Saturday

Oct. 19, 2002

Table Rules for Little Folk

by Anonymous

SATURDAY, 19 OCTOBER 2002
Listen
(RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "Table Rules for Little Folk," by anonymous poet.

Table Rules for Little Folk

In silence I must take my seat
And give God thanks for what I eat,
Must for my food in patience wait
Till I am asked to hand my plate
I must not scold, nor whine, nor pout,
Nor move my chair, nor plate about,
With knife, or fork, or napkin ring,
I must not play, nor must I sing.
I must not speak a useless word,
For children must be seen, not heard.
I must not talk about my food,
Nor fret, if I don't think it good.
I must not say 'the bread is old',
'The tea is hot'-'the coffee cold'.
I must not cry for this, or that,
Nor murmur if my meat be fat.
My mouth with food I mustn't crowd,
Nor while I'm eating speak aloud.
Must turn my head to cough, or sneeze,
And when I ask, say 'If you please'.
The table cloth I must not spoil,
Nor with my food my fingers soil.
Must keep my seat when I have done,
Nor round the table sport, or run.
When told to rise, then I must put
The chair away with noiseless food.
And lift my heart to God above
In praise for all His wondrous love.


It's the birthday of John le Carré, born David John Moore Cornwell, in Poole, England (1931). He's the author of A Perfect Spy (1986) and The Tailor of Panama (1996). His father was a con artist who wanted his two sons to be lawyers because he thought it would come in handy. He sent them to boarding school, where they learned to speak and act like members of the British upper-class, but when they went home they knew they might have to bail him out of jail, or spend the holidays with a bunch of crooks. He learned German and became a spy, but said he "never did anything to alter the world order." The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963) sold well enough to let him quit his job at British intelligence and retire to the coast of Cornwall. He said he'd written it on the train on the way to work, first thing in the morning when his mind was fresh; by the time he got to the office, he was tired, and said he "always gave his country second-best." Many of his thrillers have been made into films, most of which have made him unhappy. He said that making a novel into a film is like making a cow into a bouillon cube.

On this day in 1917, Siegfried Sassoon wrote a letter to Robert Graves from the psychiatric ward of a military hospital: "It's all very well for you to talk about 'good form' and acting like a 'gentleman'. To me that's a very estimable form of suicidal stupidity and credulity. You admit that the people who sacrifice the troops are callous blighters…If you had real courage you wouldn't acquiesce as you do." But his ire was misplaced: Graves had just saved Sassoon from court-martial. Sassoon had published an anti-war manifesto addressed to the military command, and Graves pulled strings to get Sassoon diagnosed as shell-shocked rather than tried as a traitor. Sassoon returned to the front; he survived the war and returned to England.

It's the birthday of John Woolman, born on a farm by Rancocas Creek, in New Jersey (1720). He was one of the earliest colonists to oppose slavery. He stopped using sugar, and he would not wear dyed fabric, because he knew slaves who cut cane and indigo suffered and died in the fields.



Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Sharon Olds at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »