Amos and Ann had a poem to learn,A poem to learn one day;But alas! they sighed, and alack! they cried,’Twere better to go and play.Ann was sure ’twas a waste of timeTo bother a child with jingling rhyme.Amos said, “What’s the sense in rhythm—Feet and lines?” He had finished with ’em!
They peered at the poem with scowly faces,And yawned and stumbled and lost their places.Then—a breeze romped by, and a bluebird sang,And they shut the book with a snap and a bang;Shut the book and were off and away,Away on flying feet;—Never did squirrels move more light,Or rabbits run more fleet!
Over a wall and down a laneAnd through a field they ran;And “Where shall we go?” said Amos. “Oh,And where shall we stop?” cried Ann.Then all at once, round the curve of a hill,They pulled up panting and stood stock-still;For there, by the edge of a ripplety brook,In a deep little, steep little place,Sat a long-legged youth, with a staff and a bookAnd a quaint, very quizzical face.His cap and his trousers were dusty greenAnd his jacket was rusty brown,And he whittled away on sweet white wood,With shavings showering down.He whittled away ’twixt a laugh and a tune,With fingers as light as thistles.
“And what are you making?” asked Amos and Ann.
He said, “I am making whistles.”He finished one with a notch and a slit,And threw back his head and blew on it.
The whistle sang like a bird when he blew,Then he twinkled and put it down.“And where are you going,” he said, “you two?Are you going to Zodiac Town?”
Each of them shook a doubtful head(For truly they didn’t know).
“But make us a whistle like yours,” they said,“And anywhere we will go!”“I’ll make you a whistle apiece,” quoth he,“And if you like, you may follow me;Zodiac Town’s in the land of Time,And I go by the road of Rhyme.”
Ann looked at Amos and Amos at Ann;They blinked with sheer surprise;And then they looked at the long-legged man,Who twinkled back with his eyes.They said (and their voices were meek and low),“We ran away from a rhyme, you know.”
“You did?” cried the fellow in green and brown.“Then it’s unmistakably plain, oho,That you’re due in Zodiac Town!”
He took up his book and shouldered his staff,And turned to Amos and Ann.“Call me J. M.,” he said with a laugh.“That stands for Journeying Man.I’ll make you some whistles along the way,While you are remembering rhymes to say;For more than once in the land of TimeYou will have to speak in rhyme.”
“Our names,” said the children, “are Amos and Ann;And poetry is rather hard for us,But we’ll do the best we can.”Then they went away with the young-faced man,Joyfully up and down,Talking in rhyme by hill and lea,Gayly in rhyme—for that, said he,Was the tongue of Zodiac Town.To Zodiac after a while they came—The twistiest, mistiest town,With odd little collopy, scallopy streetsMeandering up and down.The home of the years and the hours was there,Of the minutes, the months, and the days—Houses with windows that winked and smiled,And doors with sociable ways;And leaves and apples and chestnuts brownCame pattering down, came clattering down,And stairways wound to the top of a hillThat a person could climb if he had the will—That a person could climb, then start at the top,And bumpeting down and thumpeting down,Go zip!...