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Mrs Malone

Mrs Malone
Lived hard by a wood
All on her lonesome
As nobody should.
With her crust on a plate
And her pot on the coal
And none but herself
To converse with, poor soul.
In a shawl and a hood
She got sticks out-o’-door,
On a bit of old sacking
She slept on the floor,
And nobody, nobody
Asked how she fared
Or knew how she managed,
For nobody cared.
Why make a pother
About an old crone?
What for should they bother
With Mrs Malone?

One Monday in winter
With snow on the ground
So thick that a footstep
Fell without sound,
She heard a faint frostbitten
Peck on the pane
And went to the window
To listen again.
There sat a cock-sparrow
Bedraggled and weak
With half-open eyelid
And ice on his beak.
She threw up the sash
And she took the bird in,
And mumbled and fumbled it
Under her chin.
“Ye’re all of a smother,
Ye’re fair overblown!
I’ve room fer another,”
Said Mrs Malone.

Come Tuesday while eating
Her dry morning slice
With the sparrow a-picking
(“Ain’t company nice!”)
She heard on her doorpost
A curious scratch,
And there was a cat
With its claw on the latch.
It was hungry and thirsty
And thin as a lath,
It mewed and it mowed
On the slithery path.
She threw the door open
And warmed up some pap,
And huddled and cuddled it
In her old lap.
“There, there, little brother,
Ye poor skin-an’-bone,
There’s room fer another,”
Said Mrs Malone.

Come Wednesday while all of them
Crouched on the mat
With a crumb for the sparrow,
A sip for the cat,
There was wailing and whining
Outside in the wood,
And there sat a vixen
With six of her brood.
She was haggard and ragged
And worn to a shred,
And her half-dozen babies
Were only half-fed,
But Mrs Malone, crying
“My! ain’t they sweet!”
Happed them and lapped them
And gave them to eat.
“You warm yourself, mother,
Ye’re cold as a stone!
There’s room fer another,”
Said Mrs Malone.

Come Thursday a donkey
Stepped in off the road
With sores on his withers
From bearing a load.
Come Friday when icicles
Pierced the white air
Down from the mountainside
Lumbered a bear.
For each she had something,
If little, to give—
“Lord knows, the poor critters
Must all of ’em live.”
She gave them her sacking,
Her hood and her shawl,
Her loaf and her teapot—
She gave them her all.
“What with one thing and t’other
Me fambily’s grown,
And there’s room fer another,”
Said Mrs Malone.

Come Saturday evening
When time was to sup
Mrs Malone
Had forgot to sit up.
The cat said meeow,
And the sparrow said peep,
The vixen, she’s sleeping,
The bear, let her sleep.
On the back of the donkey
They bore her away,
Through trees and up mountains
Beyond night and day,
Till come Sunday morning
They brought her in state
Through the last cloudbank
As far as the Gate.
“Who is it,” asked Peter,
You have with you there?”
And donkey and sparrow,
Cat, vixen and bear

Exclaimed, “Do you tell us
Up here she’s unknown?
It’s our mother, God bless us!
It’s Mrs Malone
Whose havings were few
And whose holding was small
And whose heart was so big
It had room for us all.”
Then Mrs Malone
Of a sudden awoke,
She rubbed her two eyeballs
And anxiously spoke:
“Where am I, to goodness,
And what do I see?
My dears, let’s turn back,
This ain’t no place fer me!”
But Peter said, “Mother
Go in to the Throne.
There’s room fer another
One, Mrs Malone.”


Eleanor Farjeon, 1881-1965, English author of short stories, novels, plays, history, works of satire, and many poems, is among the most important of children’s writers of the twentieth century. Awards received included the Carnegie Medal and the inaugural Hans Christian Andersen Medal, as well as the inaugural Regina Medal of the United States-based Catholic Library Association. In 1966, the Children’s Book Circle, a society of publishers, founded the Eleanor Farjeon Award to recognize outstanding service of the often unsung heroes who contribute to any aspect of the world of children’s books in Britain.

I found “Mrs Malone” in Farjeon’s Blackbird Has Spoken: Selected Poems for Children (1999), an attentive compilation, with Introduction, by anthologist and producer of literary programs, Anne Harvey. Its 144 pages make a smallish book, but it abounds with treasures (including “A Morning Song: For the First Day of Spring”, popularly known as “Morning Has Broken”). The poems all reveal a generous, wise and caring personality, with great sensitivity to the natural world and the human’s place within it.

“Mrs Malone” is a simple and elegant example of narrative poetry, . . . a form of poetry that tells a story, often making the voices of a narrator and characters as well; the entire story is usually written in metered verse. (en.wikipedia.org)