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Short Poems for Children

Table of Contents

  1. The Forest by Annette Wynne
  2. A Wise Old Owl by Anonymous
  3. The Birches by Walter Prichard Eaton
  4. Little Things by Julia Abigail Fletcher Carney
  5. The Boy Who Never Told a Lie by Anonymous
  6. The Violet by Jane Taylor
  7. The Stars Are Blinking by Annette Wynne
  8. The Ants by Jane Taylor
  9. The Days of the Month by Anonymous
  10. Kindness to Animals by Anonymous
  11. Try Again by William E. Hickson
  12. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Excerpt by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  13. To a Child by William Wordsworth
  14. Ocean Mightier Than the Land by Annette Wynne
  15. Firefly by Elizabeth Madox Roberts
  16. To an Old Tree by Annette Wynne
  17. The Straight Young Trees by Annette Wynne
  18. Kind Hearts by Anonymous
  19. Mighty Things by Annette Wynne
  20. One Step and Then Another by Anonymous
  21. The Rainbow by Christina Rossetti
  22. Tiny Little Snowflakes by Lucy Larcom
  23. Golden Keys by Anonymous
  24. My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson
  25. What Do You Hold in Your Hand, New Year? by Annette Wynne

  1. The Forest

    by Annette Wynne

    The forest is the town of trees
    Where they live quite at their ease,
    With their neighbors at their side
    Just as we in cities wide.

  2. A Wise Old Owl

    by Anonymous

    A wise old owl lived in an oak
    The more he saw the less he spoke
    The less he spoke the more he heard.
    Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?

  3. The Birches

    by Walter Prichard Eaton

    The little birches, white and slim,
    Gleaming in the forest dim,
    Must think the day is almost gone,
    for each one has her nightie on.

  4. Little Things

    by Julia Abigail Fletcher Carney

     Full Text

    Little drops of water,
    Little grains of sand,
    Make the mighty ocean
    And the pleasant land.

    Thus the little minutes,
    Humble though they be,
    Make the mighty ages
    Of eternity.

    Little deeds of kindness,
    Little words of love,
    Help to make earth happy
    Like the heaven above.

    So our little errors
    Lead the soul away
    From the path of virtue
    Far in sin to stray.

    “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that's the stuff life is made of.”

    – Ben Franklin quote on time

  5. The Boy Who Never Told a Lie

    The Boy Who Never Told a Lie
    "I cannot tell a lie, I did it with my little hatchet"
    by Anonymous. Honesty is a supreme virtue. This short poem encourages youths to strive for this virtue. In reading it you may be reminded of the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. While the story of young Washington chopping down the cherry tree and then confessing the deed in honest candor to his father is a fictional account, the noteworthy part is that Washington's character was such that many who knew him believed the story to be true when they heard it, and thus the story lived on as a "true account." We would do well to strive for that kind of honesty and character. The story of Washington and the cherry tree is included below.

     Full Text

    Once there was a little boy,
    With curly hair and pleasant eye—
    A boy who always told the truth,
    And never, never told a lie.

    And when he trotted off to school,
    The children all about would cry,
    "There goes the curly-headed boy—
    The boy that never tells a lie."

    And everybody loved him so,
    Because he always told the truth,
    That every day, as he grew up,
    'Twas said, "There goes the honest youth."

    And when the people that stood near
    Would turn to ask the reason why,
    The answer would be always this:
    "Because he never tells a lie."

    The Story of George Washington and His Hatchet

    When George Wash-ing-ton was quite a little boy, his father gave him a hatchet. It was bright and new, and George took great delight in going about and chopping things with it.

    He ran into the garden, and there he saw a tree which seemed to say to him, "Come and cut me down!"

    George had often seen his father's men chop down the great trees in the forest, and he thought that it would be fine sport to see this tree fall with a crash to the ground. So he set to work with his little hatchet, and, as the tree was a very small one, it did not take long to lay it low.

    (Young George Washington illustration.  George Washington is confessing chopping down the cherry tree with his hatchet.)

    Soon after that, his father came home.

    "Who has been cutting my fine young cherry tree?" he cried. "It was the only tree of its kind in this country, and it cost me a great deal of money."

    He was very angry when he came into the house.

    "If I only knew who killed that cherry tree," he cried, "I would—yes, I would"—

    "Father!" cried little George. "I will tell you the truth about it. I chopped the tree down with my hatchet."

    His father forgot his anger.

    "George," he said, and he took the little fellow in his arms, "George, I am glad that you told me about it. I would rather lose a dozen cherry trees than that you should tell one false-hood."

    Story written by James Baldwin

  6. The Violet

    Humility and the violet.  An illustration of a Violet flower.
    The Violet (viola)
    by Mary E. Eaton
    by Jane Taylor

     Full Text

    Down in a green and shady bed
    A modest violet grew;
    Its stalk was bent, it hung its head,
    As if to hide from view.

    And yet it was a lovely flower,
    No colours bright and fair;
    It might have graced a rosy bower,
    Instead of hiding there.

    Yet there it was content to bloom,
    In modest tints arrayed;
    And there diffused its sweet perfume,
    Within the silent shade.

    Then let me to the valley go,
    This pretty flower to see;
    That I may also learn to grow
    In sweet humility.

  7. The Stars Are Blinking

    by Annette Wynne

    The stars are blinking in the skies;
    They see some sights that hurt their eyes;
    And sometimes they are very sad—
    O let's be good and make them glad!

  8. The Ants

    Hardworking ant illustration
    Industrious Ants
    by Jane Taylor

     Full Text

    A little black ant found a large grain of wheat
    Too heavy to lift or to roll;
    So he begg'd of a neighbour he happen'd to meet,
    To help it down into his hole.

    "I've got my own work to look after," said he;
    "You must shift for yourself, if you please;"
    So he crawl'd off as selfish and cross as could be,
    And lay down to sleep at his ease.

    Just then a black brother was passing the road,
    And seeing his brother in want,
    Came up and assisted him in with his load,
    For he was a good-natured ant.

    Let all who this story may happen to hear,
    Endeavour to profit by it;
    For often it happens that children appear
    As cross as the ant, every bit.

    And the good natured ant who assisted his brother
    May teach those who choose to be taught,
    That if little insects are kind to each other,
    Then children most certainly ought.

  9. The Days of the Month

    Beautiful Illustrated Calendar
    Antique Calendar
    by Anonymous. This classic rhyme has been used for generations to memorize how many days there are in each month - practical information to remember.

    Thirty days hath September,
    April, June, and November;
    February has twenty-eight alone.
    All the rest have thirty-one,
    Excepting leap-year—that's the time
    When February's days are twenty-nine.

  10. Kindness to Animals

    Abraham Lincoln saving an animal
    Abraham Lincoln showing kindness to an animal
    by Anonymous. This old poem teaches the virtue of showing kindness and regard for all living things. The principle is further illustrated in an old Abraham Lincoln anecdote his friends recorded about the time when he stopped to save a young robin.

    Little children, never give
    Pain to things that feel and live:
    Let the gentle robin come
    For the crumbs you save at home,—
    As his meat you throw along
    He'll repay you with a song;
    Never hurt the timid hare
    Peeping from her green grass lair,
    Let her come and sport and play
    On the lawn at close of day;
    The little lark goes soaring high
    To the bright windows of the sky,
    Singing as if 'twere always spring,
    And fluttering on an untired wing,—
    Oh! let him sing his happy song,
    Nor do these gentle creatures wrong.

    The Story of Abraham Lincoln and the Robins

    One day in spring four men were riding on horseback along a country road. These men were lawyers, and they were going to the next town to attend court.

    There had been a rain, and the ground was very soft. Water was dripping from the trees, and the grass was wet.

    The four lawyers rode along, one behind another; for the pathway was narrow, and the mud on each side of it was deep. They rode slowly, and talked and laughed and were very jolly.

    As they were passing through a grove of small trees, they heard a great fluttering over their heads and a feeble chirping in the grass by the roadside.

    "Stith! stith! stith!" came from the leafy branches above them.

    "Cheep! cheep! cheep!" came from the wet grass.

    "What is the matter here?" asked the first lawyer, whose name was Speed. "Oh, it's only some old robins!" said the second lawyer, whose name was Hardin. "The storm has blown two of the little ones out of the nest. They are too young to fly, and the mother bird is making a great fuss about it."

    "What a pity! They'll die down there in the grass," said the third lawyer, whose name I forget.

    "Oh, well! They're nothing but birds," said Mr. Hardin. "Why should we bother?"

    "Yes, why should we?" said Mr. Speed.

    The three men, as they passed, looked down and saw the little birds fluttering in the cold, wet grass. They saw the mother robin flying about, and crying to her mate.

    Then they rode on, talking and laughing as before. In a few minutes they had forgotten about the birds.

    But the fourth lawyer, whose name was Abraham Lincoln, stopped. He got down from his horse and very gently took the little ones up in his big warm hands.

    They did not seem frightened, but chirped softly, as if they knew they were safe.

    "Never mind, my little fellows," said Mr. Lincoln "I will put you in your own cozy little bed."

    Then he looked up to find the nest from which they had fallen. It was high, much higher than he could reach.

    But Mr. Lincoln could climb. He had climbed many a tree when he was a boy. He put the birds softly, one by one, into their warm little home. Two other baby birds were there, that had not fallen out. All cuddled down together and were very happy.

    Soon the three lawyers who had ridden ahead stopped at a spring to give their horses water.

    "Where is Lincoln?" asked one.

    All were surprised to find that he was not with them.

    "Do you remember those birds?" said Mr. Speed. "Very likely he has stopped to take care of them."

    In a few minutes Mr. Lincoln joined them. His shoes were covered with mud; he had torn his coat on the thorny tree.

    "Hello, Abraham!" said Mr. Hardin. "Where have you been?"

    "I stopped a minute to give those birds to their mother," he answered.

    "Well, we always thought you were a hero," said Mr. Speed. "Now we know it."

    Then all three of them laughed heartily. They thought it so foolish that a strong man should take so much trouble just for some worthless young birds.

    "Gentlemen," said Mr. Lincoln, "I could not have slept to-night, if
    I had left those helpless little robins to perish in the wet grass."

    Abraham Lincoln afterwards became very famous as a lawyer and statesman. He was elected president. Next to Washington he was the greatest American.

    Story written by James Baldwin

  11. Try Again

    If at first you don't succeed,
    Try, try again;

    - Anonymous
    Try, Try Again
    by William E. Hickson. "Try Again" is a time honored short poem that teaches a life lesson which all children should learn: persistence in spite of failure.

     Full Text

    'T is a lesson you should heed,
    Try, try again;
    If at first you don't succeed,
    Try, try again;
    Then your courage should appear,
    For, if you will persevere,
    You will conquer, never fear;
    Try, try again.

    Once or twice though you should fail,
    Try, try again;
    If you would at last prevail,
    Try, try again;
    If we strive, 'tis no disgrace
    Though we do not win the race;
    What should you do in the case?
    Try, try again.

    If you find your task is hard,
    Try, try again;
    Time will bring you your reward,
    Try, try again.
    All that other folks can do,
    Why, with patience, should not you?
    Only keep this rule in view:
    Try, try again.

    “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

    – Thomas Edison quote on failure

  12. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Excerpt

    by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
    To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
    He prayeth well who loveth well
    Both man and bird and beast.

    He prayeth best who loveth best
    All things, both great and small:
    For the dear God who loveth us,
    He made and loveth all.

  13. To a Child

    by William Wordsworth

    Small service is true service while it lasts:
    Of humblest friends, bright creature! scorn not one:
    The daisy, by the shadow that it casts,
    Protects the lingering dewdrop from the sun.

  14. Ocean Mightier Than the Land

    by Annette Wynne

    Ocean, mightier than the land,
    Wilful, turbulent, and wild,
    Will you love a little child
    And kiss her hand?

    Ocean, when I play with you,
    The pretty waves are soft and blue,
    But sailors who have sailed away
    Tell you do not always play.

    Far off you toss the great big ships
    Just like tiny wooden chips;
    Tell me, for I want to know
    Why you act just so?

    Ocean mightier than the land,
    Wilful, boisterous and wild—
    Will you love a little child
    And kiss her hand?

  15. Firefly

    by Elizabeth Madox Roberts

    A little light is going by,
    Is going up to see the sky,
    A little light with wings.

    I never could have thought of it,
    To have a little bug all lit
    And made to go on wings.

  16. To an Old Tree

    by Annette Wynne

    The tree must stand, it cannot run;
    Whatever comes of snow or sun
    It has to bear; it has no fears;
    Knowing not regret nor tears
    It stands and stretches to the sky
    Without a murmur, plaint or sigh—
    And this has stood a thousand years,
    And seen ten thousand storms go by!

  17. The Straight Young Trees

    by Annette Wynne

    The straight young trees too proudly stand
    Erect, apart, to take a brother's hand,
    But later when grown old and strong and wise,
    They see with understanding eyes,
    And then across the road they bend to grasp
    A brother's hand in friendly leafy clasp;
    And as the changing seasons come and go
    Thus bravely linked they welcome sun and snow,
    And friendly time but makes them stronger, kinder, closer grow.

  18. Kind Hearts

    Kind hearts are the gardens,
    Kind thoughts are the roots,
    Kind words are the blossoms,
    Kind deeds are the fruits;

    – Anonymous
    Kind Hearts
    by Anonymous

    Kind hearts are the gardens,
    Kind thoughts are the roots,
    Kind words are the blossoms,
    Kind deeds are the fruits;
    Love is the sweet sunshine
    That warms into life,
    For only in darkness
    Grow hatred and strife.

  19. Mighty Things

    by Annette Wynne

    Iron, steel, and granite rock are mighty things, I deem,
    But the strongest thing in all the world is just a dream;
    Dreams built a house, and built a bridge, a ship to go afar,
    And God's dream made the earth and us and every rolling star.

  20. One Step and Then Another

    by Anonymous

    One step and then another,
    And the longest walk is ended;
    One stitch and then another,
    And the largest rent is mended.

    One brick upon another,
    And the highest wall is made;
    One flake upon another,
    And the deepest snow is laid.

  21. The Rainbow

    by Christina Rossetti

    Boats sail on the rivers,
    And ships sail on the seas;
    But clouds that sail across the sky
    Are prettier far than these.

    There are bridges on the rivers,
    As pretty as you please;
    But the bow that bridges heaven,
    And overtops the trees,
    And builds a road from earth to sky,
    Is prettier far than these.

  22. Tiny Little Snowflakes

    by Lucy Larcom

    Tiny little snowflakes,
    In the air so high,
    Are you little angels,
    Floating in the sky?
    Robed so white and spotless,
    Flying like a dove,
    Are you little creatures,
    From the world above?

    Whirling on the sidewalk,
    Dancing in the street,
    Kissing all the faces
    Of the children sweet,
    Loading all the housetops,
    Powdering all the trees,—
    Cunning little snowflakes,
    Little busy bees!

  23. Golden Keys

    Hearts, like doors, oft ope with ease
    To very, very little keys,
    And don't forget that two are these:
    "I thank you, sir," and "If you please."

    – Anonymous
    Golden Keys
    by Anonymous

    A bunch of golden keys is mine
    To make each day with gladness shine.
    "Good morning" is the golden key
    That unlocks every door for me.

    When evening comes, "Good Night" I say,
    And close the door of each glad day.
    When at the table, "If You Please"
    I take from off my bunch of keys.

    When friends give anything to me
    I'll use the "Thank You" key,
    "Excuse me," "Beg your pardon, too,"
    When by mistake some harm I do,
    Or, if unkindly harm I've given,
    With "Forgive me," I shall be forgiven.

    On a golden ring these keys I'll bind,
    This is its motto—"Be ye kind."
    I'll often use each golden key,
    And then a child polite I'll be.

    Hearts, like doors, oft ope with ease
    To very, very little keys,
    And don't forget that two are these:
    "I thank you, sir," and "If you please."

  24. My Shadow

    by Robert Louis Stevenson

    I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
    And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
    He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
    And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

    The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
    Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
    For he sometimes shoots up taller like an India-rubber ball,
    And he sometimes gets so little that there's none of him at all.

    He hasn't got a notion of how children ought to play,
    And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
    He stays so close beside me, he's a coward you can see;
    I'd think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

    One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
    I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
    But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
    Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

  25. What Do You Hold in Your Hand, New Year?

    by Annette Wynne

    What do you hold in your hand, New Year?
    A sheaf of many hours—
    Take them, hold them very dear,
    Snow and rain and flowers;
    You are blest if you but see
    Sunshine through the showers.

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