Teddy Bear

By A. A. Milne 1882–1956
A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat
Which is not to be wondered at;
He gets what exercise he can
By falling off the ottoman,
But generally seems to lack
The energy to clamber back.
 
Now tubbiness is just the thing
Which gets a fellow wondering;
And Teddy worried lots about
The fact that he was rather stout.
He thought: “If only I were thin!
But how does anyone begin?”
He thought: “It really isn’t fair
To grudge me exercise and air.”
 
For many weeks he pressed in vain
His nose against the window-pane,
And envied those who walked about
Reducing their unwanted stout.
None of the people he could see
“Is quite” (he said) “as fat as me!”
Then, with a still more moving sigh,
“I mean” (he said) “as fat as I!”
 
Now Teddy, as was only right,
Slept in the ottoman at night,
And with him crowded in as well
More animals than I can tell;
Not only these, but books and things,
Such as a kind relation brings—
Old tales of “Once upon a time,”
And history retold in rhyme.
 
One night it happened that he took
A peep at an old picture-book,
Wherein he came across by chance
The picture of a King of France
(A stoutish man) and, down below,
These words: “King Louis So and So,
Nicknamed ʻThe Handsome’”! There he sat,
And (think of it!) the man was fat!
 
Our bear rejoiced like anything
To read about this famous King,
Nicknamed “The Handsome.” There he sat,
And certainly the man was fat.
Nicknamed “The Handsome.” Not a doubt
The man was definitely stout.
Why then, a bear (for all his tub)
Might yet be named “The Handsome Cub!”
 
“Might yet be named.” Or did he mean
That years ago he “might have been”?
For now he felt a slight misgiving:
“Is Louis So and So still living?
Fashions in beauty have a way
Of altering from day to day.
Is ʻHandsome Louis’ with us yet?
Unfortunately I forget.”
 
Next morning (nose to window-pane)
The doubt occurred to him again.
One question hammered in his head:
“Is he alive or is he dead?”
Thus, nose to pane, he pondered; but
The lattice window, loosely shut,
Swung open. With one startled “Oh!”
Our Teddy disappeared below.
 
There happened to be passing by
A plump man with a twinkling eye,
Who, seeing Teddy in the street,
Raised him politely to his feet,
And murmured kindly in his ear
Soft words of comfort and of cheer:
“Well, well!” “Allow me!” “Not at all.”
“Tut tut! A very nasty fall.”
 
Our teddy answered not a word;
It’s doubtful if he even heard.
Our bear could only look and look:
The stout man in the picture-book!
That “handsome” King—could this be he,
This man of adiposity?
“Impossible,” he thought. “But still,
No harm in asking. Yes I will!”

“Are you,” he said, “by any chance
His Majesty the King of France?”
The other answered, “I am that,”
Bowed stiffly, and removed his hat;
Then said, “Excuse me,” with an air,
“But is it Mr. Edward Bear?”
And Teddy, bending very low,
Replied politely, “Even so!”
 
They stood beneath the window there,
The King and Mr. Edward Bear,
And, handsome, if a trifle fat,
Talked carelessly of this and that. . . .
Then said His Majesty, “Well, well,
I must get on,” and rang the bell.
“Your bear, I think,” he smiled. “Good-day!”
And turned, and went upon his way.
 
A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at.
But do you think it worries him
To know that he is far from slim?
No, just the other way about—
He’s proud of being short and stout.

A. A. Milne, “Teddy Bear” from The Complete Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh. Copyright © The Trustees of the Pooh Properties reproduced with permission of Curtis Brown Limited, London.

Source: The Complete Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh (Dutton, 1998)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet A. A. Milne 1882–1956

POET’S REGION England

Subjects Living, The Body, Nature, Animals, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

Biography

Poet, writer, playwright, and journalist Alan Alexander Milne was born in London. His father was the headmaster at Henley House School, and Milne studied there under H.G. Wells. He earned a BA in mathematics at Cambridge University before moving to London, where he worked as the assistant editor of the humor magazine Punch for eight years (1906–1914). Milne served as an officer in the British army in World War I, after which he . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, The Body, Nature, Animals, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION England

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.