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The Mythological Zoo   By: (1863-1935)

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The Mythological Zoo


Oliver Herford


New York Charles Scribner's Sons 1912

Copyright, 1912, by Oliver Herford

Published September, 1912


Elwyn Barron

With Affectionate Regard



Medusa 2 The Siren 4 The Dolphin 6 The Cockatrice 8 Cerberus 10 The Sphinx 12 The Sea Serpent 14 The Salamander 16 The Jinn 18 The Mermaid 20 The Unicorn 22 The Satyr 24 The Gargoyle 26 The Chimera 28 The Ph[oe]nix 30 The Gryphon 32 The Harpy 34 The Centaur 36 Pegasus 38 The Hydra 40 The Hyppogriff 42 The Minotaur 44

The Mythological Zoo


How did Medusa do her hair? The question fills me with despair. It must have caused her sore distress That head of curling snakes to dress. Whenever after endless toil She coaxed it finally to coil, The music of a Passing Band Would cause each separate hair to stand On end and sway and writhe and spit, She couldn't "do a thing with it." And, being woman and aware Of such disaster to her hair, What could she do but petrify All whom she met, with freezing eye?


The Siren

The Siren may be said to be The Chorus Lady of the Sea; Tho' Mermaids claim her as their kin, Instead of fishy tail and fin Two shapely feet rejoice the view (With all that appertains thereto). When to these other charms we add A voice that drives the hearer mad, Who will dispute her claim to be The Chorus Lady of the Sea?


The Dolphin

The Dolphin was, if you should wish To call him so, the King of Fish. Though having neither gills nor scales, His title should be Prince of Whales. While too small waisted to provide A Jonah with a Berth Inside, The Dolphin has been known to pack A Drowning Sailor on his back And bear him safely into port, He was a Taxi whale, in short.


The Cockatrice

If you will listen to advice You will avoid the Cockatrice A caution I need hardly say Wholly superfluous to day. Yet had you lived when they were rife Such warning might have saved your life. To meet the Cockatrice's eye Means certain death and that is why When I its features here portray I make it look the other way. O Cockatrice! were you so mean What must the Hen atrice have been!



Dear Reader, should you chance to go To Hades, do not fail to throw A "Sop to Cerberus" at the gate, His anger to propitiate. Don't say "Good dog!" and hope thereby His three fierce Heads to pacify. What though he try to be polite And wag his Tail with all his might, How shall one amiable Tail Against three angry Heads prevail? The Heads must win. What puzzles me Is why in Hades there should be A Watch dog; 'tis, I should surmise, The last place one would burglarize.


The Sphinx

She was half Lady and half cat What is so wonderful in that? Half of our lady friends (so say The other half) are Cats to day. In Egypt she made quite a stir, They carved huge Images of her. Riddles she asked of all she met And all who answered wrong, she ate. When Oedipus her riddle solved The minx I mean the Sphinx dissolved In tears. What is there, when one thinks, So wonderful about the Sphinx?


The Sea Serpent

O wondrous worm that won the Height Of Fame by keeping out of sight! Never was known on Land or Sea Such a Colossal Modesty; Never such arrogant pretence Of Ostentatious Diffidence. Celebrity whom none has seen, Save some Post Prandial Marine, No magazine can reproduce Your Photograph. Oh, what's the use Of doing things when one may be So Famous a Nonentity!


The Salamander

The Salamander made his bed Among the glowing embers red. A Fiery Furnace, to his mind, Hygiene and Luxury combined. He was, if I may put it so, A Saurian Abednigo. He loved to climb with nimble ease The branches of the Gas log Trees Where oft on chilly winter nights He rose to dizzy Fahrenheits... Continue reading book >>

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