The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear

Birthday

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.

This is one of my favourite Edward Lear works, and one of my favourite poems. What I did not realise was that he actually had another poem called The Children of the Owl and the Pussycat, it is interesting, and told from the perspective of the children. It is unfinished so it is interesting to see how it would have ended up, but it was published posthumously, you can read it here.

Edward Lear’s 201st birthday is today, and as a writer he is known mostly for his nonsense poems and stories and for popularising the limerick. His vast collections of The Old Man from Peru, The Young Lady of Leeds, and all the other people who were absurd and outrageous are long remembered. It is the time to also note that Edward Lear is not responsible for The Man from Nantucket, I just want to put that out in the world. Lear’s Old Men and Women were a lot less ribald and vulgar.

Lear was born in 1812 in England and was the youngest of twenty one children. He was a strange man, apparently he was known to introduce himself with a long pseudonym. It seems the idea came from a game in Aldiborontiphoskyphorniostikos by R. Stennett, which itself is strange. It seems players had to read the snippet for each letter of the alphabet as fast as they could without making a mistake. If you are intrigued there is more information here, but it seems Lear took a fancy to this and introduced himself as “Mr Abebika kratoponoko Prizzikalo Kattefello Ablegorabalus Ableborinto phashyph” or “Chakonoton the Cozovex Dossi Fossi Sini Tomentilla Coronilla Polentilla Battledore & Shuttlecock Derry down Derry Dumps”. Wouldn’t we all want to do that if we could?

But aside from that strangeness he made his living as an artist before moving into the world of wit, word-play, and fantasy in his books of nonsense. He was an avid traveller across the globe, partially to maintain good health, but also to find fresh material. Over the years he wrote many books of nonsense prose and poetry, but he was also an artist and many of his books had illustrations of animals and plants, and there are also music and songs in his collection of works too. The first Book of Nonsense was published in 1846 and was added to with additional volumes. It was originally designed to please the children of an artistic patron but soon became Lear’s calling.

In honour of his birthday I compiled a limerick of my own, if you were on Twitter you would have noticed my attempt to share some of his own works, but it seems that 140 characters does not assist in creating poetry, even a little limerick. I feel a Haiku may have just fit but what can we do, the man wrote limericks. But I managed to get mine in and I will share by creativity here with you. Here is my limerick to honour the man who gave us the wonderful Owl and his adoring Pussycat, and when you are feeling low, just take some time, read a limerick or three and it will do you the world of good.

There once was a blogger in Oz,

Who wrote a limerick because,

It was Eddie Lear’s day, and she wanted to say,

Happy birthday with one of his songs.

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