Saturday, May 12, 2012

Snips and Snails

There is a 19th century nursery rhyme attributed to the English poet
Robert Southey**
that goes "What are little boys made of, made of? 
Snips and snails and puppy-dog tails...."

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the meaning of "snips"
as little odds and ends, bits and pieces of things.
The citation from 1624 quotes  R. Montagu as writing: 
"I like not that the ancient Fathers are sent schoole-boys with snips."
It seems elders didn't get much respect in the 17th century either. 

I thought of the snips and snails line
when I walked down to the pier along the Elizabeth River last week.

Here's why I thought of the rhyme:
All the little white spots on the gray rip-rap are some kind of river snail.
Here's a closer view:

Since I'm made of sugar and spice and everything nice,
I don't find the sight of snails stuck to rocks very appealing.
But I'd rather see these mollusks 
than the glossy brown palmetto bugs--big enough to saddle-- 
that usually scurry across these rocks.

Snips and snails and palmetto-bug-tails aside,
this part of the Elizabeth River channel  is peaceful most of the time.

On sunny weekdays, it's a good place to watch tug boats
slowly push barges north to the shipyards,
or to see the moonlight reflected in the water on clear nights.
That's the everything nice part.

No comments: