroft

Edward II


Edward the Second

Is commonly reckoned

One of the feeblest of all of our kings.

Favours he lavished on

Pretty Piers Gaveston,

Giving him duchies and riches and rings.

This sugar-candified

Puffed-up and dandified

Man defied all of the Barons with sneers,

Playing his foolery

Dressed up in joolery

Sent by King Ned to his Sugar-plum Piers.


Though Ned was mad about

This giddy gadabout,

Others had had about all they could bear;

So the King’s favourite

They made to pay for it

On a find day for it, spring in the air.

When those that hated Piers

Decapitated Piers

Edward was sorry, but everyone said,

“We executed him

Seeing it suited him–

Long ere we cut it off, Piers lost his head.”

NPM from feministing

This entry was posted in History, Literature, National Poetry Month and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Poem a Day 2014: Kings and Queens in Verse (#6)

  1. Karen Hadley says:

    You have made my day. I had a VERY early, threadbare copy of this book, bought for me by my older brother at a library sale in the early 70s. I had it and loved it for years. I have most of the poems memorized. Sadly, it was lost in a house fire in 2002. I could never find the names of the authors (in order to try to obtain another copy) until I found your post. (I entered the first line of Edward II on google!) Thank you so much for posting this!


  2. Anne Warburton says:

    I too loved this book as a child. My love of and interest in British history is based on these lively, witty poems. I borrowed the book from the local library again and again until my parents finally bought the book for me. Then it got lost along with other childhood stuff when I grew up and moved away. I’m able to find the actual poems here and there, but not those wonderful illustrations. Thank you so much for posting them here.


    • You are so welcome!


      • Ms Anne F Warburton says:

        My favourite was a serious one; the one about Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Battle of Culloden. The subject monarch was George II.
        The second George in England rules
        With heavy pomp and splendour
        But stlll there are romantic fools
        Who love the Young Pretender….


  3. David Brownstein says:

    This was the book that accompanied me throughout my 1950s childhood. Edward Il has always been my absolute favourite , with Henry VIII running it a close second. Those complex triple rhymes are so intoxicating, as is the misspelling of ‘joolery’ and the musicality of ‘duchies and riches and rings’, with ‘riches’ echoing ‘duchies’ with its second syllable and pre-echoing ‘rings’ with its first. The writing is so skilled and so spirited – I am sure my lifelong love of poetry was born on the pages of this book.


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