And all the sea were inke;
If all the trees were bread and cheese,
How should we do for drinke?
If all the world were sand’o,
Oh then what should we lack’o;
If as they say there were no clay,
How should we take tobacco?
If all our vessels ran’a,
If none but had a crack’a;
If Spanish apes ate all the grapes,
How should we do for sack’a?
If fryers had no bald pates,
Nor nuns had no dark cloysters;
If all the seas were beans and pease,
How should we do for oysters?
If there had been no projects,
Nor none that did great wrongs;
If fidlers shall turne players all,
How should we doe for songs?
If all things were eternall,
And nothing their end bringing;
If this should be then, how should we
Here make an end of singing?
Treasury Islands (a cute site you should definitely check out if yo're faicnated by children's literature) says this piece appeared in John Mennes and James Smiths Facetiae, published in or after 1658.
It's always interesting to speculate about the inspiration for any work - and I can't help but wonder if it could have been this piece from the Quran. There are various translations but this is the simplest I've found. "If the seas were ink and trees were pens, the words of Allah would not be exhausted." Such magnificence. Every so often I wish I could read something in it's original language, and that is definitely the case here.
And all this was because I thought an "If" poem would be a great way to introduce my students to poetry. But I'm so taken with if poetry, next week, don't be surprised if you see another "If" poem. (Not necessarily mine)
Have a great week