Thursday, 25 July 2019

A Cautionary Tale

In last Sunday's sermon, Bob was talking about the value of practising things - that we need to practise what we believe. He mentioned actors learning their lines. Over coffee later, my good friend Ali said "I had to learn Matilda for a concert once" I think the younger ones thought she meant Roald Dahl's character, but I knew she meant Hilaire Belloc's mischievous child. Ali and I began reciting in unison "Matilda told such dreadful lies..." and had to stop after a while as we were laughing, and everyone else thought we were slightly mad. But it is a great poem, and for all its humour, it certainly reminds us that truthfulness is an important virtue. Listen to it here...

Matilda told such Dreadful Lies, 
it made one Gasp and Stretch one’s Eyes;
Her Aunt, who, from her Earliest Youth,
Had kept a Strict Regard for Truth,
Attempted to believe Matilda:
The effort very nearly killed her,
And would have done so, had not she
Discovered this Infirmity.
For once, towards the Close of Day,
Matilda, growing tired of play,
And finding she was left alone, went tiptoe to the telephone
And summoned the Immediate Aid
Of London’s Nobel Fire-Brigade.
Within an hour the Gallant Band were pouring in on every hand,
From Putney, Hackney Downs and Bow,
With Courage high and Hearts a-glow
They galloped, roaring though the Town,
"Matilda’s House is Burning Down"
Inspired by British Cheers and Loud proceeding from the Frenzied Crowd,
They ran their ladders through a score
Of windows on the Ball Room Floor;
And took Peculiar Pains to Souse
The Pictures up and down the House,
Until Matilda’s Aunt succeeded in showing them they were not needed
And even then she had to pay to get the Men to go away! . . . . .
It happened that a few Weeks later
Here aunt was off to the Theatre
To see that Interesting Play "The Second Mrs. Tanqueray."
She had refused to take her Niece to hear this Entertaining Piece:
A Deprivation Just and Wise to Punish her for Telling Lies.
That Night a Fire did break out-
You should have heard Matilda Shout!
You should have heard her Scream and Bawl,
And throw the window up and call
To People passing in the Street-
(The rapidly increasing Heat
Encouraging her to obtain Their confidence)-but it was all in vain!
For every time she shouted "Fire!", they only answered "Little Liar!"
And therefore when her Aunt returned,
Matilda, and the House, were burned.

We should value those whose honesty and integrity is a key part of their character, and be wary of those who make a joke of truth. Just saying...


  1. I hadn't heard this poem before! Thank you for sharing it.

  2. I remember that poem from school days too! Thanks for the reminder

  3. I remember this poem from my childhood days at the local Junior School - I was in the Speech Choir and we competed in many inter school competitions - happy days, but not for Matilda


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