Ern's Portry

Article by Keith Robinson

Nobody can deny that Ern Goon—the policeman's goofy nephew—is a real genius at what he calls portry. His pomes are truly amazing, and bring delight to anyone lucky enough to hear them. Yet when he meets the Five Find-Outers, he's stunned by Fatty's ability to stand up and recite portry off the top of his head, without even thinking about it...

Portry from The Mystery of the Hidden House

The very first pome Ern recites (or starts to recite) to the Find-Outers is entitled The Pore Dead Pig...

How sad to see thee, pore dead pig,
When all...

At this point Mr Goon interrupts by roaring, "What about my BIKE!..." Ern hurries away to return the borrowed bicycle.

Shortly after, Ern writes another pome called The Pore Old Horse—but sadly none of the Find-Outers are interested in listening to it and hurry away.

Ern is so excited by the Find-Outers' mystery that he starts to feel all funny-like. He feels he could write a good pome with that sort of feeling inside. Fatty steps forward and says, "Yes. It could begin like this..."

There's a mystery a-moving
Away on Christmas Hill,
Where kidnappers and robbers
Are waiting for the kill.
But when kidnappers are napping
And robbers are alseep,
We'll pounce on them together
And knock them in a heap!

Ern is stunned by this impromptu recital, and says, "Lovaduck!..."

A little later, he opens his portry notebook to recite A Dark, Dark Night—but the Find-Outers unfortunately don't have time to hear it and send him off up the hill to find clues. Sadly, they run short of time during their next meeting and Ern doesn't get a chance to recite About The Dying Sun, another of his cheerful efforts.

Inspired by creeping about in the dead of night up Christmas Hill, Ern thinks of a line for a new pome: The dark dire deeds upon the hill. It's genius, surely! He writes it down in his book, telling Fatty, "That's real portry, that is."

Always up for the challenge, Fatty reels off the rest of the pome:

The dark dire deeds upon the hill
Strike my heart with a deadly chill.
The robbers rob and the looters loot,
We'd better be careful they don't all shoot.
They're deadly men, they're fearful foes,
What end they'll come to, nobody knows!
Oooh, the dark dire deeds upon the hill,
Strike my heart with a deadly chill.

Ern calls Fatty a genius. But Fatty assures him that all he has to do is stand up and let it this:

Oh, have you heard of Ernie's clues,
Ernie's clues, Ernie's clues.
A broken lace, our Ernie found,
A smoked cigar-end on the ground.
A match, a packet, and a hanky,
Honest truth, no hanky-panky!
A rag, a tin, a pencil-end,
How very clever is our friend!

Ern is so awed by this he goes home in a daze, forgetting his portry notebook. Fatty seizes the chance to write a pome in Ern's book—in Ern's own handwriting—about Mr Goon:

Oh how I love thee, Uncle dear,
Although thine eyes like frogs' appear,
Thy body is so fat and round,
Thy heavy footsteps shake the ground.
Thy temper is so sweet and mild,
'Twould frighten e'en the smallest child,
And when thou speakest, people say,
"Now did we hear a donkey bray?"
Dear Uncle, how...

Ern returns at that point and re-claims his notebook, knowing nothing of the pome Fatty wrote in it. Late that night he takes Fatty's advice and stands up to recite portry off the top of his head:

The pore old man lay on the grass...

That's as far as he gets. He repeats the line over and over, hoping for inspiration, but just then Mr Goon catches him standing there making a lot of noise. He takes his notebook away and comes across the pome Ern supposedly wrote about him, and is angry. But Ern is surprised and amazed. Did he really write that himself? He must have done it in his sleep! Maybe he's a genius after all.

The next day, on his way to find the Find-Outers, he walks along a lane trying out a new pome:

The pore little mouse was all alone...

Then a car comes along and Ern is kidnapped! Unfortunately things get a little complicated after that and there is no more portry. Fatty had plans to admit to Ern that he himself had written the pome about Mr Goon, but when it really came down to it he thought it best to leave things alone. So Ern still believes he wrote that wonderful pome himself!

Portry from The Mystery of the Vanished Prince

There's not much time for portry when the Find-Outers next meet Ern. After all the parading about as "distinguished visitors" from Prince Bongawah's country, eventually it's time to own up to the prank. Fatty apologises to Mr Goon for messing him about, and then announces to Ern that "we'll make amends, if we can't be friends."

Ern believes this to be portry, but Fatty says simple rhymes are not portry. At this, Ern is prompted to read the start of his latest pome:

A pore old gardener said, "Ah me!
My days is almost done.
I've got rheumatics..."

And there Ern is stumped. Naturally Fatty is able to finish the pome easily:

A pore old gardener said, "Ah me!
My days is almost done.
I've got rheumatics in me knee,
And now it's hard to run.
I've got a measle in my foot,
And chilblains on my nose,
And bless me if I haven't got,
Pneumonia in my toes.
All my hair has fallen out,
My teeth have fallen in,
I'm really getting rather stout,
Although I'm much too thin.
My nose is deaf, my ears are dumb,
My tongue is tied in knots,
And now my barrow and my spade,
Have all come out in spots.
My watering can is..."

Fatty stops here, because everyone's laughing too much. He says he was about to get to the bit where the watering can is feeling washed out and the spade is feeling on edge...

Ern, as usual, is dumbstruck. But Fatty assures him that's how the pome would have gone on if Ern had only finished it. On a roll, Fatty starts a new pome:

The little Princess Bongawee,
Was very small and sweet.
A princess from her pretty head,
Down to her tiny feet.
She had a servant, Ern by name,
A very stout young fella,
Who simply loved to shield her with,

The last two words are yelled by everyone in delight. They all clap Fatty on the back, and Fatty coughs modestly. Amused by Faty's coughing, Larry is prompted to offer a small pome of his own:

It was a coff,
That carried him off.
It was a coffin,
They carried him offin.

Portry from The Mystery of Tally-Ho Cottage

There's no time for portry when the Lorenzos go missing! Ern's too busy keeping watch on the Larkins from his treehouse in case the Lorenzos come back...although you'd think he'd have plenty of time to write a few pomes. The only one he mentions starts like this:

A pore old woman had a dog,
And it was always barkin,
Its name was...

Naturally Fatty knows exactly how it's supposed to go on...

A pore old woman had a dog,
And it was always barkin,
Its name was Poppet, and of course
The woman's name was Larkin.

She sniffed and coughed the whole day long,
And said the wind was cold.*
And when the dog got in her way
She handed out a scold.*

Her husband shuffled in and out,
He wasn't very supple.
They weren't at all what you might call
A really pleasant couple!

*In earlier editions the rhyme is nippin and whippin rather than cold and scold. I suppose whippin is just too politically incorrect these days. Thanks to Anita from the UK for this information!

Portry from The Mystery of the Strange Messages

When Mr Goon pays Ern to come and stay with him and watch out for suspicious characters lurking about in his garden, Ern is only too pleased to get together with the Find-Outers once more. He's been working on a pome for six months, and needs help...

by Ern Goon

There was a poor old house,
That once was full of folk,
But now was sad and empty,
And to me it spoke.
It said, "They all have fled,
My rooms are cold and bare,
The front door's locked and bolted..."

Fatty instantly knows the pome should end. He stands up and starts spouting...

There was a poor old house,
That once was full of folk,
But now was sad and empty,
And to me it spoke.
It said, "They all have fled,
My rooms are cold and bare,
The front door's locked and bolted,
And all the windows stare.
No smoke comes from my chimneys,
No rose grows up my wall,
But only ivy shrouds me,
In green and shiny shawl!
No postman brings me letters,
No name is on my gate,.
I once was called The Ivies,
But now I'm out of date.
The garden's poor and weedy,
The trees won't leaf again,
But though I fall to ruin,
The ivy—will—remain!"

Ern still can't understand how Fatty does it. "You just let your tongue go loose," Fatty assures him...

Oh every time
You want a rhyme
You let your tongue go loose.
Don't hold it tight,
Or try to bite,
That won't be any use!
Just let it go
And words will flow
From off your eager tongue.
And rhymes and all
Will lightly fall
To make a little song!

Ern shakes his head in amazement. "Coo, Fatty, it's funny, you know—you don't really care about writing portry, and I do, but I can't. And I'd give anything to write it, but you wouldn't, but you can." Later, Ern tries a pome and comes up with, "There was a pore little mouse..."

Portry from The Mystery of Banshee Towers

On the their way up the hill to Banshee Towers, Ern feels portry coming on and actually manages a monumental effort off the top of his head:

Coo, look at them primrose down in the ditch,
Smiling all over their faces.
Coo, listen to all the birds up in the hedge,
And larks in the big open spaces.
Coo, look at the cows and the cowslips too,

A little later, at lunch, they're all sitting behind the sofa in the gallery and Fatty continues with the pome:

Coo, look at the cows and the cowslips too,
And the lions so dandy and yellow.
And the cups full of butter for me and for you,
And hark where the bulrushes bellow!
Coo, look at the runner beans, how fast they go,

Alas, they're all laughing too hard and the pome gets no further. But the next day, as Fatty and Ern head back to Banshee Towers on their own, Fatty unusually bursts into song!

Up the street
On pedalling feet,
Here we go, Ern and I!
And a song we sing
With a ting-a-ling-ling,
As we both go bicycling by!
Our wheels go round
With a swishity sound,
As fast as the wind we fly,
Through village and town,
Now up, now down,
Here we go, Ern and I!

And, sadly, here endeth Ern's portry for Enid Blyton's Mystery series.