From Cautionary Tales for Children
for soprano or mezzo soprano and piano
Henry King [ 4 pages, circa 2' 30" ]
Defect of Henry King
Was chewing little bits of String.
At last he
swallowed some which tied
Itself in ugly Knots inside.
Physicians of the Utmost Fame
Were called at once; but when they came
They answered, as they took their Fees,
"There is no Cure for this
"Henry will very soon be dead.''
His Parents stood
about his Bed
Lamenting his Untimely Death,
When Henry, with his
Cried, ``Oh, my Friends, be warned by me,
Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch, and Tea
Are all the Human Frame requires...''
With that, the Wretched Child expires.
Matilda (who told such dreadful lies) [ 9 pages,
circa 4' 00" ]
Matilda told such Dreadful Lies,
It made one Gasp
and Stretch one’s Eyes;
Her Aunt, who, from her Earliest Youth,
kept a Strict Regard for Truth,
Attempted to believe Matilda:
effort very nearly killed her,
And would have done so, had not she
Discovered this Infirmity.
For once, towards the Close of Day,
Matilda, growing tired of play,
And finding she was left to alone,
Went tiptoe to the telephone
And summoned the Immediate Aid
London’s Nobel Fire-Brigade.
Within an hour the Gallant Band
pouring in on every hand,
From Putney, Hackney Downs and Bow,
Courage high and Hearts a-glow
They galloped, roaring though the Town,
"Matilda’s House is Burning Down"
Inspired by British Cheers and Loud
Proceeding from the Frenzied Crowd,
They ran their ladders through a
Of windows on the Ball Room Floor;
And took Peculiar Pains to
The Pictures up and down the House,
Until Matilda’s Aunt
In showing them they were not needed
And even then she had
To get the Men to go away! . . . . .
It happened that a few
Here aunt was off to the Theatre
To see that Interesting
The Second Mrs. Tanqueray.
She had refused to take her Niece
To hear this Entertaining Piece:
A Deprivation Just and Wise
Punish her for Telling Lies.
That Night a Fire did break out-
should have heard Matilda Shout!
You should have heard her Scream and
And throw the window up and call
To People passing in the
(The rapidly increasing Heat
Encouraging her to obtain
Their confidence)-but it was all in vain!
For every time She shouted
They only answered "Little Liar!"
And therefore when her
Matilda, and the House, were burned.
iii. George (The boy who played with dangerous toys)
[ 6 pages, circa 3' 30" ]
When George's Grandmamma was told
George had been as good as gold,
She promised in the afternoon
him an Immense BALLOON.
And so she did; but when it came,
into the candle flame,
And being of a dangerous sort
Exploded with a
The lights went out! The windows broke!
The room was
filled with reeking smoke.
And in the darkness shrieks and yells
mingled with electric bells,
And falling masonry and groans,
crunching, as of broken bones,
And dreadful shrieks, when, worst of
The house itself began to fall!
It tottered, shuddering to and
Then crashed into the street below-
Which happened to be Savile
When help arrived, among the dead
Were Cousin Mary, Little
The Footmen (both of them), the Groom,
The man that cleaned
The Chaplain, and the Still-Room Maid.
And I am
That Monsieur Champignon, the Chef,
Will now be
And both his aides are much the same;
George, who was in part to blame,
Received, you will regret to hear,
A nasty lump behind the ear.
The moral is that little boys
not be given dangerous toys.
Total duration [ 19 pages, circa 10' 00" ]
Belloc has been rightly called a "master of whimsy." These whimsical
settings are meant to of course reflect that humor. But in addition each of
the little tales is a drama meant to be enacted melodramatically with the
recital format. Factually the stories are tragedies, death being one common
theme. But the additional theme is one of whimsy, as these terrible and
"cautionary" tales are meant for both amusement and warning.
Joseph Hilaire Pierre Belloc (1870 - 1953) was an English author, as well as
a biographer, poet, journalist, and essayist. Not English by birth, his
father was French, his mother was Irish; and when he married, his bride was
an American. But he looked more like the figure of John Bull than another
Englishman of his time. He wore a stand-up collar several sizes too large
for him. His rotund head was crowned with a black hat - sometimes tall,
sometimes of the pancake variety. He was big and stocky and red of face, and
a typically British great-coat draped his beefy form except in the warmest
Hilaire Belloc - he dropped the other appendages at an early
age-was born at La Celle, near Paris, on July 20, 1870. He studied at the
Oratory School at Edgebaston, England, and at Balliol College, Oxford, where
he matriculated in 1893. In his third year he was Blackenbury History
Scholar and an honor student in the history schools.
School and his matriculation at Oxford, Belloc served in the French Army,
where as a driver in the Eighth Regiment of Artillery, he was stationed at
Toul. It was from this spot that, years later, he was to set forth on the
pilgrimage afoot to St. Peter's that furnished material for the book that
many critics consider his best, The Path to Rome.
Belloc became a British subject and in 1906 was returned to Parliament by
the South Salford constituency. He was a member of the Liberal party in the
House of Commons after the Tory debacle of the preceding year. He made his
first speech in the House early in 1906 and it won him an reputation as a
orator, after having attracted considerable attention during his campaign.
In the year of his return to Parliament he was also the nominee of the
British Bishops to the Catholic Education Council.
career began immediately after Balliol. He rapidly achieved success as a
newspaper and magazine writer and as a light versifier. His first book,
published in the year of his graduation, was Verses and Sonnets, and this
was followed within a year by The Bad Child's Book of Beasts, in
which his reputation as a master of whimsy was fully established.
"The Chief Defect of Henry King was chewing little bits of string," which
resulted in Henry's death. Such a sardonic tale is told over a ground bass
two measures in length, with a repetitious treble line four measures in
length accompanying the voice and making fun through false relations with
the bass line beneath.
Mathilde, like Henry, has a bad habit which results in her demise too.
Hers is lying, for this is merely a retelling of the fable of the boy
who cried "Wolf!" The vivacity of the opening theme suggests that she
was a lively young lady until her lying caught up with her. As with
Henry's tale, this too is a ballad for musical storytelling, and for
this the performers -- singer and pianist alike -- are encouraged to
interpret the music as best fits their dramatic and comic inclinations.
Yet another tale to be told, this with great calamity but without death
for the principals involved. The formal yet faux Baroque texture of the
accompaniment suggests a lack of seriousness to this tale with so many
victims, as does the melodramatic writing to enunciate the text. Alas,
Belloc suggests, that George and perhaps the Grandmamma as well got off
without paying with their lives. As with Belloc, the setting ends in a
humorous vein tinged with some seriousness, as there is a moral
The score to From Cautionary Tales for Children is available as a
free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording
of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer.
Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.
From Cautionary Tales for Children
8½ x 11 edition