You want to know what’s really spooky about Halloween? All the plagiarized poems about it that you can find on the Web.
An astounding number of sites seem to operate on the principle that it’s okay to reproduce short poems in full if you credit their authors or source. This is generally untrue unless the poems are old enough to be out of copyright.
So although I’ve written about other Halloween poems, I want to post the full text of a short poem you can use with a clear conscience. Here’s a classic folk rhyme chanted by generations of jump-ropers:
Down in the desert
Where the purple grass dies,
There sat a witch
With yellow-green eyes.
This untitled poem (and another about a witch) appear one of my favorite books for beginning readers: I Saw You in the Bathtub: And Other Folk Rhymes (HarperTrophy, 64 pp., $3.99, paperback, ages 4–8), by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Syd Hoff. “Down in the desert” may appear in many other books.
I Saw You in the Bathtub consists of 40 of those deathless rhymes that seem to have existed since Cain. (“I scream, / You scream, / We all scream / For ice cream!”) They include one about the place where the plagiarists may end up:
Silence in the court
While the judge blows his nose
And stands on his head
And tickles his toes.
© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.