The Dreadful Story of Pauline and the Matches

By Heinrich Hoffmann

Mamma and Nurse went out one day,

And left Pauline alone at play;

Around the room she gayly sprung,

Clapp’d her hands, and danced, and sung.

Now, on the table close at hand,

A box of matches chanc’d to stand,

And kind Mamma and Nurse had told her,

That if she touch’d them they would scold her;

But Pauline said, “Oh, what a pity!

For, when they burn, it is so pretty;

They crackle so, and spit, and flame;

And Mamma often burns the same.

I’ll just light a match or two

As I have often seen my mother do.”


When Minz and Maunz, the pussy-cats, heard this

They held up their paws and began to hiss.

“Me-ow!” they said, “me-ow, me-o!

You’ll burn to death, if you do so.

Your parents have forbidden you, you know.”


But Pauline would not take advice,

She lit a match, it was so nice!

It crackled so, it burn’d so clear,—

Exactly like the picture here.

She jump’d for joy and ran about,

And was too pleas’d to put it out.

Pauline lights a match

When Minz and Maunz, the little cats, saw this,

They said, “Oh, naughty, naughty Miss!”

And stretch’d their claws,

And rais’d their paws;

“’Tis very, very wrong, you know;

Me-ow, me-o, me-ow, me-o!

You will be burnt if you do so,

Your mother has forbidden you, you know.”


Now see! oh! see, what a dreadful thing

The fire has caught her apron-string;

Her apron burns, her arms, her hair;

She burns all over, everywhere.

Pauline's clothes are burning

Then how the pussy-cats did mew.

What else, poor pussies, could they do?

They scream’d for help, ’twas all in vain,

So then, they said, “We’ll scream again.

Make haste, make haste! me-ow! me-o!

She’ll burn to death,—we told her so.”


So she was burnt with all her clothes,

And arms and hands, and eyes and nose;

Till she had nothing more to lose

Except her little scarlet shoes;

And nothing else but these was found

Among her ashes on the ground.

Pailine's ashes on the ground

And when the good cats sat beside

The smoking ashes, how they cried!

“Me-ow, me-o! Me-ow, me-oo!

What will Mamma and Nursy do?”

Their tears ran down their cheeks so fast,

They made a little pond at last.

From Slovenly Peter: or, Cheerful Stories and Funny Pictures for Good Little Folks, Heinrich Hoffmann, Philadelphia, The John C. Winston Company, 1900.

Nursery rhymes

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