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"Little Willie" Poems

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I was in the third grade when my parents began home schooling my brother and me. We were not sure we would like it, and though we missed recess, we found the rest of it to be much better than traditional schooling.

One of the course I remember my mom teaching us was on types of literature. She introduced us to all different kinds of writing. Fiction, nonfiction, how-to guides and whimsical. She read us stories that had morals, from the McGuffey readers, and stories that were just silly. She also gave us a course in poetry. We tried our hand at writing Haiku, and read Robert Frost. Then she showed us limericks (see edit).

The first one I remember reading,

"Algae met a bear,

The bear was bulgy.

The bulge was Algae."

didn't make the most sense to me, but I found it funny anyway, especially since a had a bulgy aunt, who I could imagine meeting a bear. After that we ran into some "Little Willie" poems, by Harry Graham They were unlike anything we had heard before, and we could hardly believe they were in books put together by adults. They too similar to the things one heard from the pastor's kids after potlucks -- the type of things you would never tell your parents! But, here, they were in a book my mom had given us to read!

We had such a blast reciting them, that they have ever been with me, and over the years I have collected more. Here is a sampling. Not every "Little Willie" poem you find is by Harry Graham, but all are inspired by him.

Edit:  Thanks to a kind reader, I find that I was mistaught.... What was labeled a limirick in the children's book of poetry that we had was not.  A limirik is a 5 line poem, not four, originating in the town of Limerick, Ireralnd.


"Little Willie" Poetry

...not to be confused with "Slick Willy" poems...

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Willie saw some dynamite,

Didn't understand it quite.

Curiosity seldom pays.

It rained Willie seven days.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Willie, with a thirst for gore,

Nailed his sister to the door.

Mother said with humor quaint,

"Now, Willie dear, don't scratch the paint."

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Scroll to Continue

Little Willie, with a curse

Threw the teapot at the nurse.

When it struck her on the nose,

His father cheered, "How straight he throws!"

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Willie built a guillotine,

Tried it out on sister Jean.

Said Mother, as he got the mop,

"These messy games have got to stop.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

In the family drinking well,

Willie pushed his sister Nelle,

She's there yet, because it kilt her.

Now we'll have to buy a filter.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Little Willie, dressed in sashes,

Fell in the fire and burnt to ashes.

Later on the room grew chilly,

But no one cared to poke poor Willy.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Little Willie, feeling well

Pushed his sister down the well.

Said his mother, drawing water;

"It's mighty tough to raise a daughter!"

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Willie poisoned his father's tea;

Father died in agony.

Mother came, and looked quite vexed:

"Really, Will," she said, "what next?"

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Little Willie shot his sister;

She was dead before we missed her.

Willie's always up to tricks.

Ain't he cute?  He's only six.

Ivorwen, 2010.

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Comments or your Favorite Harry Graham Poem.

Susan on September 06, 2017:

Little Willie on the track

Heard the engine squeal

Now the train is coming back

scraping Willie off the wheel

Christine Brooks, Australia on July 10, 2015:

I like WCE's above variation, but my favourite version is close to Saucy Sally's:

Poor little Willie in his frills and sashes

Fell into the fire and was burnt to ashes

The fire burned low and the room grew chilly

But no-one had the heart to stir poor Willie.

It was written by my Great-uncle Bill (under the pseudonym Willie Knott) in my grandmother's autograph album in the 1920s.

wce on February 28, 2015:

Hi Ivorwen,

I realize this discussion is now 4-yrs old but I just stumbled across this hub. Fabulous! When my father was a young engineer in the early '50s, he and his coworkers would tell each other Little Willie (and similar) rhymes/limericks. This was his favorite:

Our Little Willie and his new sash

Fell into the fire and was burned to an ash

Cold as a frog in an ice-bound pool

Cold as the tip of an Eskimo's tool

Cold as charity, and Christ that's chilly

But not as cold as our poor Willie

He's dead, poor bastard

joe g on June 28, 2014:

Found in uncle johns bathroom reader

Little willie home from school

Spied a dollar behind a mule

stooped to get it quiet as a mouse

funeral tomorrow willie's house

Realist on February 08, 2014:

Little Will, With Father's Gun,

Punctured Grandma Just For Fun,

Mother Frowned At The Merry Lad,

It Was The Last Shell Father had!

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on June 09, 2012:

Following, Mhatter99.

That is excellent news, TheMadHatter121!

Distantiate, thank you for your submission! I love how creative people are. :)

Distantiate on June 06, 2012:

I enjoyed the Little Willie collection and smiled as much as I did in fourth grade when my older cousin introduced me to them.

I would like to send on a chemistry teacher's version of one of the poems submitted. It's fanciful, but perhaps a good way to explain the difference between acids and bases. CAUTION: It may need revision by a chemistry professional!

Thirsty Willie drank his fill

But soon lay senseless on the floor

For what he'd thought was H2O

Was H2SO4.

His teacher, thinking quickly

Gave him CaCO3

So Willie took the rest of class

At the ceiling, floating free.

TheMadHatter121 on June 02, 2012:

The Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Households is now out on the kindle store for $0.00. It was re-published by a group of fans. Have fun!

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on May 20, 2012:

if you like limericks follow me

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on March 24, 2012:

That is one I have never heard. Was the tune she used from another song or did it have its own?

linda on March 24, 2012:

does enyone know this one.poor little willie is deaf and dumb,poor little willie insane.his eyes are all glueie and glum what a mum use to sing it to us when we were poorly[meaning]someone worse of then us

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on November 02, 2011:

Hello Saucy Sally! I love those poems. :)

You know, it just occurred to me that Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes is old enough, it should be public domain! So I found an e-copy:

So nice to make you acquaintance.

Saucy Sally from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on November 02, 2011:

My mother (born 1910) remembered having a copy of Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes and taught me two of the rhymes: Billy in one of his brand new sashes, fell in the fire and burnt to ashes and even now though the room grows chilly, we haven't got the heart to poke poor Billy. The other was about Willy who swallowed a thermometer and his mother at the funeral was heard to remark: "It was a chilly day for Willy when the mercury went down.".

lindsy lohan222 from no where on October 12, 2011:

i know i am new on this hub thing but ivorwen those poems are the most awsomest poems i have ever heard maybe you should make more poems up i just love them.

~~lindsy lohan :) you rock the world

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on October 01, 2011:

Thanks for stopping by, PaddyBoy!

Falconetti, thank you so much for your contributions!

PADDYBOY60 from Centreville Michigan on October 01, 2011:

I like this collection. Reminds me of my Uncle Larry shot An Arrow poems, kind of, I think, well maybe not. Lol. Thank you for sharing with us.

Falconetti22 on August 06, 2011:

Some more: little willy on his bike through the village took a hike, Mrs Thompson blocked the walk she will live but still cant talk. Another: In the well did little willy push his little sister lilly, mother couldn't find her daughter now we sterilize our water. One more: Little willy with a thirst for gore nailed a spider to the door his mother said with humor quaint careful Will dont mar the paint!

Falconetti22 on August 06, 2011:

Here's one: Little Willy hit the ball, lined one down the schoolhouse hall, through the dorr came Professor Hill, several teeth are missing still. got another Little willy lit a rocket which his dad had in his pocket the next day he told his cousin dan my dads a traveling man.

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on April 14, 2011:

Thank you Dr. RAH, for your contribution!

Dr. RAH on April 09, 2011:

My personal favorite is missing, and it goes like this:

Little Willy was our darling.

Little Willy is no more.

For what he thought was H2O

Was H2SO4

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on February 19, 2011:

Thank you so much Pamhandle! The farm one has me laughing, because I know kids like that. :)

pamhandle on February 19, 2011:

Hi Ivorwen, Found the pages from my mother's book and found you a couple new ones:

Willie floated o'er the falls

Amid his friends' most frantic calls.

His father cried, "How sad the day

Our children start to drift away."


Willie's new psychiatrist

Has joined the others on the list.

They all ran screaming off and hid

When faced with Little Willie's id.


Little Willie on a farm

Had fell and broke his arm;

Of all that knew him there was none

Who didn't ask: "What! Only one?"

and lastly

Little Willie, just for kicks,

A rocket to his scooter fixed.

His neighbers now are quite content

To see Will in the firmament.

Hope you enjoy these. You are on my favorites now so I can check in and see if anyone has found more. Just loved these as a kid.

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on February 13, 2011:

Thank you Petite!

Petite on February 13, 2011:

There is another one:

Willie was a chemist,

but Willie is no more

What he thought was H2O,

Was H2SO4.

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on February 03, 2011:

Thank you Genna, and welcome to Hubpages!

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on February 03, 2011:

As a new to hubpages, I loved this hub! Very refreshing!

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on January 10, 2011:

I love that Pamhandle!

pamhandle on January 10, 2011:

I remember these as a kid. Here is one you didn't list: Little Willie full of glee

Put uranium in Grandma's tea

Now he thinks it's quite a lark

To see her shining in the dark.

I'm going to get with my sister to see if we can find the book we had these in. Maybe I will find some more to share.

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on December 13, 2010:

Shynsly, I love it! Your poem is fabulous! :D

Thanks for contributing.

shynsly from Sierra Vista, AZ on December 12, 2010:

Little Willie was surely no fool...

Pushed his sister into the pool.

Then when Christmas time had come...

Willie's presents were double the sum.

Not the greatest, but your hub cracked me up, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Add me to the ranks who've never heard of "little Willie" before, but thank you for enlightnening us!

Joilene Rasmussen from Ovid on December 12, 2010:

I'm recovering, thanks.

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on December 10, 2010:

Don't worry, ButterflyWings, my very literal child didn't get them at first either. Now he thinks they are funny.

I hope your brains will be okay. ;)

Joilene Rasmussen from Ovid on December 10, 2010:

I skipped this hub when it first came out, but I've rediscovered it, and laughed my brains out. I've quoted a few of these to my kids, and they just gave me strange looks. But then, my eight-year-old Billy can be so literal. ;)

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on December 08, 2010:

Murray Schwartz, thank you so much, for your brilliant contribution! I love that poem!

Murray Schwartz on December 07, 2010:

Little Willie bored of stealing cars

Swiped a rocket, flew to Mars

There he pursued his normal pattern

Now the Martians live on Saturn

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on November 10, 2010:

Acaetnna, I am glad you enjoyed it!

acaetnna from Guildford on November 09, 2010:

This was so fun to read and very refreshing. Thank you for sharing.

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on November 09, 2010:

Points made by extremes and exaggeration? To make them memorable? Because we learn better from things that stick with us?

And, not all nursery rhymes are cruel...

Hickity, Pickity, my black hen,

She lays eggs for gentlemen.

Some times nine and some times ten,

Hickity, Pickity, my black hen.

neeleshkulkarni from new delhi on November 08, 2010:

hey but why are all such nursery rhymes cruel.

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on November 05, 2010:

Nell, I like the idea of them being read in school! In fact, I think they ought to read them at school now--life is far too serious, especially for kids.

Nell Rose from England on November 04, 2010:

Hi, I had never heard of these either! but they are great, aren't they? can you imagine anybody reading them at school now? ha ha nell

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on October 23, 2010:

Rodger, thank you so much for sharing those. A few of them are brand new to me!

Rodger on October 23, 2010:

When I was a little boy my Uncle Dutch bought me a joke book. The jokes were funny but the part I liked best about the book were the "Little Willy Limericks", so much so that I memorized several that I can still recite today, exactly as they appeared in that book :-)

Little Willy in bows and sashes

Fell in the fire and got burned to ashes

In the winter when the weather is chilly

no one likes to poke up Willy

Willy on the railroad track

The engine gave a squeel

The engineer just took a spade

And scraped him off the wheel

Willy found some dynamite

Couldn't understand it quite

Curiosity never pays

It rained Willy seven days

Willy split the baby's head

To see if brains were gray or red

Mother sighed and said to father

Children are an awful bother

One other from that book I recall....

There once was a man from Leeds

Who swallowed a pack of seeds

In a month, silly ass

He was covered with grass

And couldn't sit down for the weeds

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on October 08, 2010:

Hello Jim,

I really don't know what they are classified as. I had never run across the word epigram until I ran across Epigramman. It is still new to me, and honestly, I haven't taken time to look it up. I guess I would rather just enjoy some things than worry about the technicalities and terms. :)


TheManWithNoPants from Tucson, Az. on October 08, 2010:

I enjoyed these also. Would the Little Willie poems be considered epigrams? Although I'm a song writer, I'm not really up on these things I'm afraid. If you haven't already, check out "Epigramman" He's a gentleman, and genuis too,



Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on September 22, 2010:

You sheltered? I kind of doubt it! You not familiar with Willie? I can accept that. Glad you loved them. It is always fun to share favorites.

ralwus on September 21, 2010:

I was sheltered I guess. Willie was rotten. LOL Loved it though, thanks.

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on September 21, 2010:

Just keep an eye on that little boy. I bet he is ornery.

epigramman on September 21, 2010: enchanting is this hub of yours - I really didn't want it to stop - is it because you made me feel like a little boy again - hey wait I'm still a little boy!!!!

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on September 15, 2010:

Granny, I am glad you liked them!

Granny's House from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time on September 15, 2010:

I have never heard of these. I did enjoy reading them.

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on September 14, 2010:

Thank you prasetio. I love learning, and I do think it was coming across fun things like this that helped to keep me going, even when it was hard to gain new concepts.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on September 14, 2010:

As a teacher, I love this hub. Thanks for share your educational experience with us. I also enjoy your poem. Very inspiring hub. ~prasetio

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on September 13, 2010:

Your welcome, LiftedUp.

LiftedUp from Plains of Colorado on September 13, 2010:

Ah, the quintessential contrast to be found in these poems! The blatant horror of Willie's actions, and the absolute calmness with which they are met. Thanks for including more poems than I knew existed.

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on September 13, 2010:

The title of the book these originated in is "Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes," and I am sure it was 'politically incorrect' even in it's day... but that didn't stop people from buying it.

Personally, I love the old cartoons and The Three Stooges. They are so overboard on the stupidity and harm that even young children know better. I don't find the same to be true of today's more subtle cartoons.

...and thank you for your critic. I am considering your suggestion. :)

Tim Nichol from Me to You on September 13, 2010:

It's interesting how cruel, yet amusing these are. I don't remember these from my childhood. If you look back at cartoons from the 40's through the 60's, they're full of characters being mutilated and other dastardly deeds. Yet kids know that it's only a cartoon. Same with these near-limericks.

I can imagine some people today might find such things 'politically incorrect', and think they had some serious negative influence, but kids know better.

btw, just a little correction in your preface above: the line that reads "We had such a blast reciting them, that they have ever been with me"...I think 'always' would be a better fit than 'ever'.

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on September 13, 2010:

Doug, Thank you very much for bringing this to my attention. Having always seen them labeled limericks, it never occurred to me to check and see if this was accurate. I appreciate your comment, and will amend this article.

Ivorwen (author) from Hither and Yonder on September 13, 2010:

Thank your addition, DrBJ. I think my kids will like that one... as long as they don't practice it!

Doug Harris on September 13, 2010:

Only one problem, these ain't "limericks". Limericks are 5-liners in the AABBA rhyming style and in anapest meter with three feet in lines 1,2 and 5 and 2 feet in lines 3 and 4. Soiunds boringly technical, but limericks have a particular lilt - they are not just any old short verse, quip or caption.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on September 12, 2010:

Great collection, Ivorwen, here's another:

Willie sneezed a sneeze into the air.

It fell to earth we know not where.

But hard and cold were the looks of those,

In the vicinity where Willie snoze!

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