The Tale of Custard the Dragon

The Tale of Custard the Dragon :

This poem is written in the style of a ballad — a song or poem that tells a story. You must be familiar with ballads that narrate tales of courage or heroism. This poem is a humorous ballad close to a parody. Read it aloud, paying attention to the rhythm.

Belinda lived in a little white house,

With a little black kitten and a little grey mouse,

And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon,

And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.

Now the name of the little black kitten was Ink,

And the little grey mouse, she called him Blink,

And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard,

But the dragon was a coward, and she called him Custard.

Custard the dragon had big sharp teeth,

And spikes on top of him and scales underneath,

Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose,

And realio, trulio daggers on his toes.

Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears,

And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs,

Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage,

But Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Belinda tickled him, she tickled him unmerciful,

Ink, Blink and Mustard, they rudely called him Percival,

They all sat laughing in the little red wagon

At the realio, trulio, cowardly dragon.

Belinda giggled till she shook the house,

And Blink said Weeck! which is giggling for a mouse,

Ink and Mustard rudely asked his age,

When Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Suddenly, suddenly they heard a nasty sound,

And Mustard growled, and they all looked around.

Meowch! cried Ink, and ooh! cried Belinda,

For there was a pirate, climbing in the winda.

Pistol in his left hand, pistol in his right,

And he held in his teeth a cutlass bright,

His beard was black, one leg was wood;

It was clear that the pirate meant no good.

Belinda paled, and she cried Help! Help!

But Mustard fled with a terrified yelp,

Ink trickled down to the bottom of the household,

And little mouse Blink strategically mouseholed.

But up jumped Custard, snorting like an engine,

Clashed his tail like irons in a dungeon,

With a clatter and a clank and a jangling squirm,

He went at the pirate like a robin at a worm.

The pirate gaped at Belinda’s dragon,

And gulped some grog from his pocket flagon,

He fired two bullets, but they didn’t hit,

And Custard gobbled him, every bit.

Belinda embraced him, Mustard licked him,

No one mourned for his pirate victim.

Ink and Blink in glee did gyrate

Around the dragon that ate the pirate.

But presently up spoke little dog Mustard,

I’d have been twice as brave if I hadn’t been flustered.

And up spoke Ink and up spoke Blink,

We’d have been three times as brave, we think,

And Custard said, I quite agree

That everybody is braver than me.

Belinda still lives in her little white house,

With her little black kitten and her little grey mouse,

And her little yellow dog and her little red wagon,

And her realio, trulio little pet dragon.

Belinda is as brave as a barrel full of bears,

And Ink and Blink chase lions down the stairs,

Mustard is as brave as a tiger in a rage,

But Custard keeps crying for a nice safe cage.


Ogden Nash wrote over four hundred pieces of comic verse. The best of his work was published in 14 volumes between 1931 and 1972. His work is perhaps best described in this poetic tribute by Anthony Burgess…

...he brought a new kind of sound to our literary diversions.

And didn’t care much about breaking the poetic laws of the Medes and the Persians.

He uses lines, sometimes of considerable length that are colloquial and prosy.

And at the end presents you with a rhyme...

This bringing together of the informal and the formal is what his genius chiefly loves.

I am trying to imitate him here, but he is probably quite inimitable.

The word POETRY originates from a Greek word meaning TO MAKE. A poet is thus a maker and the poem something that is made or created. No single definition of poetry is possible but some characteristic features of poetry may be mentioned. Poetry has a musical quality with rhythm, pitch, metre and it may use figures of speech such as simile and metaphor. While quite a few poems in this selection are in traditional forms, the unit also includes modern poems that are free from formal restrictions.

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