Lesley Gordon


I'm sure that every child would wish
To take some beast or fowl or fish
Provide for it a home from home
With strict injunctions not to roam
Then never for a day omit
To serve at meals some scrumptious bit
Some rissoled worms or earwig paste
To suit its own peculiar taste
And generally to do their best
To make it feel a welcome guest
Most boys and girls would gladly do
Small things like these - and quite right too

But Jonathan McCullum James
Had clearly more ambitious aims
And often to his parents swore
He'd have an ark like Mr Noah
With two of everything
That crawled or swam or soared on wing
The Jameses, though, discouraged that -
So inconvenient, in a flat.

He started in a modest way
Or so he heard his father say
And not so, very singular
One tadpole in a pickle jar
And having found a faithful pet
And fearing that the thing might fret
With nought to look at but the view
He introduced a tiddler too.

A caterpillar next he tried
Oh how the little creature cried
It wouldn't eat a bit of leaf
And very nearly died of grief
Till Jonathan McCullum James
Brought it a snail to share its games.

With capital not over big
He purchased next a guinea-pig
A tortoise, and a pair of mice
Two hedgehogs that were far from nice
A rabbit and a cockatoo
He would have liked a kangaroo
But his mother firmly said
He could not have the spare room bed

He kept a cricket on the hearth
A brace of gold-fish in the bath
Some silkworms on the sideboard
And a dormouse in the baby-grand
His father frowned to find his boots
Were occupied by nesting coots
His mother made a nasty face
At frogs inside her night-dress-case.
But grass-snakes in the wardrobe drawer
Appeared to her the final straw.

When Jonny's Uncle, George by name
Went somewhere East to hunt big game
He'd scarcely landed from the boat
When he received this pressing note
'Dear Uncle George' the letter ran
'Please send as quickly as you can
A baby hippopotamus
Or else a small rhinoceros
Please send which ever one you find
I mean I really do not mind
Enclosing stamps for two and four
Hoping it won't amount to more
Please send as quickly as you can
Your loving nephew, Jonathan.

The Zoo was going with a swing
When somebody informed the King
'A zoo inside a service flat?
Please tell the boy we can't have that'
The King commanded with a frown
Laying aside the Royal Crown
And putting on the royal hat
'Inform the boy, we won't have that!'
Then strolling through the gaping throng
'Cheer-oh' he said 'I shan't be long.'

So banished from his native land
Upon some distant foreign strand
As strange a sight as one could see
Live Jonathan and company
And on the island might be found
Performing each his daily round
Descendants of that tadpole far
That started in a pickle jar
The tiddler ‘s grandsons - quite a few -
The tortoise and the cockatoo
Three hundred mice, two thousand snails
(but scarcely any whales)
The gold-fish and the pair of coots
Homesick for James' father's boots
But not a young rhinoceros
Nor yet a hippopotamus
Because that Uncle in the East
Not caring in the very least
Forgot the things, and what is more
Has not returned the two and four.
But John, which is the nicest thing
Is happy now, so is the King
'A zoo' said he, 'Inside a flat!
I told the boy, we can't have that.'
The end