Thursday, November 10, 2011

Poetry for Your Reading Pleasure: The Owl and the Pussy-Cat

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat — by Edward Lear

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!
Oh! 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.

Illustration by Edward Lear
Today Edward Lear (1812-1888) is probably best remembered for his nonsensical poetry and prose, but he was well known in his day as a serious artist and illustrator. Supposedly he even gave Queen Victoria drawing lessons. He helped to popularize the limerick and was never above coining a phrase or inventing words (such as runcible) when the ones available to him simply would not do. The Owl and the Pussy-Cat is one of his most beloved poems. Igor Stravinsky (famous for his composition The Rite of Spring) set the poem to music in the 1960s, and it has been the basis of various songs and books, including The Quite Remarkable Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame. Lear himself was an admirer of the poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson.

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