Yesterday, I went to the dentist for my 6-month check up. I’m lucky to have a good dentist and to live in an era when people can have healthy teeth and repairs on decay. Even people unlucky enough to lose all their teeth have the benefit of strong, plastic dentures – false teeth that are made to fit perfectly. I never think about this without remembering ‘Waterloo teeth’ and how that thought inspired a poem. Here is the background. (STOP READING now if you don’t like gory stories – or scroll down to read the poem first!)
If you were a child 200 years ago, you might well have been afraid of The Bogeyman. So were many adults, as this was a nickname – as well as ‘Boney’ – for the brutal and tyrannical Napoleon Bonaparte. He and his forces had already invaded many countries across Europe, and Britain was in grave danger of being the next. The process of defending our shores over many years became known as the Napoleonic Wars. 200 years ago today, on 18th June 1815, a decisive and bloody battle took place in Belgium to overthrow Napoleon. After waging war on much of Europe for so long, at last he was defeated. At the end of the battle 10,000 soldiers lay dead, and as many horses. The Duke of Wellington, who led the British forces, forbade any looting to take place after battles. The punishment for a British soldier caught stealing was death by hanging.
It is unlikely, then, that it was they who stole teeth from the bodies that lay across the battle field. But that is what happened. Hundreds of teeth were stolen from the bodies, so that the living toothless could benefit from good teeth of the dead. Of course, the thieves made money from their gory robberies; they didn’t steal for the ‘fun’ of it! These teeth filled a few gaps before the days of modern false teeth. I wrote this poem because I couldn’t get the thought of ‘Waterloo teeth’ out of my mind and began to imagine how they might be advertised … Here it is, illustrated by Michael Leigh:
ONE PREVIOUS OWNER
Lost your teeth?
Find it hard to chew?
Ugly gaps left you defaced?
No problem – Fresh from Waterloo
Have your teeth replaced:
Guaranteed fit for the task;
Will not rattle!
Neat, discreet, no questions asked;
(Fell off the back of a battle).
from Vikings Don’t Wear Pants (tho’ they did!) – Roger Stevens & Celia Warren, KEP, 2001
Meanwhile … here’s a great poetry writing competition for children.
Pop over to Roger Stevens’ Poetryzone to check out the details:
Events and brief moments from the past can often, unexpectedly, inspire a poem. As here:
A young girl
with a ponytail
delves in her toybox
too deep to see
what her hand
She pulls out
a forgotten toy
screams, flings it
away from Mrs Potato Head
© Celia Warren 2015
And sometimes a drawing, too:
Did you know that I have another website dedicated to one specific aspect of childhood memories: toys? It’s my Virtual Toy Museum. If you are interested in toys from the past, do please visit.
Do you like riddles? See if you can solve this one.
If you enjoy riddles and lots of other kinds of word puzzles, then you’ll love my book of Word Puzzles from Schofield and Sims, in which this rhyme appears.
Click on the link above to look inside the book.
He doesn’t bring her chocolates,
nor yet a grand bouquet,
but he kind-of wines and dines her,
as that’s the robin’s way
of showing her he loves her;
he’ll feed her when she broods,
he’ll fetch her worms and grubs and seeds,
yes, all her favourite foods.
And when the chicks are hatching,
their helpless beaks held wide,
he’ll help her feed the babies, too;
he’s telling her they’re tied
as one: a pair, together
as long as each survives:
they’re birds of a feather,
sharing busy, caring lives.
poem © Celia Warren 2015
Yes, the male of this pair of robins is feeding the female. This suggests that their nest is built and the eggs will fill it within days. After that, the adults will take turns to feed the young in a hectic 2-3 week schedule. This summer they will have two or three broods, so I guess picking the right partner is quite important.
Meanwhile, let’s hope we all enjoy a visit from the Easter Bunnies, bringing …
If chocolate’s your bag, happy feaster,
Then the bunnies will bring you, at least, a
Few chocolately eggs
On their hoppity legs,
And some savoury hens’ eggs for Easter.
limerick © Celia Warren 2015
If you like poems, drawings and paintings of British birds and other wildlife, then the book for you is The RSPB Anthology of Wildlife Poems. It’s worth its weight in gold.
You can’t take worms on holiday,
They’re not inclined to travel.
Even Mr Woolly Worm
Declares he might unravel.
And as you head through Customs
They might search through your cases
And confiscate your earthworm
On a ‘foreign soil’ basis.
It’s best to leave your worms behind
With homely soil to sift
And, as you do for special friends,
Bring home a lovely gift.
poem © Celia Warren 2015
This is a new worm poem, so it doesn’t appear in Don’t Poke a Worm till it Wriggles but you will find lots more squirmy poems in its pages.
I wonder if you can guess what gift I brought home for Woolly Worm, and where I’ve been on holiday?