Saturday, July 13, 2013
Matilda By Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953)
The poem Matilda, written by Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), is a typical story written in simple verse format which tells of Matilda, who was prone to telling lies. Known for works which were popularized in the late Nineteen Century and early Twentieth Century, Hilaire Belloc's poetry was diverse, though the Cautionary Tales for Children seem to have captured the hearts of parents, teachers and young readers, particularly when warning about the results of bad behavior. The book containing the poem also appeals to those who enjoy satire, and are familiar with the political time setting of the book.
This particular poem is an example of the messages written by Belloc for a audience of children, and one can imagine the nanny reading this to the children with a very animated voice, so as to entertain and to educate the children in the particular vice of telling lies and the consequences of being untruthful. Popularized in this edition, the poem was illustrated by his friend Edward Gorey in almost a Monty Python sketch style.
Matilda comes over as the daughter of a wealthy family, and when she calls for the services of the London fire brigade in a moment of boredom, this causes chaos. Her aunt was aware of her vice and certainly had more respect for people who told the truth. Coming to terms with the vice the child had and her ability to tell such whopping lies, her aunt was to live to tell the tale of how Matilda had indeed given the fire brigade a false alarm.
The meaning is very plain in the way the poem is written. There is no real need to make an analysis of the meaning of the poem, though the message is very subtle and the verse contains clever use of words, the simplicity of which add to the impact of the message. Much as the “Boy who cried wolf” fable by Aesop, Hilaire Belloc appeared to have a good understanding of the vices of children, and although not clear from this verse, one may even assume that he had a love/hate relationship with youth. He demonstrates this in attempting to address the folly of their ways in many of the cautionary verses presented, as well as admonishing the folly of adults in other satirical works within the book. Having had five children, they would certainly have influenced the writer and encouraged him in his humorous attempt to provide guidelines for children with vices.
To a certain extent the author mocks his own works when asked by a reader in the introduction to this book whether the tales found