Wheezles and Sneezles

Shepard, "Now We Are Six"

E. H. Shepard, “Now We Are Six”

I’m finally climbing out of the bad cold that I’ve had since Wednesday and that forced me to cancel my final class on Fanny Burney’s Evelina. One poem, featuring the literary character that I was named after, always comes to mind at such moments. I had it memorized at an early age, meaning that I must have used it to put a narrative framework around whatever illnesses I had:


By A. A. Milne

Christopher Robin
Had wheezles
And sneezles,
They bundled him
His bed.     
They gave him what goes
With a cold in the nose,

And some more for a cold
In the head.
They wondered
If wheezles
Could turn
Into measles,
If sneezles
Would turn
Into mumps;
They examined his chest
For a rash,
And the rest
Of his body for swellings and lumps.
They sent for some doctors
In sneezles
And wheezles
To tell them what ought
To be done.

All sorts of conditions
Of famous physicians
Came hurrying round
At a run.
They all made a note
Of the state of his throat,
They asked if he suffered from thirst;
They asked if the sneezles
Came after the wheezles,
Or if the first sneezle
Came first.
They said, “If you teazle
A sneezle
Or wheezle,
A measle
May easily grow.
But humour or pleazle
The wheezle
Or sneezle,
The measle
Will certainly go.”
They expounded the reazles
For sneezles
And wheezles,
The manner of measles
When new.
They said, “If he freezles
In draughts and in breezles,
May even ensue.”

Christopher Robin
Got up in the morning,
The sneezles had vanished away.
And the look in his eye
Seemed to say to the sky,
“Now, how to amuse them today?”

The poem captures a major compensation for being a sick child, which is that one is the center of attention. Now that I look at it from the vantage point of a parent, however, I think it also does a good job of reflecting parental panic. We are prepared to bring in “all sorts of conditions of famous physicians” if that’s what it takes.

I’m looking forward to the vanishing away part.

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

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