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Short poem

Walter Alexander Raleigh (1861-1922)

Stans Puer ad Mensam

              1Attend my words, my gentle knave,
              2    And you shall learn from me
              3How boys at dinner may behave
              4    With due propriety.

              5Guard well your hands: two things have been
              6    Unfitly used by some;
              7The trencher for a tambourine,
              8    The table for a drum.

              9We could not lead a pleasant life,
            10    And 'twould be finished soon,
            11If peas were eaten with the knife,
            12    And gravy with the spoon.

            13Eat slowly: only men in rags
            14    And gluttons old in sin
            15Mistake themselves for carpet bags
            16    And tumble victuals in.

            17The privy pinch, the whispered tease,
            18    The wild, unseemly yell --
            19When children do such things as these,
            20    We say, "It is not well."

            21Endure your mother's timely stare,
            22    Your father's righteous ire,
            23And do not wriggle on your chair
            24    Like flannel in the fire.

            25Be silent: you may chatter loud
            26    When you are fully grown,
            27Surrounded by a silent crowd
            28    Of children of your own.

            29If you should suddenly feel bored
            30    And much inclined to yawning,
            31Your little hand will best afford
            32    A modest useful awning.

            33Think highly of the Cat: and yet
            34    You need not therefore think
            35That portly strangers like your pet
            36    To share their meat and drink.

            37The end of dinner comes ere long
            38    When, once more full and free,
            39You cheerfully may bide the gong
            40    That calls you to your tea.


1] Stans puer ad mensam: "the boy standing at the table," a verse work by John Lydgate on table manners.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Laughter from a Cloud, foreword by Hilary Raleigh (London: Constable, 1923): 205-06. British Library 012273.bbb.7
First publication date: 1923
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 2001
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/13

Rhyme: abab

Other poems by Walter Alexander Raleigh