My Favorite Poem Ever




Ever since writing yesterday’s post on gradumacation, I have been thinking about all the other things I wanted to talk about. And one of those things is National Poetry Month.

I’m not a big fan of celebrating arbitrary holidays or theme-days that society invented to try and make other people think about things society deemed important. Every once and a while I get one of those calendars that has, like, All The Days on it. Society would probably yell at me for this, but I see those days and my immediate reaction is, pffft. Sorry, Society. I just don’t agree with you. My Earth Day is summer and fall and spring and winter, not April 22cnd.


I do see these days/months/themes as fun opportunities. And I had been vaguely aware (but mostly too busy to notice) that April was National Poetry month, until I saw the excellent post on Novel Sounds, pairing some recent YA books with fun poetry snippets, which she did for Pocket Poetry day.

And immediately I wished I had been aware of Pocket Poetry day (where one carries a favorite poem in their pocket and shares it with people) because I knew exactly the poem I would carry.

See, a few years ago I purchased this thin, crackly little book of antique school-children poetry with dates like 1912 scrawled inside it. Not only did it contain classics like Brighen on the Rhine, Briar Rose, and Invictus, it also had some more obscure poems that were apparently classics at that time–Darius Green and the Flying Machine, Sister’s Best Feller, The Two Glasses, and others. I fell in love with the quirky poems, many of which were hilarious. But one in particular I loved so much that I actually attempted to memorize it. Now I’m sharing it here.

You ready for this?

The Fence or The Ambulance

By Joseph Malines

Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant:
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and many a peasant;
So the people said something would have to be done.
But their projects did not at all tally:
Some said, “Put a fence around the edge of the cliff”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”

But the cry for the ambulance carried the day.
For it spread to the neighboring city:
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became brimful of pity
For those who had slipped o’er that dangerous cliff,
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds or gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.

“For the cliff is alright if your careful,” they said,
“and if folks even slip or are dropping,
it isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much
as the shock down below-when they’re stopping,”
So day after day when these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would the rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
With their ambulance down in the valley.

Then an old man remarked, “it’s a marvel to me
that people give far more attention
to repairing results than to stopping the cause,
when they’d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief, cried he.
“Come neighbors and friends, let us rally :
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
with the ambulance down in the valley.”

“Oh, he’s a fanatic.” the others rejoined:
“dispense with the ambulance Never!
He’d dispense with all charities, too, if he could:
no, no! We’ll support them forever.
Aren’t we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why would people of sense stop to put up a fence?
While their ambulance works in the valley?”

But a sensible few who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer
They believe that prevention is better than cure
And their party will soon be the stronger
Encourage them, then with your purse, voice and pen
And (while other philanthropists dally)
They will scorn all pretense, and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.


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