World Poetry Day: The Absurd Genius of Spike Milligan

Books, Poetry

Today I saw a little worm

Today I saw a little worm
Wriggling on his belly.
Perhaps he’d like to come inside
And see what’s on the Telly.

Spike Milligan - Today I saw a little worm

I was helping to clear out the garage at my brother’s house some weeks ago, before he moved house. Sorting through almost three decades’ worth of toys and accessories, games and crayon drawings, I came across “A Children’s Treasury of Milligan” in one of my boxes. Amongst those stacks of cartoons and pieces of Lego and school books in the old ratty cardboard box, the cover of this hefty book shone out and I needed no time to remember what I was looking at.

There was a young soldier called Edser

There was a young soldier called Edser
When wanted was always in bed sir:
One morning at one
They fired the gun
And Edser, in bed sir, was dead sir.

On the three hour long drive back after our visit to my brother, I sat in the passenger seat reading from cover to cover this old prized possession, whose words I barely remembered. And page by page, line by line, rhyme by rhythm, I saw some of my origin, a little bit of where I came from. Spike’s poetry, the humour, the intelligence, and the irreducibly creative absurdity that he placed in everything he did, seems to have had a home in me for some time. I was always odd, I never fitted in – nothing has changed, I can report – and this man led a life completely devoted to that, devoted to the thing everyone gets bullied for at school, being different, being weird. I’m a little absurd, too.


A baby Sardine
Saw her first submarine:
She was scared and watched through a peephole.

‘Oh, come, come, come,’
Said the Sardine’s mum,
‘It’s only a tin full of people.’

spike milligan - sardines

Too many people are so concerned with fitting in and making friends and being part of a crowd that their weirdness is reduced down to minor hobbies or repeating every week that they think they’re going down with something (but they never actually do). So today I’ll be reading more of Spike’s poems, not because he was always silly, sometimes he was serious, but because I’m still far too worried about fitting in.


Said Hamlet to Ophelia,
‘I’ll do a sketch of thee,
What kind of Pencil shall I use,
2B or not 2B?’