Sunday, May 18, 2008
“How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!”
I am the proud owner of Edward Lear’s “Nonsense Books” (1903 reprint of the original edition, 1888). I bought it for a lark as a student from my College Library which had discarded it. (They did not think it was serious enough). It has been a source of constant pleasure to me, for decades.
I can compare Lear to the other contemporary English genius – Lewis Carroll. Both were lucidly mad. Lear was more multi-talented: an exquisite painter (beautiful views of Greece and Italy). As for his gift in writing I can quote John Ruskin. In his “List of the Best Hundred Authors” he wrote:
“Surely the most beneficent and innocent of all books yet produced is the “Book of Nonsense” with its corollary carols, inimitable and refreshing, and perfect in rhythm. I really do not know any author to whom I am half so grateful for my idle self as Edward Lear. I shall put him first of my hundred authors.”
And now for the whole song:
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'
Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?'
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?' Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
P. S. I lived all my life between Owls and Pussy Cats - and O how I love this "runcible spoon"...