A little midge sung a song around a person, who was sleeping in the bed at night.

How does the little busy me
Improve each shady hour
By setting on your nose or knee
As if upon a flower

This is a short story from the novel "Little Old Mrs Pepperpot"

I couldn't understand the meaning "Improve each shady hour". Does it mean "get light"? Could you teach me the meaning?

1 Answer 1


This appears to be a parody of the poem, "Against Idleness and Mischief", by Isaac Watts. See http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/rands/ajrbion1.html.

It was famously parodied by Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland: http://www.online-literature.com/carroll/899/

In the original, the "busy little bee" "improve[s] each shining hour" by hard work. We generally talk about a "shining hour" meaning a time when something very useful or important was done. Like, "Publishing his first novel was Mr Jones shining hour." It's also possible that by "shining hour" Watts means hour of the daytime, i.e. when the sun is shining. Either interpretation makes sense in the poem.

So in the parody, the writer is trying to come up with something that would be the opposite of a "shining hour". Thus, a "shady hour". An hour when it is dark.

  • Thank you for your helpful answer. Is "the little busy me" the subject? Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 21:07
  • 1
    @YuuichiTam Yes. With poetry, one line immediately follows the next in terms of grammar. So the statement is "How does the little busy me improve each shady hour..." instead of having one statement "Improve each shady hour!". Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 21:34
  • @ keitereth24 Does objective case always place after adjective like beautiful me? That is to say, I can't say the busy he instead of the busy him? Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 21:39
  • Knock knock! -- Who's there? It's me.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 11:13
  • @TRomano "Who's there?" "It is I."
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 13:21

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