Selection of poems from Quercus Poems for Children


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Scroll down to Book 4 for Kipling's A Smuggler's Song



Book 1, Hurt No Living Thing


Hurt No Living Thing


Hurt no living thing;

Ladybird, nor butterfly,

Nor moth with dusty wing,

Nor cricket chirping cheerily,

Nor grasshopper so light of leap,

Nor dancing gnat,

Nor beetle fat,

Nor harmless worms that creep.                                                 


Christina Rossetti



The Tickle Rhyme


“Who’s that tickling my back?” said the wall.

“Me,” said a small

Caterpillar. “I’m learning

To crawl.”


Ian Serraillier



The Blackbird


In the far corner,

close by the swings,

every morning

a blackbird sings.


His bill’s so yellow,

his coat’s so black,

that he makes a fellow

whistle back.


Ann, my daughter,

thinks that he

sings for us two



Humbert Wolfe



The Owl and the Pussy-cat


The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea

    In a beautiful pea-green boat.

They took some honey, and plenty of money,

    Wrapped up in a five-pound note.

The Owl looked up to the stars above

    And sang to a small guitar,

“O lovely Pussy, O Pussy, my love,

    What a beautiful Pussy you are,

          You are

          You are

What a beautiful Pussy you are!”


Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl,

    How charmingly sweet you sing!

O let us be married, too long we have tarried,

    But what shall we do for a ring?”

They sailed away for a year and a day,

    To the land where the Bong-tree grows,

And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood

    With a ring at the end of his nose,         

          His nose

          His nose

With a ring at the end of his nose.


“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling

    Your ring?”  Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day

    By the Turkey who lives on the hill.

They dined on mince and slices of quince,

    Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

    They danced by the light of the moon,

          The moon

          The moon

They danced by the light of the moon.


Edward Lear


A Spike of Green 

When I went out

The sun was hot

It shone upon

My flower pot.


And there I saw

A spike of green

That no one else

Had ever seen!


On other days

The things I see

Are mostly old

Except for me.


But this green spike

So new and small

Had never yet

Been seen at all!


Barbara Baker




From Book 2, Mrs Malone 




Cats sleep


Any table

Any chair

Top of piano


In the middle

On the edge

Open drawer

Empty shoe


Lap will do

Fitted in a

Cardboard box

In the cupboard

With your frocks


They don’t care

Cats sleep



Eleanor Farjeon



A Limerick


There was an Old Man with a beard,

Who said: “It is just as I feared! –

Two Owls and a Hen,

Four Larks and a Wren,

Have all built their nests in my beard!”


Edward Lear


The Donkey

I saw a donkey

One day old,

His head was too big

For his neck to hold;

His legs were shaky

And long and loose,

They rocked and staggered

And weren’t much use.

He tried to gambol

And frisk a bit,

But he wasn’t quite sure

Of the trick of it.

His queer little coat

Was soft and grey

And curled at his neck

In a lovely way.

His face was wistful

And left no doubt

That he felt life needed

Some thinking out.

So he blundered round

In venturous quest,

And then lay flat

On the ground to rest.

He looked so little

And weak and slim,

I prayed the world

Might be good to him.                                                     


Gertrude Hinde



Mrs Malone


An extract


Mrs Malone

Lived hard by a wood

All on her lonesome

As nobody should.

With her crust on a plate

And her pot on the coal

And none but herself

To converse with, poor soul.

In a shawl and a hood

She got sticks out-o’-door,

On a bit of old sacking

She slept on the floor,

And nobody, nobody

Asked how she fared

Or knew how she managed,

For nobody cared.

Why make a pother

About an old crone?

What for should they bother

With Mrs Malone?


One Monday in winter

With snow on the ground

So thick that a footstep

Fell without sound,

She heard a faint frostbitten

Peck on the pane

And went to the window

To listen again.

There sat a cock-sparrow

Bedraggled and weak,

With half-open eyelid

And ice on his beak.

She threw up the sash

And she took the bird in,

And mumbled and fumbled it

Under her chin.

“Ye’re all of a smother,

Ye’re fair overblown!

I’ve room fer another,”

Said Mrs Malone.


Eleanor Farjeon





Yellow the bracken,

Golden the sheaves,

Rosy the apples,

Crimson the leaves;

Mist on the hillside,

Clouds grey and white.

Autumn good morning!

Summer, good night!


Florence Hoatson




From Book 3, Stones by the Sea

From a Railway Carriage 

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,

Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;

And charging along like troops in a battle,

All through the meadows the horses and cattle:

All of the sights of the hill and the plain

Fly as thick as driving rain;

And ever again, in the wink of an eye,

Painted stations whistle by.


Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,

All by himself and gathering brambles;

Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;

And there is the green for stringing the daisies!

Here is a cart run away in the road

Lumping along with man and load;

And here is a mill, and there is a river:

Each a glimpse and gone for ever!


Robert Louis Stevenson



Stones by the Sea


Smooth and flat, grey, brown and white,

Winter and summer, noon and night,

Tumbling together for a thousand ages,

We ought to be wiser than Eastern sages.

But no doubt we stones are foolish as most,

So we don’t say much on our stretch of coast.

Quiet and peaceful we mainly sit,

And when storms come up we grumble a bit.


James Reeves


The Cat

An extract


When the moon is leering yellow

And the trees are witches’ claws

That scratch upon the window panes

And scrape upon the doors,

I crouch before the fireplace

And smirk into the heat

And think of wild adventures

That are waiting up the street –

But I’m tooooo tiiiiired.


I could slink along the alleyway

That’s sentinelled with bins

And nose inside old papers

And lick the empty tins.

I could sniff out mice in the Railway Yard

Or watch the Midnight Mail

Thunder through the station

Rattling his angry tail –

But I’m tooooo laaaaazy.


Gareth Owen



When I was once a wandering man,

And walked at midnight, all alone –

A friendly dog that offered love,

Was threatened with a stone.


“Go, go,” I said, “and find a man

Who has a home to call his own;

Who, with a luckier hand than mine,

Can find his dog a bone.”


But times are changed, and this pet dog

Knows nothing of a life that’s gone –

Of how a dog that offered love,

Was threatened with a stone.


W H Davies



Something Told the Wild Geese


Something told the wild geese

It was time to go.

Though the fields lay golden

Something whispered, “Snow.”

Leaves were green and stirring,

Berries, lustre-glossed,

But beneath warm feathers

Something cautioned, “Frost.”


All the sagging orchards

Steamed with amber spice,

But each wild breast stiffened

At remembered ice.

Something told the wild geese

It was time to fly -

Summer sun was on their wings,

Winter in their cry.


Rachel Field



There Came a Day


An extract


Now what shall I do with the trees?

The day said, the day said.

Strip them bare, strip them bare.

Let’s see what is really there.


Ted Hughes




From Book 4, Something I Remember 

A Smuggler’s Song 

If you wake at midnight and hear a horse’s feet,

Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the


Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie.

Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!

Five and twenty ponies,

Trotting through the dark –

Brandy for the Parson,

Baccy for the Clerk;

Laces for a lady, letters for a spy;

And watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen

go by!


Running round the woodlump if you chance to find

Little barrels, roped and tarred, all full of brandy-


Don’t you shout to come and look, nor use ’em for

your play.

Put the brushwood back again - and they’ll be gone

next day!


If you see the stable-door setting open wide;

If you see a tired horse lying down inside;

If your mother mends a coat cut about and tore;

If the lining’s wet and warm – don’t you ask no more.


If you meet King George’s men, dressed in blue and red,

You be careful what you say, and mindful what is said.

If they call you “pretty maid”, and chuck you ’neath the


Don’t you tell where no one is, nor yet where no one’s



Knocks and footsteps round the house – whistles after

dark –

You’ve no call for running out till the housedogs bark.

Trusty’s here and Pincher’s here, and see how dumb

they lie –

They don’t fret to follow when the Gentlemen go by!


If you do as you’ve been told, likely there’s a chance,

You’ll be give a dainty doll, all the way from France,

With a cap of Valenciennes, and a velvet hood –

A present from the Gentlemen, along o’ being good!

Five and twenty ponies,

Trotting through the dark –

Brandy for the Parson,

Baccy for the Clerk.

Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie –

Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!


Rudyard Kipling


Velvet Shoes

Let us walk in the white snow 

In a soundless space;

With footsteps quiet and slow,

At a tranquil pace,

Under veils of white lace.


I shall go shod in silk,

And you in wool,

White as a white cow’s milk,

More beautiful

Than the breast of a gull.


We shall walk through the still town

In a windless peace;

We shall step upon white down,

Upon silver fleece,

Upon softer than these.


We shall walk in velvet shoes:

Wherever we go

Silence will fall like dews

On white silence below.

We shall walk in the snow.


Elinor Wylie



It was long ago


An extract


A dusty road in summer I remember,

A mountain, and an old house, and a tree

That stood, you know,


Behind the house.  An old woman I remember

In a red shawl with a grey cat on her knee

Humming under a tree.


She seemed the oldest thing I can remember,

But then perhaps I was not more than three.

It was long ago.


Eleanor Farjeon



The Road Not Taken


An extract 


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.

                                                                                                                Robert Frost 


You Tell Me

An extract


Here are the football results:

League Division Fun

Manchester United won, Manchester City lost


Michael Rosen



Cage Bird and Sky Bird 


Cage Bird swung

From an apple tree 

And his cage was of silver

And ivory.  

Nobody can be so happy, so happy;  

Sang the Cage Bird.


Sky Bird sang

From a cloudless sky                              

And his wings were wide

And bright his eye. 

Nobody can be as happy as I;    

Sang the Sky Bird. 


That wild song 

To the garden fell 

And Cage Bird heard it,

in His silver cell.  

Are you free then, are you truly free?

Cried the Cage Bird.


Sky Bird flew In the trail of the sun

And swiftly he soared, away

From the garden.  

Sadly sang Cage Bird,

when the day was done;    

Sang the Cage Bird.        


Leslie Norris 


The Thrush’s Nest 

Within a thick and spreading hawthorn bush,

That overhung a molehill large and round,

I heard from morn to morn a merry thrush

Sing hymns to sunrise, and I drank the sound

With joy, and oft – an intruding guest,

I watched her secret toils from day to day;

How true she warped the moss to form her nest,

And modelled it within with wood and clay.

And by and by, like heath-bells gilt with dew,

There lay her shining eggs as bright as flowers,

Ink-spotted-over, shells of greeny blue:

And there I witnessed in the summer hours

A brood of Nature’s minstrels chirp and fly,

Glad as the sunshine and the laughing sky.


John Clare