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Three for National Poetry Month

Today my daughter accused me of being a large 5-year old. She was talking about how excited I get around holidays, so I let it slide. She’s not wrong. I also love children’s books and poetry written for children. In honor of National Poetry Month, here are three poems by Edward Lear, the 19th century British writer and illustrator who often gets credited with inventing the Limerick. In all his anapestic glory, I give you “The Owl and the Pussycat,” “The Pobble Who Has No Toes,” and “The Duck and the Kangaroo,” which inspired a certain tiny boy’s Hallowe’en costume about 15 years ago. Timballo!

“The Owl and the Pussycat”

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!” 

II 

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. 

III 

“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.

“The Pobble Who Has No Toes”

The Pobble who has no toes
Had once as many as we;
When they said “Some day you may lose them all;”
He replied “Fish, fiddle-de-dee!”
And his Aunt Jobiska made him drink
Lavender water tinged with pink,
For she said “The World in general knows
There’s nothing so good for a Pobble’s toes!”

The Pobble who has no toes
Swam across the Bristol Channel;
But before he set out he wrapped his nose
In a piece of scarlet flannel.
For his Aunt Jobiska said “No harm
Can come to his toes if his nose is warm;
And it’s perfectly known that a Pobble’s toes
Are safe, — provided he minds his nose!”

The Pobble swam fast and well,
And when boats or ships came near him,
He tinkledy-blinkledy-winkled a bell,
So that all the world could hear him.
And all the Sailors and Admirals cried,
When they saw him nearing the further side –
“He has gone to fish for his Aunt Jobiska’s
Runcible Cat with crimson whiskers!”

But before he touched the shore,
The shore of the Bristol Channel,
A sea-green porpoise carried away
His wrapper of scarlet flannel.
And when he came to observe his feet,
Formerly garnished with toes so neat,
His face at once became forlorn,
On perceiving that all his toes were gone!

And nobody ever knew,
From that dark day to the present,
Whoso had taken the Pobble’s toes,
In a manner so far from pleasant.
Whether the shrimps, or crawfish grey,
Or crafty Mermaids stole them away –
Nobody knew: and nobody knows
How the Pobble was robbed of his twice five toes!

The Pobble who has no toes
Was placed in a friendly Bark,
And they rowed him back, and carried him up
To his Aunt Jobiska’s Park.
And she made him a feast at his earnest wish
Of eggs and buttercups fried with fish, –
And she said “It’s a fact the whole world knows,
That Pobbles are happier without their toes!”

Please note the tiny duck riding at the end of the kangaroo’s tale. This child is a walking poem.

“The Duck and the Kangaroo”

I

Said the Duck to the Kangaroo,

    ‘Good gracious! how you hop!

Over the fields and the water too,

    As if you never would stop!

My life is a bore in this nasty pond,

And I long to go out in the world beyond!

    I wish I could hop like you!’

    Said the Duck to the Kangaroo.

II

‘Please give me a ride on your back!’

    Said the Duck to the Kangaroo.

‘I would sit quite still, and say nothing but “Quack,”

    The whole of the long day through!

And we’d go to the Dee, and the Jelly Bo Lee,

Over the land, and over the sea;—

    Please take me a ride! O do!’

    Said the Duck to the Kangaroo.

III

Said the Kangaroo to the Duck,

    ‘This requires some little reflection;

Perhaps on the whole it might bring me luck,

    And there seems but one objection,

Which is, if you’ll let me speak so bold,

Your feet are unpleasantly wet and cold,

And would probably give me the roo-

    Matiz!’ said the Kangaroo.

   IV

Said the Duck, ‘As I sate on the rocks,

    I have thought over that completely,

And I bought four pairs of worsted socks

    Which fit my web-feet neatly.

And to keep out the cold I’ve bought a cloak,

And every day a cigar I’ll smoke,

    All to follow my own dear true

    Love of a Kangaroo!’

V

Said the Kangaroo, ‘I’m ready!

    All in the moonlight pale;

But to balance me well, dear Duck, sit steady!

    And quite at the end of my tail!’

So away they went with a hop and a bound,

And they hopped the whole world three times round;

    And who so happy,—O who,

    As the Duck and the Kangaroo?

These poems were written by Edward Lear (1812-88) and found on the Poetry Foundation site (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems) except for the Pobble, which I found here: https://web.cs.dal.ca/~johnston/poetry/pobble.html

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