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The Old Sailor

There was once an old sailor my grandfather knew
Who had so many things which he wanted to do
That, whenever he thought it was time to begin,
He couldn’t because of the state he was in.

He was shipwrecked, and lived on an island for weeks,
And he wanted a hat, and he wanted some breeks;
And he wanted some nets, or a line and some hooks
For the turtles and things which you read of in books.

And, thinking of this, he remembered a thing
Which he wanted (for water) and that was a spring;
And he thought that to talk to he’d look for, and keep
(If he found it) a goat, or some chickens and sheep.

Then, because of the weather, he wanted a hut
With a door (to come in by) which opened and shut
(With a jerk, which was useful if snakes were about),
And a very strong lock to keep savages out.

So he thought of his hut … and he thought of his boat,
And his hat and his breeks, and his chickens and goat,
And the hooks (for his food) and the spring (for his thirst) …
But he never could think which he ought to do first.

And so in the end he did nothing at all,
But basked on the shingle wrapped up in a shawl.
And I think it was dreadful the way he behaved -
He did nothing but basking until he was saved.

A A Milne

A.A. Milne (1882-1956), prolific poet, writer and playwright, achieved lasting celebrity with his two children’s collections of comic and sentimental verse, When We Were Very Young (1924) and Now We Are Six (1927), which included ‘The Old Sailor’. His son never forgave his father for portraying him as Christopher Robin in these collections and in the stories of Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928). ‘The Old Sailor,’ from which this is extracted, is a comic take on Daniel Defoe’s classic novel Robinson Crusoe (1719) about the resourcefulness of a shipwrecked mariner.