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,
You are,
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,
His nose,
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,
The moon,
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"...


Aphrodite said...

In milesandmiles of sheets,
all tangled in nightgowns,
that's the shape three fingers get
of a frisky nighowl.

"Here Kittykittykitty,
it's time for a snack!"
A euphemism of a Neanderthal's
"Let's get in the sack!"

The Pussy all yawning
Goes: “Aw, not the "runcible spooooon",
I’m a Lady – get it?
Wake me up with flowers and candy,
Or even do some laundry,
With kisses and cuddling,

Not like a whale with your harpoon!”


An-Lu said...


athanasia said...

I didn't know Mr Lear. I am now pleased to meet him. :)

I also like the idea of a runcible spoon (=a fork-like spoon with a cutting edge), i.e. the beauty of things -and persons- that cannot be easily classified.

P.S. It seems to me that doodler is in a "fly me to the moon" mood; not bad at all...

doodler said...


I am amazed! You did not know Edward Lear! "The Dong with a Luminous Nose", "The Jumblies who sailed to sea in a Sieve" and the limericks - the superb limericks!

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, 'It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!'

Start reading NOW here

athanasia said...


Thanks for the link, it works fine!

I am always grateful to what I do not know:

"...So remarkable a sight of course impressed the Four Children very deeply; and they returned immediately to their boat with a strong sense of undeveloped asthma and a great appetite. ....".

[Edward Lear: "The Story of the
Four Little Children
Who Went Round the World" - I am amazed I started my Lear adventure with this...]

P.S. Is Constance Strachey related to Lytton Strachey?

doodler said...

Lady Strachey could be related to Lytton Strachey - but I found no mention of him in the peerage books

Anonymous said...

Lear is wonderful, indeed.

Igor Stravinsky used this text in his last work: "The Owl and the Pussy Cat" for voice and piano (1966), a very humorous song.

doodler said...

In a non-sensical world only nonsense makes sense...