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King Canute At Cleethorpes

This inconsequential ditty was originally written for children, but grown-ups seem to take a shine to it.

It is of questionable accuracy. An eminent professor has informed me that (a) Canute was decidedly not in the habit of taking his holidays at Cleethorpes (his preference was for Skeggy), (b) the beach is so shallow that it is not possible to be ten feet underwater without wading about eight miles out to sea, and (c) his palace was not in Oldham. This did however, provide me with a very convenient rhyme in the first stanza…


Now King Canute of England had a palace up in Oldham,
With lots of grovelling servants who did everything he told ’em.

He bellowed out his orders and he made his fingers click,
And anything he wanted would appear in half a tick.

But kings get bored in palaces, so soon he did decide
That he would like to spend a day just messing about at the seaside.

He said ‘I’ll go to Cleethorpes! Get my bucket, get my spade.’
And there upon the beach a royal sandcastle was made.

All day he built his battlements beside the salty seas,
And then he had his supper: fish and chips and mushy peas.

His snivelling servants said, ‘Oh King! Your sandcastle is wondrous,
But is it strong enough to stand against these waves that break so thunderous?’

‘I shall turn the tide’ he said, ‘I’ll summon up my power.’
They said: ‘Well get a move on ’cause it’s due in half an hour.’

He cried: ‘This castle I have made from Cleethorpes’ soggy sand
Shall never ever be destroyed, forever it will stand.

Go back! Go back! You wayward waves, for I, the King, command it!’
But waves do not speak English and they didn’t understand it.

Up the sand the breakers crashed. Oh, it was a dreadful sight
To see him start to shiver and his tootsies turn all white.

‘Go back! Go back!’ He screamed and screamed until his face was blue,
‘For I am King Canute and much more powerful than you!’

But ever inwards came the waves, and frankly it was shocking
To see the way his horribly knobbly kneecaps started knocking.

The water rose above his waist but still he cried ‘Go back!
If I’d intended getting wet I would have brought my mac.’

By now the royal sandcastle was getting slightly wet.
‘You wild and wicked waves’ he seethed, ‘I’ll make you turn back yet.’

But the sea refused to listen and soon covered up his head,
And you won’t be surprised to learn that now Canute is dead.

But if you get up early and walk out on Cleethorpes pier
You’ll hear a ghostly whisper if you care to cock an ear:

‘I am Canute, an Englishman, this castle is my home!’
His voice will echo wildly in the seething, swirling foam.

But castles built of sand are not as strong as bricks and mortar
And certainly in Cleethorpes, end up ten feet underwater.

Simon Mayor