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The First Tooth
by
Charles and Mary Lamb


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Through the house what busy joy,
Just because the infant boy
Has a tiny tooth to show!
I have got a double row,
All as white, and all as small;
Yet no one cares for mine at all.
He can say but half a word,
Yet that single sound's preferred
To all the words that I can say
In the longest summer day.
He cannot walk, yet if he put
With mimic motion out his foot,
As if he thought he were advancing,
It's prized more than my best dancing.


This poem is in the public domain.

 

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Charles (1775 - 1834) and Mary (1764 - 1847) Lamb are English siblings best known for their book, Tales of Shakespeare, a juvenile simplification of twenty of the bard's plays, which has never been out of print since its first publication in 1807. Both worked at other jobs for most of their adult lives--Charles as an accounting clerk for the British East India Tea Company; Mary, as a dressmaker, doing their writing on the side. Despite their 11-year age difference, Charles and Mary were close from very beginning. They wrote three books together, numerous ones individually, and often shared living quarters. (Neither sibling married, though Charles was in love several times.) Despite enjoying an active social life and quite a bit of renown during their day (Charles' best buddy for most of his life was fellow poet Samuel Coleridge), both suffered from mental illness that kept them in and out of asylums throughout their lives. Charles' depression was exacerbated by alcohol abuse, while Mary's nervous breakdown from constant caregiving in stressful circumstances resulted in the accidental stabbing of her mother. The tragedy was chalked up to temporary insanity, and Mary was released under the guardianship of her brother. Ironically, much of what these siblings produced were carefree, happy poems and tales for children.

 

 


New comments are closed for now.
mrsl488:
Thanks for sharing this one, it so perfectly conveys what we adults think the older sibling is thinking.
Posted 09/21/2014 05:56 PM
Dorcas:
Charming. Thanks for background of the Lambs.
Posted 09/19/2014 10:41 PM
Cindy:
Yes. I am the oldest of 5 and was just 3 years old when my first brother was born. When I bent over to have a look at him, he peed over my favorite red overalls. I am 67 now and still remember!
Posted 09/19/2014 09:01 AM
Wilda Morris:
When I meet a new baby with older siblings, I tell the older children how lucky the baby is to have such wonderful sisters or brothers. The older ones have been displaced in a sense, and the little one tends to get all the attention. Langa, that is enough to upset the child from whose perspective this poem is written.
Posted 09/19/2014 08:42 AM
rhonasheridan:
A very unexpected poem from the Lambs -but quite delightful
Posted 09/19/2014 05:52 AM
KevinArnold:
Langa, I think an infant boy has had his first tooth come in and a big ado is made of it.
Posted 09/18/2014 11:42 PM
Joe Sottile:
Bravo!
Posted 09/18/2014 11:36 PM
Langa:
What initially upset the girl who is narrating us this poem?
Posted 08/13/2013 02:53 PM


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