"Little Willie" Poems

I was in the third grade when my parents began home schooling my brother and me. We were not sure we would like it, and though we missed recess, we found the rest of it to be much better than traditional schooling.

One of the course I remember my mom teaching us was on types of literature. She introduced us to all different kinds of writing. Fiction, nonfiction, how-to guides and whimsical. She read us stories that had morals, from the McGuffey readers, and stories that were just silly. She also gave us a course in poetry. We tried our hand at writing Haiku, and read Robert Frost. Then she showed us limericks (see edit).

The first one I remember reading,

"Algae met a bear,

The bear was bulgy.

The bulge was Algae."

didn't make the most sense to me, but I found it funny anyway, especially since a had a bulgy aunt, who I could imagine meeting a bear. After that we ran into some "Little Willie" poems, by Harry Graham They were unlike anything we had heard before, and we could hardly believe they were in books put together by adults. They too similar to the things one heard from the pastor's kids after potlucks -- the type of things you would never tell your parents! But, here, they were in a book my mom had given us to read!

We had such a blast reciting them, that they have ever been with me, and over the years I have collected more. Here is a sampling. Not every "Little Willie" poem you find is by Harry Graham, but all are inspired by him.

Edit:  Thanks to a kind reader, I find that I was mistaught.... What was labeled a limirick in the children's book of poetry that we had was not.  A limirik is a 5 line poem, not four, originating in the town of Limerick, Ireralnd.

"Little Willie" Poetry

...not to be confused with "Slick Willy" poems...

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Willie saw some dynamite,

Didn't understand it quite.

Curiosity seldom pays.

It rained Willie seven days.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Willie, with a thirst for gore,

Nailed his sister to the door.

Mother said with humor quaint,

"Now, Willie dear, don't scratch the paint."

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Little Willie, with a curse

Threw the teapot at the nurse.

When it struck her on the nose,

His father cheered, "How straight he throws!"

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Willie built a guillotine,

Tried it out on sister Jean.

Said Mother, as he got the mop,

"These messy games have got to stop.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

In the family drinking well,

Willie pushed his sister Nelle,

She's there yet, because it kilt her.

Now we'll have to buy a filter.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Little Willie, dressed in sashes,

Fell in the fire and burnt to ashes.

Later on the room grew chilly,

But no one cared to poke poor Willy.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Little Willie, feeling well

Pushed his sister down the well.

Said his mother, drawing water;

"It's mighty tough to raise a daughter!"

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Willie poisoned his father's tea;

Father died in agony.

Mother came, and looked quite vexed:

"Really, Will," she said, "what next?"

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Little Willie shot his sister;

She was dead before we missed her.

Willie's always up to tricks.

Ain't he cute?  He's only six.

Ivorwen, 2010.

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Comments or your Favorite Harry Graham Poem. 60 comments

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

Great collection, Ivorwen, here's another:

Willie sneezed a sneeze into the air.

It fell to earth we know not where.

But hard and cold were the looks of those,

In the vicinity where Willie snoze!


Doug Harris 6 years ago

Only one problem, these ain't "limericks". Limericks are 5-liners in the AABBA rhyming style and in anapest meter with three feet in lines 1,2 and 5 and 2 feet in lines 3 and 4. Soiunds boringly technical, but limericks have a particular lilt - they are not just any old short verse, quip or caption.


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 6 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Thank your addition, DrBJ. I think my kids will like that one... as long as they don't practice it!


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 6 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Doug, Thank you very much for bringing this to my attention. Having always seen them labeled limericks, it never occurred to me to check and see if this was accurate. I appreciate your comment, and will amend this article.


timorous profile image

timorous 6 years ago from Me to You

It's interesting how cruel, yet amusing these are. I don't remember these from my childhood. If you look back at cartoons from the 40's through the 60's, they're full of characters being mutilated and other dastardly deeds. Yet kids know that it's only a cartoon. Same with these near-limericks.

I can imagine some people today might find such things 'politically incorrect', and think they had some serious negative influence, but kids know better.

btw, just a little correction in your preface above: the line that reads "We had such a blast reciting them, that they have ever been with me"...I think 'always' would be a better fit than 'ever'.


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 6 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

The title of the book these originated in is "Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes," and I am sure it was 'politically incorrect' even in it's day... but that didn't stop people from buying it.

Personally, I love the old cartoons and The Three Stooges. They are so overboard on the stupidity and harm that even young children know better. I don't find the same to be true of today's more subtle cartoons.

...and thank you for your critic. I am considering your suggestion. :)


LiftedUp profile image

LiftedUp 6 years ago from Plains of Colorado

Ah, the quintessential contrast to be found in these poems! The blatant horror of Willie's actions, and the absolute calmness with which they are met. Thanks for including more poems than I knew existed.


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 6 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Your welcome, LiftedUp.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

As a teacher, I love this hub. Thanks for share your educational experience with us. I also enjoy your poem. Very inspiring hub. ~prasetio


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 6 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Thank you prasetio. I love learning, and I do think it was coming across fun things like this that helped to keep me going, even when it was hard to gain new concepts.


Granny's House profile image

Granny's House 6 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

I have never heard of these. I did enjoy reading them.


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 6 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Granny, I am glad you liked them!


epigramman profile image

epigramman 6 years ago

....so enchanting is this hub of yours - I really didn't want it to stop - is it because you made me feel like a little boy again - hey wait I'm still a little boy!!!!


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 6 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Just keep an eye on that little boy. I bet he is ornery.


ralwus 6 years ago

I was sheltered I guess. Willie was rotten. LOL Loved it though, thanks.


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 6 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

You sheltered? I kind of doubt it! You not familiar with Willie? I can accept that. Glad you loved them. It is always fun to share favorites.


TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 5 years ago from Tucson, Az.

I enjoyed these also. Would the Little Willie poems be considered epigrams? Although I'm a song writer, I'm not really up on these things I'm afraid. If you haven't already, check out "Epigramman" He's a gentleman, and genuis too,

thanks,

jim


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 5 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Hello Jim,

I really don't know what they are classified as. I had never run across the word epigram until I ran across Epigramman. It is still new to me, and honestly, I haven't taken time to look it up. I guess I would rather just enjoy some things than worry about the technicalities and terms. :)

~Ivorwen


Rodger 5 years ago

When I was a little boy my Uncle Dutch bought me a joke book. The jokes were funny but the part I liked best about the book were the "Little Willy Limericks", so much so that I memorized several that I can still recite today, exactly as they appeared in that book :-)

Little Willy in bows and sashes

Fell in the fire and got burned to ashes

In the winter when the weather is chilly

no one likes to poke up Willy

Willy on the railroad track

The engine gave a squeel

The engineer just took a spade

And scraped him off the wheel

Willy found some dynamite

Couldn't understand it quite

Curiosity never pays

It rained Willy seven days

Willy split the baby's head

To see if brains were gray or red

Mother sighed and said to father

Children are an awful bother

One other from that book I recall....

There once was a man from Leeds

Who swallowed a pack of seeds

In a month, silly ass

He was covered with grass

And couldn't sit down for the weeds


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 5 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Rodger, thank you so much for sharing those. A few of them are brand new to me!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, I had never heard of these either! but they are great, aren't they? can you imagine anybody reading them at school now? ha ha nell


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 5 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Nell, I like the idea of them being read in school! In fact, I think they ought to read them at school now--life is far too serious, especially for kids.


neeleshkulkarni profile image

neeleshkulkarni 5 years ago from new delhi

hey but why are all such nursery rhymes cruel.


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 5 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Points made by extremes and exaggeration? To make them memorable? Because we learn better from things that stick with us?

And, not all nursery rhymes are cruel...

Hickity, Pickity, my black hen,

She lays eggs for gentlemen.

Some times nine and some times ten,

Hickity, Pickity, my black hen.


acaetnna profile image

acaetnna 5 years ago from Guildford

This was so fun to read and very refreshing. Thank you for sharing.


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 5 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Acaetnna, I am glad you enjoyed it!


Murray Schwartz 5 years ago

Little Willie bored of stealing cars

Swiped a rocket, flew to Mars

There he pursued his normal pattern

Now the Martians live on Saturn


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 5 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Murray Schwartz, thank you so much, for your brilliant contribution! I love that poem!


ButterflyWings profile image

ButterflyWings 5 years ago

I skipped this hub when it first came out, but I've rediscovered it, and laughed my brains out. I've quoted a few of these to my kids, and they just gave me strange looks. But then, my eight-year-old Billy can be so literal. ;)


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 5 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Don't worry, ButterflyWings, my very literal child didn't get them at first either. Now he thinks they are funny.

I hope your brains will be okay. ;)


ButterflyWings profile image

ButterflyWings 5 years ago

I'm recovering, thanks.


shynsly profile image

shynsly 5 years ago from Sierra Vista, AZ

Little Willie was surely no fool...

Pushed his sister into the pool.

Then when Christmas time had come...

Willie's presents were double the sum.

Not the greatest, but your hub cracked me up, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Add me to the ranks who've never heard of "little Willie" before, but thank you for enlightnening us!


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 5 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Shynsly, I love it! Your poem is fabulous! :D

Thanks for contributing.


pamhandle 5 years ago

I remember these as a kid. Here is one you didn't list: Little Willie full of glee

Put uranium in Grandma's tea

Now he thinks it's quite a lark

To see her shining in the dark.

I'm going to get with my sister to see if we can find the book we had these in. Maybe I will find some more to share.


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 5 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

I love that Pamhandle!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

As a new to hubpages, I loved this hub! Very refreshing!


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 5 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Thank you Genna, and welcome to Hubpages!


Petite 5 years ago

There is another one:

Willie was a chemist,

but Willie is no more

What he thought was H2O,

Was H2SO4.


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 5 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Thank you Petite!


pamhandle 5 years ago

Hi Ivorwen, Found the pages from my mother's book and found you a couple new ones:

Willie floated o'er the falls

Amid his friends' most frantic calls.

His father cried, "How sad the day

Our children start to drift away."

and

Willie's new psychiatrist

Has joined the others on the list.

They all ran screaming off and hid

When faced with Little Willie's id.

and

Little Willie on a farm

Had fell and broke his arm;

Of all that knew him there was none

Who didn't ask: "What! Only one?"

and lastly

Little Willie, just for kicks,

A rocket to his scooter fixed.

His neighbers now are quite content

To see Will in the firmament.

Hope you enjoy these. You are on my favorites now so I can check in and see if anyone has found more. Just loved these as a kid.


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 5 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Thank you so much Pamhandle! The farm one has me laughing, because I know kids like that. :)


Dr. RAH 5 years ago

My personal favorite is missing, and it goes like this:

Little Willy was our darling.

Little Willy is no more.

For what he thought was H2O

Was H2SO4


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 5 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Thank you Dr. RAH, for your contribution!


Falconetti22 5 years ago

Here's one: Little Willy hit the ball, lined one down the schoolhouse hall, through the dorr came Professor Hill, several teeth are missing still. got another Little willy lit a rocket which his dad had in his pocket the next day he told his cousin dan my dads a traveling man.


Falconetti22 5 years ago

Some more: little willy on his bike through the village took a hike, Mrs Thompson blocked the walk she will live but still cant talk. Another: In the well did little willy push his little sister lilly, mother couldn't find her daughter now we sterilize our water. One more: Little willy with a thirst for gore nailed a spider to the door his mother said with humor quaint careful Will dont mar the paint!


PADDYBOY60 profile image

PADDYBOY60 4 years ago from Centreville Michigan

I like this collection. Reminds me of my Uncle Larry shot An Arrow poems, kind of, I think, well maybe not. Lol. Thank you for sharing with us.


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 4 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Thanks for stopping by, PaddyBoy!

Falconetti, thank you so much for your contributions!


lindsy lohan222 profile image

lindsy lohan222 4 years ago from no where

i know i am new on this hub thing but ivorwen those poems are the most awsomest poems i have ever heard maybe you should make more poems up i just love them.

~~lindsy lohan :) you rock the world


Saucy Sally profile image

Saucy Sally 4 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

My mother (born 1910) remembered having a copy of Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes and taught me two of the rhymes: Billy in one of his brand new sashes, fell in the fire and burnt to ashes and even now though the room grows chilly, we haven't got the heart to poke poor Billy. The other was about Willy who swallowed a thermometer and his mother at the funeral was heard to remark: "It was a chilly day for Willy when the mercury went down.".


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 4 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Hello Saucy Sally! I love those poems. :)

You know, it just occurred to me that Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes is old enough, it should be public domain! So I found an e-copy: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/35051/35051-h/35051...

So nice to make you acquaintance.


linda 4 years ago

does enyone know this one.poor little willie is deaf and dumb,poor little willie insane.his eyes are all glueie and glum what a shame.my mum use to sing it to us when we were poorly[meaning]someone worse of then us


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 4 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

That is one I have never heard. Was the tune she used from another song or did it have its own?


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

if you like limericks follow me


TheMadHatter121 4 years ago

The Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Households is now out on the kindle store for $0.00. It was re-published by a group of fans. Have fun!

http://www.amazon.com/Ruthless-Rhymes-Heartless-Ho...


Distantiate 4 years ago

I enjoyed the Little Willie collection and smiled as much as I did in fourth grade when my older cousin introduced me to them.

I would like to send on a chemistry teacher's version of one of the poems submitted. It's fanciful, but perhaps a good way to explain the difference between acids and bases. CAUTION: It may need revision by a chemistry professional!

Thirsty Willie drank his fill

But soon lay senseless on the floor

For what he'd thought was H2O

Was H2SO4.

His teacher, thinking quickly

Gave him CaCO3

So Willie took the rest of class

At the ceiling, floating free.


Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 4 years ago from Hither and Yonder Author

Following, Mhatter99.

That is excellent news, TheMadHatter121!

Distantiate, thank you for your submission! I love how creative people are. :)


Realist 2 years ago

Little Will, With Father's Gun,

Punctured Grandma Just For Fun,

Mother Frowned At The Merry Lad,

It Was The Last Shell Father had!


joe g 2 years ago

Found in uncle johns bathroom reader

Little willie home from school

Spied a dollar behind a mule

stooped to get it quiet as a mouse

funeral tomorrow willie's house


wce 19 months ago

Hi Ivorwen,

I realize this discussion is now 4-yrs old but I just stumbled across this hub. Fabulous! When my father was a young engineer in the early '50s, he and his coworkers would tell each other Little Willie (and similar) rhymes/limericks. This was his favorite:

Our Little Willie and his new sash

Fell into the fire and was burned to an ash

Cold as a frog in an ice-bound pool

Cold as the tip of an Eskimo's tool

Cold as charity, and Christ that's chilly

But not as cold as our poor Willie

He's dead, poor bastard


Christine Brooks, Australia 14 months ago

I like WCE's above variation, but my favourite version is close to Saucy Sally's:

Poor little Willie in his frills and sashes

Fell into the fire and was burnt to ashes

The fire burned low and the room grew chilly

But no-one had the heart to stir poor Willie.

It was written by my Great-uncle Bill (under the pseudonym Willie Knott) in my grandmother's autograph album in the 1920s.

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