Thursday, March 6, 2014

Mary Toft: The Woman who gave birth to Rabbits

Hogarth's illustration commemorating Mary Toft and her 19 rabbit babies. 

In 1726, the medical community was shocked by a unnatural birthing phenomenon when an English woman named Mary Toft gave birth to rabbits. The following is her story which I felt compelled to tell in rhyme: 

Mary had a Little Bunny

It’s been said many times
Newborns come out looking funny.
Take the case of Mary Toft,
Her firstborn looked like a bunny.

Mary screamed for the midwife,
And grabbed her birthing chair.
But before she knew what hit her,
Out popped another pair.

Now three babies hopped about
As Mary fell to the floor.
She gave a great big push,
And out hopped another four.

Poor Mary was losing count
With the tally now at seven.
Mr. Stork flew by again,
And dropped two more from heaven.

 “This has to be the last,” she screamed.
“Holy Lord, show me a sign!”
And as if to answer all her pleas,
Out flopped another nine.

Soon men of science, far and wide,
Came to see her bunny litter,
And when they said – “this can’t be true…”
Out cropped another critter.

The king’s physician soon arrived
To examine Mary’s womb.
“My god!” he said. “If you keep this up...
You’ll need a bigger room.”

He ordered an examination
To find the bunny trail,
But when Mary saw his sharpened knife…
She quickly changed her tale.

“It’s a lie,” she screamed.
"A farcical invention.
I made the whole thing up,
I wanted some attention."

“The bunnies you see before you,
Didn’t come from my tummy.
I bought them from the butcher,
Who stole them from their mummy.”

Mary ended up in prison,
Branded a cheat and a liar.
And as for her children,
They returned to their briar.

Now the folks of Godalming,
Still believe the harebrained plots,
And to this day, they swear,
She gave birth to bunny tots.

But if you fell for Mary’s tale,
May I offer some advice?
I hope next time you see my name,
You won’t let me fool you twice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, how interesting and what a great rhyme to tell the story!