A few weeks ago, a chore landed on my desk. It had started somewhere near the top of the company, and been rapidly bounced down through the layers before it skittered to a halt on mine. Someone asked me about it, and I said, well, the king told the queen, and the queen told the dairymaid, and then the dairymaid went to ask the Alderney – and then I realised, from the blank looks, that no-one had a clue what I was talking about.
This might be a generational thing, and the taste for A.A.Milne’s children’s poems, written in the 1920s, died out sometime in the ’60s or ’70s. Or it might just be me, or rather my family, because my father used to love that particular poem, even reciting it all from memory from time to time. (And no-one could call him a fussy man).
So here it is, for younger readers, courtesy of the Poetry Foundation.
The King’s Breakfast
The King askedThe Queen, andThe Queen askedThe Dairymaid:“Could we have some butter forThe Royal slice of bread?”The Queen askedThe Dairymaid,The DairymaidSaid, “Certainly,I’ll go and tellThe cowNowBefore she goes to bed.”The DairymaidShe curtsied,And went and toldThe Alderney:“Don’t forget the butter forThe Royal slice of bread.”The AlderneySaid sleepily:“You’d better tellHis MajestyThat many people nowadaysLike marmaladeInstead.”The DairymaidSaid, “Fancy!”And went toHer Majesty.She curtsied to the Queen, andShe turned a little red:“Excuse me,Your Majesty,For taking ofThe liberty,But marmalade is tasty, ifIt’s veryThicklySpread.”The Queen said“Oh!”And went toHis Majesty:“Talking of the butter forThe Royal slice of bread,Many peopleThink thatMarmaladeIs nicer.Would you like to try a littleMarmaladeInstead?”
The King said,“Bother!”And then he said,“Oh, dear me!”The King sobbed, “Oh, deary me!”And went back to bed.“Nobody,”He whimpered,“Could call meA fussy man;I only wantA little bitOf butter forMy bread!”
The Queen said,“There, there!”And went toThe Dairymaid.The DairymaidSaid, “There, there!”And went to the shed.The cow said,“There, there!I didn’t reallyMean it;Here’s milk for his porringerAnd butter for his bread.”The Queen tookThe butterAnd brought it toHis Majesty;The King said,“Butter, eh?”And bounced out of bed.“Nobody,” he said,As he kissed herTenderly,“Nobody,” he said,As he slid downThe banisters,“Nobody,My darling,Could call meA fussy man—BUTI do like a little bit of butter to my bread!”