‘Sneezles’ by A.A. Milne is a two stanza poem that is divided into one set of fifty-six lines and another set of six. As is common within children’s poetry ‘Sneezles’ has a lot of rhyming lines. There is not a consistent pattern, but they come so frequently that it doesn’t matter. Poets generally choose to give poems aimed at a younger audience a pattern of rhyme in order to keep a reader’s attention. It also makes the poem more pleasing to hear read aloud. The focus is often on the words themselves, and the sounds they make together rather than on any specific message.
Summary of Sneezles
The poem begins with the speaker telling of Christopher’s illness and how his parents put him to bed. He was suffering from what sounds like a cold but his parents get very upset, imagining that it was something worse. They consult with a number of doctors who make the situation out to be even more complicated and nonsensical than it already is.
By the end of the poem, it is clear that Christopher is all better and is planning the next thing he’s going to do to “amuse” his parents.
There is also no meter to the text, but Milne does make use of a number of other poetic techniques. For instance, there is a great deal of enjambment in ‘Sneezles.’ This occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point in one’s speech pattern. When one uses this technique it often results in mini cliffhangers that force the reader to move from line to line faster. In the case of this poem, the enjambment helps develop a rhythm. There is a pleasure to be taken from the bouncing motion of the lines. The first six lines are a great example.
Milne also uses a great deal of repetition in this text. First, there is repetition at the end of lines with the reuse of end words. Additionally, the speaker repeats words at the beginning of the lines, a technique known as anaphora. Just as the end words sometimes line up in rhyming patterns, so too do the starting words.
In the first line of ‘Sneezles’ a reader is introduced to the character of Christopher Robin. This boy has a life outside of this poem. He was named for the writer’s own son and became one of the stars of the Winnie-the-Pooh series of children’s books for which Milne is best-known. You can read the full poem Sneezles here.
Analysis of Sneezles
In the first lines of ‘Sneezles’ the speaker begins by utilizing the name Christopher Robin. This gives the poem a great deal more context as, stated above, Christopher is the name of one of the main characters of Milne’s beloved Winnie-the-Pooh series. The boy is sick in this poem, and Milne uses the word “sneezles” to refer to all the symptoms of a cold. There are a number of other created words in this poem, most prominently featured is the words “wheezles” which always appear next to or near “sneezles.”
The boy was put into bed by his parents and they have him the correct medication for “a cold in the nose.” They also had medicine for “a cold /In the head.” The use of enjambment, and the spacing of these lines, is part of the fun of reading it aloud, or even in one’s head. The unfortunate illness is turned into a play on words that is meant to be amusing to a child.
In the next lines, the speaker discusses how the parents worry about their child. These moments are meant to connect with the children hearing or reading the poem. They have likely been put to bed and fussed over by their parents as well.
Christopher Robin’s mom and dad worry that the cold he has could turn into something worse, like the very pleasingly rhymed, “measles.” Next, they move onto the “mumps.” Eventually, they can’t stand it and decide to examine the boy’s chest to see if there are any of the telltale signs of either illness. There could be “swelling and lumps” or a “rash.” They finished their examination but were not satisfied.
In the next line’s the parent’s worry over their son leads to their sending “for some doctors.” Those which come are experts “in sneezles / and wheezles.” Now, the parents are going to have an objective opinion. It is interesting to consider what kind of narrator is looking down on this scene and relaying the information. It is likely another person of a young age, someone who would refer to the doctor as knowing “sneezles” very well. Lucky for the parents, tons of doctors come. They hurry “round” to the house “At a run.”
Now that the doctors are there they also examine the boy. They look at his throat and test all the different functions of his body. These lines are also fun to read as the speaker moves quickly from one possible problem to the next. There is also a great deal of repetition in words rhyming with “sneezle.” The doctor’s voices sound cluttered and chaotic. This makes the scene easy to picture.
They ask the boy “ if the sneezles / Came after the wheezles,” or, if they came in the opposite order. They also warn him not to “teazle / A sneezle / Or wheeze” If he does, then “A measel / May easily grow.” At least to this narrator’s ears, there has been no diagnosis.
The doctors finish their examination in the next lines and tell him that he needs to “humour” the different problems he has. If he does, then the “measle” will go. The next lines are another ramble of words rhyming with “sneezle.” They make it hard to understand what exactly is being said, but at this point, the content is not the reason one is reading. The sound of the words and the nonsense sentences they make is more than enough fun to make a reader continue.
The doctors end by warning the boy that if he does something wrong then the “PHTHEEZLES” might “ensue.”
In the last stanza of ‘Sneezles’ the speaker describes how Christopher Robin got up in the morning and everything was better. His illness was gone and he was prepared to start a new day. He knows what he wants to do— find another way “to amuse them to-day.” This line suggests that Christopher was not actually ill, just having fun with his parents who he thought needed some amusement.