The Boy to the Schoolmaster by E. J. Wheeler

You've quizzed me often and puzzled me long,

You've asked me to cipher and spell,

You've called me a dunce if I answered wrong,

Or a dolt if I failed to tell

Just when to say lie and when to say lay,

Or what nine sevens may make,

Or the longitude of Kamschatka Bay,

Or the I-forget-what's-its-name Lake,

So I think it's about my turn, I do,

To ask a question or so of you.

The schoolmaster grim, he opened his eyes,

But said not a word for sheer surprise.

Can you tell what "phen-dubs" means? I can.

Can you say all off by heart

The "onery twoery ickery ann,"

Or tell "alleys" and "commons" apart?

Can you fling a top, I would like to know,

Till it hums like a bumble-bee?

Can you make a kite yourself that will go

'Most as high as the eye can see,

Till it sails and soars like a hawk on the wing,

And the little birds come and light on its string?

The schoolmaster looked oh! very demure,

But his mouth was twitching, I'm almost sure.

Can you tell where the nest of the oriole swings,

Or the color its eggs may be?

Do you know the time when the squirrel brings

Its young from their nest in the tree?

Can you tell when the chestnuts are ready to drop

Or where the best hazel-nuts grow?

Can you climb a high tree to the very tip-top,

Then gaze without trembling below?

Can you swim and dive, can you jump and run,

Or do anything else we boys call fun?

The master's voice trembled as he replied:

"You are right, my lad, I'm the dunce," he sighed.