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"Saint George and the Dragon" by Raphael

Belinda lived in a little white house,
With a little black kitten and a little gray mouse,
And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon,
And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon.

Now the name of the little black kitten was Ink,
And the little gray mouse, she called her Blink,
And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard,
But the dragon was a coward, and she called him Custard.

Custard the dragon had big sharp teeth,
And spikes on top of him and scales underneath,
Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose,
And realio, trulio, daggers on his toes.

Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs,
Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Belinda tickled him, she tickled him unmerciful,
Ink, Blink and Mustard, they rudely called him Percival,
They all sat laughing in the little red wagon
At the realio, trulio, cowardly dragon.

Belinda giggled till she shook the house,
And Blink said Week!, which is giggling for a mouse,
Ink and Mustard rudely asked his age,
When Custard cried for a nice safe cage.

Suddenly, suddenly they heard a nasty sound,
And Mustard growled, and they all looked around.
Meowch! cried Ink, and Ooh! cried Belinda,
For there was a pirate, climbing in the winda.

Pistol in his left hand, pistol in his right,
And he held in his teeth a cutlass bright,
His beard was black, one leg was wood;
It was clear that the pirate meant no good.

Belinda paled, and she cried, Help! Help!
But Mustard fled with a terrified yelp,
Ink trickled down to the bottom of the household,
And little mouse Blink was strategically mouseholed.

But up jumped Custard, snorting like an engine,
Clashed his tail like irons in a dungeon,
With a clatter and a clank and a jangling squirm
He went at the pirate like a robin at a worm.

The pirate gaped at Belinda's dragon,
And gulped some grog from his pocket flagon,
He fired two bullets but they didn't hit,
And Custard gobbled him, every bit.

Belinda embraced him, Mustard licked him,
No one mourned for his pirate victim
Ink and Blink in glee did gyrate
Around the dragon that ate the pyrate.

Belinda still lives in her little white house,
With her little black kitten and her little gray mouse,
And her little yellow dog and her little red wagon,
And her realio, trulio, little pet dragon.

Belinda is as brave as a barrel full of bears,
And Ink and Blink chase lions down the stairs,
Mustard is as brave as a tiger in a rage,
But Custard keeps crying for a nice safe cage.

© Copyright Linell Nash Smith and Isabel Nash Eberstadt

"Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death."
- Omar Bradley

"I'm very brave generally, he went on in a low voice: only today I happen to have a headache."
- Lewis Carroll


It's pretty clear that "The Tale of Custard the Dragon" is what they call a "nonsensical" poem. Which basically means it doesn't have any deep underlying meaning, and is purely to be taken at face-value, as a children's story.
Of course the story does have a certain message. Custard saw himself as a cowardly dragon, and was even teased about it by his friends. When push came to shove, Custard was the bravest of them all when he defended his friends from the mean pirate. In the end his friends thank him, and acknowledge his courage. Custard didn't think he could be courageous, but he found out he could.

the poet:
Ogden Nash is well-known for his humorous poetry. Making up words and clever rhyme schemes make the poems roll off the tongue. His sense of humor has been a source of enjoyment since the 1925 or so, when he published his first book. By the 1940's Nash was well-known for his whimsical styleand in particular for his children's books. His rhymes are original, funny, fascinating and sometimes border on strange. But that was simply Nash style, experimenting with linguistic combinations to discover new and refeshing quirks in everyday language.

What many people don't know about Nash is that he has the lyrics of several musicals credited to his name as well. "One touch of Venus," "Two's Company," "Sweet Bye and Bye," are among the musicals for which Nash wrote.

In the following line from the poem, the name Percival is mentioned:
"Ink, Blink and Mustard, they rudely called him Percival,"
This is most likely meant to be the Percival (or Perceval, or a variety of other ways of spelling it) from the stories about King Arthur and Camelot. Percival is describe in the legends of Camelot as uneducated, not well-dressed, and lacking all of the heroic qualities of a knight. This could be because he was raised by his mother deep in the forest and had never seen a knight, a sword, or for that matter, even a horse. Nonetheless, Percival manages (through dumb-luck, innocence, or whatever you might call it) to get the Grail that Arthur's knights hadn't even been able to get their hands on. So Percival could be described as a hero in sheep's clothes, just like Custard.
In another part of the poems, the following lines contain some strange words as well:
"The pirate gaped at Belinda's dragon,
And gulped some grog from his pocket flagon,"
So what in the world are flagons with grog? The dictionary explains the word grog as alcoholic liquor. In particular, the word is often used with rum diluted in water (rum was a favorite of pirates). Flagon would then logically be a container to hold the liquor in. And the dictionary confirms this, as it describes a flagon as often made of metal or pottery used for keeping liquor or wine.
Furthermore, the word "gyrate" may elude some people as well, as used in the following lines from the poem:
"Ink and Blink in glee did gyrate"
Glee means delight or joy, but is used more often than gyrate. Gyrate means to revolve around something. In terms of the poem, it's basically a "ring-around-the-rosy" type of movement. So now you know.

The Tale of Custard the Dragon
by Ogden Nash, Lynn Munsinger (Illustrator)
Price: $5.95
Availability: Usually ships within 24 hours.
Avg customer rating: 5 stars

This is a wonderfully illustrated version of "The Tale of Custard the Dragon." Sure to become one of your favorite read-aloud books!
Custard the Dragon and the Wicked Knight
by Ogden Nash, Lynn Munsinger (Illustrator)
Price: $5.35
Availability: Usually ships within 24 hours.
Avg customer rating: 4.5 stars

The exciting sequel to "The Tale of Custard the Dragon." Your children (and you) will enjoy this follow-up just as much as the first poem!


the story:
Saint George is a fairly popular Christian saint and is also the patron saint of England and the Order of the Garter (a prestigious order of knights in England). The legend surrounding Saint George is also quite well-known, and dates to the 14th century from troubadours' story telling.
Once upon a time there was a mean dragon terrozing a small town (presumably in Libya). To keep the dragon happy, the town's people would throw it sheep. In time, there were no more sheep to throw, so they resorted to sons and daughters of the town. Eventually the princess' number was up too. When she was thrown to the dragon, Saint George happened to come by. He slaughtered the dragon, rescued the princess, and saved the day. This prompted the king and his people to convert to Christianity. And they lived happily ever after.

the painting:
Raphael painted this redition of Saint George and the Dragon on one of many miniature panels for the court of Urbino. Not only does this painting have Dutch influences (from that period in time) but Leonardo DaVinci can also be traced in searching for influences.
Note that both Saint George himself, and the princess (faintly present in the left background) have halos over their heads.
Another curious detail (or detail of a detail, seeing as the painting is in fact a miniature), is the blue garter Saint George is wearing around his leg. It has the letters "HONI" on it, which come from a latin phrase meaning "Disgraced be he who thinks ill of it." This is the motto of the Order of the Garter, which was a prestigious knight's society, and of which Saint George is the patron saint. The Duke of Urbino had asked Raphael to paint Saint George as a gift for King Henry VII of England, since the Duke had been made a knight in the Order of the Garter by the king.
The garter can't be seen very well in the image on this page, due to it's size, so a close-up of the garter can be found here.

Unfortunately, no posters are available of Raphael's rendition
of St. George and the Dragon. However, you might enjoy these:
St. George by Wyon
size: 17 in. x 15 in.
price: $23.40
Madonna St George and the Dragon
size: 12 in. x 10 in.
price: $10.80

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Biographical Sketch
The University of Texas retains an Ogden Nash collection with letters, works, etc. This page has some excellent biographical information.

Ogden Nash
The Office of the Secretary of State of Maryland maintains a "Famous People from Maryland Page" which is generally aimed at kids. However the page about Ogden Nash includes some good biographical info and is written by Frances R. Smith (Ogden Nash's Granddaughter).

A Tribute to the Poet
Has some complete poems of Nash online, and a brief timeline of Nash's life.

Ogden Nash
Selected poems by Ogden Nash about animals.

Candy is Dandy but Liquor is Quicker
A list of online poems by Nash.

ST GEORGE (the paintings and the story):
Rogier van der Weyden, Saint George and the Dragon
A virtual tour explaining (in kids' language) the legend of Saint George and the painting by Van der Weyden.

Saint George and the Dragon
More about the legend of Saint George.

Paintings of Saint George
Images of some paintings of Saint George through the ages. Links to the images, and brief description of painting and artist.

National Gallery of Art
From a tour through the gallery, description and images of Raphael's Saint George.

Art Magick
Image of Sir Edward Burne-Jones' depiction of St. George and the Dragon.

Art Magick
Images of a more abstract painting of St. George, by Odilon Redon.

Prado Museum
This museum, located in Madrid, Spain, has online images of Pedro Pablo Rubens' version of the legend with a brief description.

Webmuseum: Raphael
Extensive biography decribing his early works all the way through his later masterpieces. Includes plenty of links to fullzise images of his works.

Artchive: Raphael
Another good biography, with a long list of links at the end to images of Raphael's work online.

Artcyclopedia: Raphael
Collection of links to spots on the web where Raphael can be found.

Raphaello Sanzio
Page with a few links to his works, and some bio info.

Find a Grave: Ogden Nash
Yes, there's a website with images of famous people's graves.

St. Raphael Net
A dating site for single catholics.

The city of St. George
All about the city of St. George in Utah.

St. Raphael Resort
Gorgeous resort called St. Raphael, located in Cyprus.

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