I, plagiarizer

I was in fourth grade when my school district put out a call for entries for an anthology of students' poetry. I was excited to submit something I had found in a box, written in my handwriting and illustrated with my drawings. It was a sweet little poem that I assumed I had written a couple of years earlier. (Had I run this by my parents before submitting it, I'm sure they would have set me straight).

Fast forward to a man arriving at our house, either from the school district or from the FBI; I don't recall.

I just remember being terrified that I was in serious trouble. The man explained that this poem was not my work and that I should not have submitted it. What exactly do they do to plagiarizers? I thought I was going to jail.

Now, I can see being fooled by a sweet little poem like this:

Mix a pancake,
Stir a pancake,
Pop it in the pan.

Fry a pancake,
Toss a pancake,
Catch it if you can.

As a 9-year-old, I can imagine thinking I might have devised that one.

But this?

The Caterpillar

Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry;
Take your walk
To the shady leaf, or stalk.
May no toad spy you,
May the little birds pass by you;
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly.

This is an abridged version of a Christina Georgina Rossetti poem that I had plagiarized at the tender age of six or so (the pancake poem above is also by Rossetti).

Or not plagiarized, but rather written out and illustrated in my own handwriting, not because I was trying to take credit, but because I liked it and I didn't know that I should put her name on the page.

I think that experience made me into the law-abiding citizen that I am today. I am pretty sure I will always get caught if I do something naughty.

Here's the full version:

Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry,
Take your walk
To the shady leaf, or stalk,
Or what not,
Which may be the chosen spot.
No toad spy you,
Hovering bird of prey pass by you;
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly.


Linda Menesez said...

What a great post, Lisa! The innocence of childhood is portrayed beautifully! Thank you for reminding us all of when we were children and the world was a lot less complicated -- at least until an adult popped into it!!


Dr. Lynn K. Jones said...

What a precocious child you must have been! I hope your parents kicked the plagiarism police down the street!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for your comments, Lynn and Linda! Wasn't life simple when we were kids?