Signs of life: Be not like the snail, but vote for a clean environment

From a Tweet by @Tom_Peters:

Uncaptioned photo from the Twitter feed of business excellence chronicler Tom Peters, @Tom_Peters

Uncaptioned photo from the Twitter feed of business excellence chronicler Tom Peters, @Tom_Peters

Sign on a litter receptacle:

Resemble not the slimy snail, who with his filth proclaims his trail.

Post your vote here for a cleaner England.

It’s not particularly flattering to the snail, and probably a bit off on the actual biology of snail trails.  I particularly like the emphasis on “voting” with action.  Reality is that we change the planet, for the better or for worse, with many small, individual acts every day, each one a vote on the future.

Anyone know where this can is? Are there many like it in England?

One Response to Signs of life: Be not like the snail, but vote for a clean environment

  1. C. McLeod says:

    The poem dates back to at least 1919, as it appears in MacMillan’s ‘Teaching in practice’, volume 6, under ‘Health education (online at The section was written by Dr Dorothy Hanson, with introductory notes to teachers by Audrey M. Stratford, but neither woman claims authorship of the poem.
    The poem is quite widely known all around the world, and has been quoted numerous places (with minor variations).
    • I have a postcard showing the poem on a hand-painted wooden noticeboard at the Top of Rowdow, Kemsing (which is near Sevenoaks, Kent). The card probably dates from the 1920s, although the sign may have been several years old by the time the photo was taken
    • It appears in The Queenslander (Brisbane), 4 July 1929 in ‘A page for the boys’.
    • In his report for 1931, Alexander H. Steele, Sanitary Inspector for the Royal Borough of St Andrews, complains of the problem of litter, and quotes the poem which appeared “at Oare, in Somerset”.
    • It appears again in the New York Evening Post, 22 January 1932,, where it is quoted from “a sign seen near Cardiff, Wales”.
    • Ernest Mansell in the The Wayfarer’s Book (1940) quotes a notice with the poem “seen near Otford in Kent”, which is very possibly the same sign shown in my postcard. The Wayfarer’s Book was popular; it was reprinted in 1947, and was given a facsimile reprint as recently as 2009 under the title The Rambler’s Countryside Companion.
    • In June 1953, the editor of the Belfry Bulletin, Journal of the Bristol Exploration Club No. 70 recalls “the verse that used to adorn the litter bins in Burrington [Somerset] before the war”
    • It appears in the Indianapolis Star, 18 September 1957
    • In 1961 Mr Stephen Lee, Chairman of the Gower Association, recited a variation of the poem to pupils of Dynevor Secondary School (Dynevor Secondary School Magazine 102(29))
    ‘Resemble not the slimy snail,
    Who leaves a most disgusting trail;
    And be not like the slimier slug,
    For he’s a horrid litter-bug.’

    • Donald L. Shaw gives a variant closer to the original in the Forestry Commission’s Gwydyr Forest in Snowdonia – a history (1971)$FILE/FCBK028.pdf
    ‘Resemble not the slimy snail
    That leaves such filth along its trail,
    Let others see where you have been
    You’ve left the face of Nature clean.’

    • In the Redlands Daily Facts newspaper (California), 3 July 1968, someone called Ezra Shine reported seeing it on a sign when visiting Devon.
    • It is quoted in Frances Nixon’s New Age book Born to be magnetic (1971) (as “author unknown”);
    • and in Tania Anderson’s Beginner’s guide to the animals of Kimberley and surrounds (2001)
    • It was submitted to the Poem Hunter website in 2009 under the title ‘Face of Nature’ with authorship claimed by AM Street. No biographical details of A.M. Street are provided, but some other poems on the site by the same author look much more recent than 1919.

    Online, I found modern photos of similar notices with the same poem or slight variations of it in at least four places, including on all the litter bins at Forde Abbey in Somerset. One has even been applied to the iconic Lord Kitchener recruiting poster of World War I!


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