“Billy Ben”


Courtesy of Phillip Ellis and S.T. Joshi, we present a ‘lost’ poem by William Hope Hodgson.  Sadly, this is not a supernatural or sea poem but it is a charming little poem which was probably written for a more mainstream magazine.

“Billy Ben” has only appeared once and that was as part of the British edition of Captain Gault: Being the Exceedingly Private Log of a Sea-Captain (1917).  It was NOT included in the American edition which was published by McBride & Sons in 1918.  Sadly, the American edition is far easier to find than the British which caused this poem to be ‘lost’.  It was not included in either of the two volumes of WHH’s poetry which his widow published after his death nor was it included in The Lost Poetry (edited by Jane Frank) which collected many of the remaining, unpublished poems.

Long having been ignored by previous critics (the only notable example being Jane Frank’s analysis in The Lost Poetry), Hodgson’s poetry will be receiving renewed analysis in the forthcoming first issue of SARGASSO.

Billy Ben

Billy saw a crocodile

Bathing in a bath tub.

The crocodile stood by the stile

And waited there a little while;

But Billy went the other way round home.
*

Billy Ben and a Bull Frog

Met one summer day

By a boggy bog

And a floating log,

And the Bull Frog sang on the bottom:—

“Take the short cut home by the marsh with me;”

But Billy went the other way round home.

@
Billy met a Fire Fly

On a dark and summer night,

And Billy said

“I wonder why

It doesn’t burn you dead in bed,

You’re all alight!”

And the Fire Fly said, “Oh, come with me,

Oh, come with me and you will see;”

But Billy went the other way round home.
@

Billy met a Nanny Goat

Digested of a tablecloth

And Billy had a little white shirt

Under his little blue coat

And he carried a nice little boat.

But Billy made old Nanny wroth

And likewise a little hurt,

For she said with a tear

“Come here, my dear,

And let me see your nice little boat

And smell your nice little shirt;”

But Billy went the other way round home.

@

Billy saw a Bull in a field

And the field stood the other side a fence

And the Bull grinned at Billy

And called him small and silly,

’Cause Billy funked to pass

Beside him through the grass;

Said the Bull, “Oh, never fear,

You simple little dear!”

But Billy went the other way round home.
@

A Rabbit discovered Billy Ben

On the side of a mossy bank

Where the grass was long and rank

And the thistles grew

As Billy knew

As tall as a boy of ten,

And Billy beckoned the Rabbit near,

Coaxed it much and called it “Dear,”

And explained there was no room for fear;

But the Rabbit went the other way round home.

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