The Story of the Three Bears (1839)

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For works with similar titles, see The Story of the Three Bears.
The Story of the Three Bears  (1839) 
by Robert Southey

This version in verse was not authored by Robert Southey. The preface is signed G.N., which may refer to George Nicol.


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Unknown Author of "The Doctor,"

Great, original Concoctor

Of the rare story of the Bears,

Their porridge-pots, their beds and chairs,

Which you with condescending pen,

To please "Good little women and men,"

Have writ—I pray you to excuse

The freedom of my rhyming muse,

For having ventured to rehearse

This tale of your's in jingling verse;

But fearing in your book it might

Escape some little people's sight,

I did not like that one should lose

What will them all so much amuse.

"The robb'd that smiles"—so Shakspeare wrote—

"Steals something from the thief." I quote

This line in hope that you will smile

Upon this little book, the while

You turn the leaves and pictures view,

Which a young skilful artist drew,

Who quite delighted with the story

Employ'd his pencil, con amore

Thus hoping, Sir, I've but to state

That it, with admiration great

And much respect, I dedicate

To you, and am,—whate'er your name,

Which some day will be known to fame,

Though hidden now from public ken,—

Your humble copyist,

G. N.

July, 1837.
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Three Bears, once on a time, did dwell

Snug in a house together,

Which was their own, and suited well

By keeping out the weather.

'Twas seated in a shady wood,

In which they daily walk'd,

And afterwards, as in the mood,

They smok'd and read, or talk'd.

One of them was a great huge Bear,

And one of a middle size,

The other a little, small, wee Bear,

Withsmall red twinkling eyes.

These Bears, each had a porridge-pot,

From which they used to feed;

The great huge Bear's own porridge-pot

Was very large indeed.

A pot of a middle-size the Bear

Of a middle-size had got,

And so the little, small, wee Bear,

A little, small, wee pot.

A chair there was for every Bear,

When they might choose to sit;

The huge Bear had a great huge chair,

And filled it every bit.

The middle Bear a chair had he

Of a middle-size and neat;

The Bear so little, small, and wee

A little, small, wee seat.

They, also, each one had a bed

To sleep upon at night:

The huge Bear's was a great, huge bed,

In length, and width, and height.

The middle Bear laid down his head

On a bed of middle-size;

The wee Bear on a small, wee bed

Did nightly close his eyes.

One morn their porridge being made

And pour'd into each pot,

To taste it they were all afraid

It seem'd so boiling hot.

"A burnt child dreads the fire"—A Bear

Doth dread it just as much,

As these Bears proved, in taking care

Their porridge not to touch,

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For they most cautious had become

From having once before

Their mouths severely burnt with some,

Which made them dance and roar!

They, therefore, let their breakfast be

Till it should cooler grow—

And meantime for a walk the three

Into the wood did go.

And now a little old woman there

Came, whilst the Bears were out;

Through window, keyhole, everywhere,

She peep'd and peer'd about:

And then she lifted up the latch

And through the door she went,

For hold of all she could to snatch

No doubt was her intent.

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The bears had left the door undone

Whilst strolling in the wood,

For they suspected harm from none

They were, themselves, so good.

The little old Dame had entered in,

And was well pleased to find

The porridge-pots, and that within

They held food of such kind.

Now has she waited till home came

The bears, most likely they

To breakfast might have asked the Dame,

And begg'd of her to stay.

But she was impudent and bold,

And cared for none a pin;

So quickly of a spoon laid hold

The porridge to dip in.

And first out of the great Bear's Pot

The porridge she did taste,

Which proving to be very hot

She spat it out in haste.

She burn'd her mouth, at which half mad

She said a naughty word;

A naughty word it was and bad,

As ever could be heard.

The middle Bear's she tasted next,

Which being rather cold,

She disappointed was, and vext,

And with bad words did scold.

But now to where the small, wee Bear

Had left his small, wee cup

She came, and soon the porridge there

By her was eaten up.

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A wicked word she spoke again

As wicked as before,

Because this pot did not contain

Many a spoonful more.

Then down the little old woman sat

Within the huge Bear's chair,

But much too hard for her was that,

And so she staid not there.

Next she tried the middle-sized one

And that too soft she found;

Then sat the small, wee chair upon,

Which fitted her all round.

Now here for sometime sat the Dame

Till half inclined to snore,

When out this wee chair's bottom came

And her's came to the floor

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A wicked word about this too

She spoke—then went up-stairs,

And poked her ugly head into

The bed-room of the Bears.

And down upon the huge Bear's bed

She lay, which was too high

To suit her little ugly head,

Which easy could not lie.

Then to the middle Bear's she goes

And quick upon it got,

But at the foot too high it rose,

And so she liked it not.

Now down upon the small wee bed

She lay, and it was quite

The thing, both at the foot and head,

And fitted her just right.

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Thus finding that it suited well

Within the clothes she crept;

Then into a slumber fell

And snug and soundly slept.

Although the morning sun shone bright

And birds did sweetly sing,

She slept, as if it had been night,

This sad, old, lazy thing.

The three Bears in their jackets rough

Now came in from the wood,

Thinking their porridge long enough

To cool itself had stood.

"Somebody has at my porridge been!"

The huge Bear's gruff voice cried;

For there the spoon was sticking in,

Which he left at the side.

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"Somebody has at my Porridge been!"

Then said the middle Bear,

For also in his pot was seen

The spoon, which made him stare.

These spoons were wooden spoons, not made

Of silver, else full soon

This wicked Dame would, I'm afraid,

Have pocketed each spoon.

The small Bear's small voice said, as in

He peer'd to his wee cup,

"Somebody has at my porridge been, And eaten it all up!"

On this the three Bears finding that

The while they had been out,

Some one the door had entered at

Began to look about.

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"Somebody in my chair has sat!"

With voice so gruff and great

The huge Bear said, when he saw that

His cushion was not straight.

"Somebody in my chair has been!"

The middle Bear exclaim'd;

Seeing the cushion dinted in

By what may not be named.

Then said the little small wee Bear,

Looking his chair into,

"Some one's been sitting in my chair, And sat the bottom through!

Now having search'd the house below

Most Prudently these Bears,

Thought it just as well to go

And do the same up-stairs.
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"Some one's been lying in my bed!"

Cried out the great huge Bear,

Who left his pillow at the head

And now it was not there.

"Some one's been lying in my bed!"

The middle Bear then cried,

For it was tumbled at the head

And at the foot and side.

And Now the little wee Bear said

With voice both small and shrill,

"Some one's been lying in my bed— And here she's lying still !"

The other Bears look'd at the bed,

And on the pillow-case

They saw her little dirty head

And little ugly face.

The little old woman had the deep

Voice of the huge Bear heard,

But she was in so sound a sleep

She neither woke nor stirr'd:

For it appear'd to her no more

Than thunder rumbling by,

Or than the angry winds, which roar,

And sweep along the sky.

And she had heard the middle Bear,

Whose middle voice did seem

To her asleep, as though it were

The voice but of a dream.

But when the small, wee Bear did speak,

She started up in bed,

His voice it was so shrill, the squeak

Shot through her ugly head.

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She rubb'd her eyes, and when she saw

The three bears at her side,

She sprang full quick upon the floor—

And then with hop and stride

She to the open window flew,

Which these good tidy Bears

Wide open every morning threw,

When shaved they went down stairs.

She lept out with a sudden bound,

And whether in her fall

She broke her neck upon the ground,

Or was not hurt at all,

Or whether to the wood she fled

And 'mongst the trees was lost,

Or found a path which straightway led

To where the highways cross'd,

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And there was by the Beadle caught

And taken into jail—

This sad old woman good for naught!—

Remains an untold tale.



This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.