by: Sara Coleridge (1802-1852)

OUNG Ronald one day in a fury was roaring,
His passion still higher and higher was soaring;
Cried he, while the tears from his eyelids were pouring,
"I'd rather be naughty than good!"
To learn stupid lessons I'll never engage,
I'll storm, and I'll bluster and riot and rage,
I ne'er will consent to be kept in a cage,
I will go and walk in the wood."

His mother, astonished, cried "Ronald, for shame!
This terrible temper unless you can tame,
Such folly the rod must be called to reclaim,
And every one else will be ruffled.
Don't stare with your eyes, and don't wrinkle your brow,
Nor stamp and kick up such a dust and a row,
Nor shake your head angrily like the mad cow
Whose horns the old farmer has muffled.

"You well may remember the hurricane's blast,
Which over the orchard not long ago pass'd,
Which tore up a tree that was fit for a mast,
And almost demolished the wood:
Now this I suppose you prefer to a breeze
That cooled us last summer beneath the green trees,
And wafted us over the lake at our ease--
You'd rather be naughty than good!

"The mischievous flood that with terrible sweep
Knocked down the low cottage when all were asleep,
And battered the bridges, and drowned the poor sheep,
Your highest regard must excite!
Whereas the soft streamlets that quietly flow,
And make the green grass in the meadow to grow,
Relieving our thirst when the skies are aglow,
Can give you but little delight.

"Then as for the tigers that fearfully roar,
The hideous hyena, and foaming wild bear,
The wolf and the leopard, all reeking with gore,
Your darlings they surely must be;
The kids and sweet lambkins they prettily play,
The rabbit so gentle, and kitten so gay,
The faithful old dog that keeps robbers at bay,
With scorn and dislike you must see.

"The lark that sings loud as he soars to the sky,
The blackbird and thrush that in carolling vie,
The elegant pheasant and partridge so shy,
The robin, the stork, and the dove,
No doubt you despise; while the hawk and the kite,
Fierce vultures that crowd to the field of the fight,
And hoarse boding ravens that croak in their flight,
Must gain your esteem and your love.

"The nettle and night-shade, the gardener's foes,
I fully conclude you prefer to the rose,
And e'en to the lily that gracefully grows,
Some coarse and pestiferous weed;
The wasp must delight you far more than the bee,
While you and the emmet can never agree,
The hornet, no doubt, you're delighted to see,
The scorpion would charm you indeed."

"No, no!" cried young Ronald, a little more cool;
"I am not, indeed, quite so much of a fool;
I'd rather spend all the long morning in school,
And never walk out in the wood,
Than live with such horrible creatures as they:
So tell me no more of such wretches, I pray."
"Then why," said his mother, "just now did you say,
You'd rather be naughty than good?

"The flood and the storm that with horror we hear,
Fierce birds and wild beasts that cause hatred and fear,
Vile insects and plants that we dread to go near,
Are just like a furious boy;
Who makes a ridiculous raving and rant,
'I will and I won't, and I shall and I shan't,'
Who rudely behaves to his mother and aunt,
And does all he can to annoy."

Young Ronald now saw the whole matter aright,
He cleared up his brow and began to look bright;
His mother perceived with the greatest delight
Her boy was resolved to be good;
Within a short time the long lesson was said,
He spoke like a man, and he held up his head,
The rod was put by, and a rosebud instead
He wore as he roamed in the wood.

"The Boy Who Would Rather Be Naughty Than Good" is reprinted from Pretty Lessons in Verse for Good Children. Sare Coleridge. London: John W. Parker, 1839.




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