Thursday, 25 July 2013 the words of AA Milne

A selection of the author's magical poems - with enchanting illustrations by EH Shepard

These magical poems are from the two volumes on which Winnie-the-Pooh author, AA Milne, and illustrator EH Shepard, collaborated: Now We Are Six and When We Were Very Young. They beautifully reflect the lifestyle, customs and countryside of 1920s Britain.

Alan Alexander Milne (1882-1956) became world-famous as the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh, but in his early career he was well known for the variety of his output.

Milne attended his father’s prep school and won a mathematics scholarship at Cambridge. Upon graduating he began his career at Punch magazine, writing successful comic poetry and humorous essays, and he rose to become assistant editor.

The verses later published in When We Were Very Young had their first airing in the pages of Punch. His achievements as a playwright, poet and novelist became overshadowed by the runaway success of the two Pooh books, published in 1926 and 1928. Based on his son, Christopher Robin Milne, and his collection of stuffed toy animals, the Pooh books continue to enchant generations of children and adults – although Milne and his son sometimes felt eclipsed by Pooh’s success.

Milne’s choice of Ernest Howard Shepard (1879-1976), a friend who also worked at Punch, was an inspired one. Shepard was an extremely successful cartoonist who studied at the Royal Academy Schools and had been something of a war hero, but he is best known now for his illustrations for many children’s books, such as The Wind In The Willows and, of course, Pooh.

Poems extracted from Changing Guard At Buckingham Palace: Britain Through The Poems Of AA Milne And The Eyes Of EH Shepard, published by Egmont, priced £12.99.

Where the water-lilies go
To and fro,
Rocking in the ripples of the water,
Lazy on a leaf lies the Lake King’s daughter,
And the faint winds shake her.
Who will come and take her?
I will! I will!
Keep still! Keep still!
Sleeping on a leaf lies the Lake King’s daughter...
Then the wind comes skipping
To the lilies on the water;
And the kind winds wake her.
Now who will take her?
With a laugh she is slipping
Through the lilies on the water.
Wait! Wait!
Too late, too late!
Only the water-lilies go
To and fro,
Dipping, dipping,
To the ripples of the water.


Whenever I’m a shining Knight,
I buckle on my armour tight;
And then I look about for things,
Like Rushings-out, and Rescuings,
And Savings from the Dragon’s Lair,
And fighting all the Dragons there.
And sometimes when our fights begin,
I think I’ll let the Dragons win...
And then I think perhaps I won’t,
Because they’re Dragons, and I don’t.

Where is Anne?
Head above the buttercups,
Walking by the stream,
Down among the buttercups.
Where is Anne?
Walking with her man,
Lost in a dream,
Lost among the buttercups.
What has she got in that little brown head?
Wonderful thoughts which can never be said.
What has she got in that firm little fist of hers?
Somebody’s thumb, and it feels like Christopher’s.
Where is Anne?
Close to her man.
Brown head, gold head,
In and out the buttercups.

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