A Cautionary Tale
Although not as well-known today as his famous friend G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc was an equally prolific Catholic writer and satirist in early twentieth century England. His poetry was especially witty. One of his most popular collections, Cautionary Tales For Children, details the dreadful demises of misbehaving children in hilarious prose. My favorite is about “George, who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion.”
Every morning I ride a cable car from my apartment on Roosevelt Island to my job in Manhattan, and am often tormented by children who think the tram is an amusement park ride. Inspired by Belloc, I decided to compose a Cautionary Tale of my own.
Roger, Who Jumped Around Inside the Tram and
Roger was an active boy,
he hardly needed any toys.
So many ways he could keep busy
like spinning ‘round and getting dizzy.
One day his parents asked the child,
“Should we see the Roosevelt Isle?”
With joy he waved his arms and hands—
he knew that they would ride the tram!
So high above the river and streets,
the tram had not a single seat.
Instead the spacious car allowed
folks to see and move about.
The view of Manhattan was so exquisite
that Roger, he began to fidget.
And though his father warned, “Be still,”
the boy could not contain his will.
He jumped and swooped just like a bird.
The people (who were quite disturbed)
whispered “What a naughty youth,
parents these days are so uncouth!”
With untamed bliss he lept with faith,
but he who thought his antics safe
just crashed right through a windowpane
and tumbled out, yelling in vain.
His mother wailed, his father shouted.
To think that someone could be outed!
from a moving cable car
and fall down, oh so very far...
Straight down he plunged into the river.
I do remember (with a shiver)
how horrified the people watched
as Roger vanished, on the spot.
So let this be a lesson learned
for children who decide to spurn
their parents’ wishes to behave—
obedience will keep you safe!