The Preposterous Performance of an Old Lady of Banbury

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The Preposterous Performance of an Old Lady of Banbury
by Guy Wetmore Carryl
This poem was published in Carryl’s 1900 anthology Mother Goose for Grownups, of poems that are parodies of Mother Goose nursery rhymes.

Within a little attic a retiring, but erratic
      Old lady (six-and-eighty, to be frank),
Made sauces out of cranberry for all the town of Banbury,
      Depositing the proceeds in the bank.
Her tendency to thriftiness, her scorn of any shiftiness
      Built a bustling business, and in course
Of time her secret yearnings were revealed, and all her earnings
      She squandered in the purchase of a horse.

“I am not in a hurry for a waggonette or surrey,”
      She said. “In fact, I much prefer to ride.”
And in spite of all premonishment, to everyone’s astonishment,
      The gay old lady did so—and astride!
Now this was most periculous, but, what was more ridiculous,
      The horse she bought had pulled a car, and so
The lazy steed to cheer up, she’d a bell upon her stirrup,
      And rang it twice to make the creature go!

I blush the truth to utter, but it seems a pound of butter
      And thirty eggs she had to sell. Of course,
In scorn of ways pedestrian, this fatuous equestrian
      To market gaily started on the horse.
Becoming too importunate to hasten, the unfortunate
      Old lady plied her charger with a birch.
In view of all her cronies, this stupidest of ponies
      Fell flat before the Presbyterian church!

If it should chance that one set a red Italian sunset
      Beside a Beardsley poster, and a plaid
Like any canny Highlander’s beside a Fiji Islander’s
      Most variegated costume, and should add
A Turner composition, and with clever intuition,
      To cap the climax, pile upon them all
The aurora borealis, then veracity, not malice,
      Might claim a close resemblance to her fall.

At sight of her disaster, with arnica and plaster
      The neighbors ran up eagerly to aid.
They cried: “Don’t do that offen, ma’am, or you will need a coffin, ma’am,
      You’ve hurt your solar plexus, we’re afraid.
We hope your martyrdom’ll let you notice what an omelette
      You’ve made in half a jiffy. It is great!”
She only clutched her bonnet (she had fallen flat upon it),
      And answered: “Will you tell me if it’s straight?”

The moral’s rather curious: for often the penurious
      Are apt to think old horses of account
If you would ride, then seek fine examples of the equine,
      And don’t look on a molehill as a mount.