A Child's Primer Of Natural History
By Oliver Herford with Pictures by the Author
Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1899
Copyright 1899, by Oliver Herford
A Seal The Giraffe The Yak A Whale The Leopard The Sloth The Elephant The Pig-Pen Some Geese The Ant An Arctic Hare The Wolf An Ostrich The Hippopotamus The Fly The Mongoos The Platypus The Chimpanzee A Mole The Rhinoceros A Penguin The Cat The Dog A Chameleon
SEE, chil-dren, the Fur-bear-ing Seal; Ob-serve his mis-di-rect-ed zeal: He dines with most ab-ste-mi-ous care On Fish, Ice Water and Fresh Air A-void-ing cond-i-ments or spice, For fear his fur should not be nice And fine and smooth and soft and meet For Broad-way or for Re-gent Street And yet some-how I of-ten feel (Though for the kind Fur-bear-ing Seal I har-bor a Re-spect Pro-found)
SEE the Gi-raffe; he is so tall There is not room to get him all U-pon the page. His head is high-er— The pic-ture proves it—than the Spire. That's why the na-tives, when they race To catch him, call it stee-ple-chase. His chief de-light it is to set A good example: shine or wet He rises ere the break of day, And starts his break-fast right away. His food has such a way to go,— His throat's so very long,—and so An early break-fast he must munch To get it down ere time for lunch.
THIS is the Yak, so neg-li-gee: His coif-fure's like a stack of hay; He lives so far from Any-where, I fear the Yak neg-lects his hair, And thinks, since there is none to see, What mat-ter how un-kempt he be. How would he feel if he but knew That in this Pic-ture-book I drew His Phys-i-og-no-my un-shorn, For chil-dren to de-ride and scorn?
THE con-sci-en-tious art-ist tries On-ly to draw what meets his eyes. This is the Whale; he seems to be A spout of wa-ter in the sea. Now, Hux-ley from one bone could make An un-known beast; so if I take This spout of wa-ter, and from thence Con-struct a Whale by in-fer-ence, A Whale, I ven-ture to as-sert, Must be an an-i-mat-ed squirt! Thus, chil-dren, we the truth may sift By use of Log-ic's Price-less Gift.
THIS is the Le-o-pard, my child; His tem-per's any-thing but mild. The Le-o-pard can't change his spots, And that—so say the Hot-ten-tots— Is why he is so wild. Year in, year out, he may not change, No mat-ter how the wea-ther range, From cold to hot. No won-der, child, We hear the Le-o-pard is wild.
THE Sloth en-joys a life of Ease; He hangs in-vert-ed from the trees, And views life up-side down. If you, my child, are noth-ing loath To live in In-dol-ence and Sloth, Un-heed-ing the World's frown, You, too, un-vexed by Toil and Strife, May take a hu-mor-ous view of life.
THIS is the El-e-phant, who lives With but one aim—to please. His i-vo-ry tusk he free-ly gives To make pi-a-no keys. One grief he has—how-e'er he tries, He nev-er can for-get That one of his e-nor-mous size Can't be a house-hold pet. Then does he to his grief give way, Or sink 'neath sor-row's ban? Oh, no; in-stead he spends each day Con-tri-ving some un-sel-fish way To be of use to Man.
OH, turn not from the hum-ble Pig, My child, or think him in-fra dig. We oft hear lit-er-a-ry men Boast of the in-flu-ence of the Pen; Yet when we read in His-to-ry's Page Of Hu-man Pigs in ev-er-y age, From Cr[oe]-sus to the pres-ent day, Is it, my child, so hard to say (De-spite the Scribes' vain-glo-ri-ous boast) What Pen has in-flu-enced Man the most?
EV-ER-Y child who has the use Of his sen-ses knows a goose. See them un-der-neath the tree Gath-er round the goose-girl's knee, While she reads them by the hour From the works of Scho-pen-hau-er. How pa-tient-ly the geese at-tend! But do they re-al-ly com-pre-hend What Scho-pen-hau-er's driv-ing at? Oh, not at all; but what of that? Nei-ther do I; nei-ther does she; And, for that mat-ter, nor does he.
MY child, ob-serve the use-ful Ant, How hard she works each day. She works as hard as ad-a-mant (That's very hard, they say). She has no time to gal-li-vant; She has no time to play. Let Fido chase his tail all day; Let Kitty play at tag: She has no time to throw a-way, She has no tail to wag. She scurries round from morn till night; She ne-ver, ne-ver sleeps; She seiz-es ev-ery-thing in sight, And drags it home with all her might, And all she takes she keeps.
An Arctic Hare.
AN Arc-tic Hare we now be-hold. The hair, you will ob-serve, is white; But if you think the Hare is old, You will be ver-y far from right. The Hare is young, and yet the hair Grew white in but a sin-gle night. Why, then it must have been a scare That turned this Hare. No; 't was not fright (Al-though such cases are well known); I fear that once a-gain you're wrong. Know then, that in the Arc-tic Zone A sin-gle night is six months long.
OH, yes, the Wolf is bad, it's true; But how with-out him could we do? If there were not a wolf, what good Would be the tale of RID-ING-HOOD? The Lit-tle Child from sin will fly When told the wick-ed Wolf is nigh; And when, ar-rived at Man's es-tate, He hears the Wolf out-side his gate, He knows it's time to put a-way I-dle fri-vol-i-ty and play. That's how (but do not men-tion it) This prim-er hap-pened to be writ.
THIS is an Os-trich. See him stand: His head is bur-ied in the sand. It is not that he seeks for food, Nor is he shy, nor is he rude; But he is sen-si-tive, and shrinks And hides his head when-e'er he thinks How, on the Gains-bor-ough hat some day Of some fine la-dy at the play, His fea-thers may ob-struct the view Of all the stage from me or you.
"OH, say, what is this fearful, wild In-cor-ri-gible cuss?" "This crea-ture (don't say 'cuss,' my child; 'T is slang)—this crea-ture fierce is styled The Hip-po-pot-am-us. His curious name de-rives its source From two Greek words: hippos—a horse, Potamos—river. See? The river's plain e-nough, of course; But why they called that thing a horse, That's what is Greek to me."
OB-SERVE, my child, the House-hold Fly, With his ex-traor-di-na-ry eye: What-ev-er thing he may be-hold Is mul-ti-plied a thou-sand-fold. We do not need a com-plex eye When we ob-serve the Household Fly: He is so vol-a-tile that he In ev-ery place at once can be; He is the buzz-ing in-car-na-tion Of an-i-mate mul-ti-pli-ca-tion. Ah! chil-dren, who can tell the Why And Where-fore of the House-hold Fly?
THIS, Chil-dren, is the famed Mon-goos. He has an ap-pe-tite ab-struse; Strange to re-late, this crea-ture takes A cu-ri-ous joy in eat-ing snakes— All kinds, though, it must be con-fessed, He likes the poi-son-ous ones the best. From him we learn how ve-ry small A thing can bring a-bout a Fall. Oh, Mon-goos, where were you that day When Mis-tress Eve was led a-stray? If you'd but seen the ser-pent first, Our Parents would not have been cursed, And so there would be no ex-cuse For MIL-TON, but for you—Mon-goos!
MY child, the Duck-billed Plat-y-pus A sad ex-am-ple sets for us: From him we learn how In-de-ci-sion Of char-ac-ter pro-vokes De-ri-sion. This vac-il-lat-ing Thing, you see, Could not de-cide which he would be, Fish, Flesh, or Fowl, and chose all three. The sci-en-tists were sore-ly vexed To clas-si-fy him; so per-plexed Their brains that they, with Rage at bay, Called him a hor-rid name one day,— A name that baf-fles, frights, and shocks us,— Or-ni-tho-rhyn-chus Par-a-dox-us.
CHIL-DREN, be-hold the Chim-pan-zee: He sits on the an-ces-tral tree From which we sprang in ag-es gone. I'm glad we sprang: had we held on, We might, for aught that I can say, Be hor-rid Chim-pan-zees to-day.
SEE, chil-dren, the mis-guid-ed Mole. He lives down in a deep, dark hole; Sweet-ness, and Light, and good Fresh Air Are things for which he does not care. He has not e-ven that make-shift Of fee-ble minds—the so-cial gift. But say not that he has no soul, Lest hap-ly we misjudge the Mole; Nay, if we mea-sure him by Men, No doubt he sits in his dark den In-struct-ing oth-ers blind as he Ex-act-ly how the world should be.
SO this is the Rhi-no-ce-ros! I won-der why he looks so cross. Per-haps he is an-noyed a bit Be-cause his cloth-ing does not fit. (They say he got it read-y made!) It is not that, I am a-fraid. He looks so cross be-cause I drew Him with one horn in-stead of two.
Well, since he cares so much for style, Let's give him two and see him smile.
THE Pen-guin sits up-on the shore And loves the lit-tle fish to bore; He has one en-er-vat-ing joke That would a very Saint pro-voke: "The Pen-guin's might-i-er than the Sword-fish"; He tells this dai-ly to the bored fish, Un-til they are so weak, they float With-out re-sis-tance down his throat.
OB-SERVE the Cat up-on this page. Phil-os-o-phers in ev-er-y age, The ver-y wis-est of the wise, Have tried her mind to an-a-lyze In vain, for noth-ing can they learn. She baf-fles them at ev-er-y turn Like Mis-ter Ham-let in the play. She leads their rea-son-ing a-stray; She feigns an in-ter-est in string Or yarn or any roll-ing thing. Un-like the Dog, she does not care With com-mon Man her thoughts to share. She teach-es us that in life's walk 'T is bet-ter to let oth-ers talk, And lis-ten while they say in-stead The fool-ish things we might have said.
HERE is the Dog. Since time be-gan, The Dog has been the friend of MAN, The Dog loves MAN be-cause he shears His coat and clips his tail and ears. MAN loves the Dog be-cause he'll stay And lis-ten to his talk all day, And wag his tail and show de-light At all his jokes, how-ev-er trite. His bark is far worse than his bite, So peo-ple say. They may be right; Yet if to make a choice I had, I'd choose his bark, how-ev-er bad.
A USE-FUL les-son you may con, My Child, from the Cha-me-le-on: He has the gift, ex-treme-ly rare In an-i-mals, of sav-oir-faire. And if the se-cret you would guess Of the Cha-me-le-on's suc-cess, A-dapt your-self with great-est care To your sur-round-ings ev-er-y-where; And then, un-less your sex pre-vent, Some day you may be Pres-i-dent.
[Transcriber's Note: In this file, the ligatured oe character is represented by "[oe]".]