If Walt Whitman Had Written Humpty Dumpty
By Frank Jacobs
O Humpty! O Humpty! You’ve had a fearful spill,
You’ve tumbled from the stoney height,
your’re lying cold and still;
Your shell is cracked, your yolk runs out,
your breath is faint and wheezy;
You landed as a scambled egg, instead of over easy;
The king has sent his steeds and men
To mend you if they can;
I pray that they did not forget
To bring a frying pan.
‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall:
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty in his place again.‘
‘That last line is much too long for the poetry,’ she added, almost out loud, forgetting that Humpty Dumpty would hear her.
‘Don’t stand chattering to yourself like that,’ Humpty Dumpty said, looking at her for the first time, ‘but tell me your name and your business.’
‘My name is Alice, but —’
‘It’s a stupid name enough!’ Humpty Dumpty interrupted impatiently. ‘What does it mean?’
‘Must a name mean something?’ Alice asked doubtfully.
‘Of course it must,’ Humpty Dumpty said with a short laugh: ‘my name means the shape I am — and a good handsome shape it is, too. With a name like yours, you might be any shape, almost.’
‘Why do you sit out here all alone?’ said Alice, not wishing to begin an argument.
‘Why, because there’s nobody with me!’ cried Humpty Dumpty. ‘Did you think I didn’t know the answer to that? Ask another.’
‘Don’t you think you’d be safer down on the ground?’ Alice went on, not with any idea of making another riddle, but simply in her good-natured anxiety for the queer creature. ‘That wall is so very narrow!’
‘What tremendously easy riddles you ask!’ Humpty Dumpty growled out. ‘Of course I don’t think so! Why, if ever I did fall off — which there’s no chance of — but if I did —’ Here he pursed up his lips, and looked so solemn and grand that Alice could hardly help laughing. ‘IfI did fall,’ he went on, ‘the King has promised me — ah, you may turn pale, if you like! You didn’t think I was going to say that, did you? The King has promised me — with his very own mouth — to — to —’
‘To send all his horses and all his men,’ Alice interrupted, rather unwisely.
‘Now I declare that’s too bad!’ Humpty Dumpty cried, breaking into a sudden passion. ‘You’ve been listening at doors — and behind trees — and down chimneys — or you couldn’t have known it!’