Untold lives blog

14 February 2016

Mangling the Baby

Last year we helped you to discover the identity of your true love by sharing some old St Valentine's Day customs. This year we bring you a very strange Valentine verse entitled 'Mangling the Baby'.  This is certainly not an old English tradition attached to 14 February!

  Mangling the BabyPublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

You mangled your little baby
One morning – so say all
The neighbours dwelling round you,
They heard the infant squall.

You mangled that wretched baby,
You did, you wretch, you know!
We saw its knickerbockers
In the apparatus go.

And we thought as it quickly vanished,
And uttered a cry of pain,
What will the kidling look like
When it comes out again?

Did you iron it? Did you hang it
In the garden across the line?
Tell me – or lose all title
To be my Valentine.


'Mangling the Baby' comes from the splendid Love Lyrics and Valentine Verses, for young and old, and is said to have been inspired by ‘the celebrated poem in  the “Hornet”’.  Can anyone shed some light on this? Or am I to stay permanently perplexed by one of the oddest poems I have ever come across?

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
E. M. Davies,  Love Lyrics and Valentine Verses, for young and old (London, 1872) 


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