The Owl and the Pussy-cat

The following poem, written by *Edward Lear, was one of the first poems I ever heard. My mother used to read it to me before I went to sleep, and the sing-song-y rhythmn of it always delighted me.

If you have not read it, please enjoy the following. If you are familiar with it, I hope that it brings you the joy that it brings back to me:

“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.

*The Owl and the Pussycat’ was published in Lear’s 1871 collection Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany, and Alphabets.

**Runcible” is a nonsense word invented by Edward Lear. The word appears (as an adjective) several times in his works, most famously as the “runcible spoon” used by the Owl and the Pussycat. The word “runcible” was apparently one of Lear’s favourite inventions, appearing in several of his works in reference to a number of different objects. In his verse self-portrait, The Self-Portrait of the Laureate of Nonsense, it is noted that “he weareth a runcible hat.” Other poems include mention of a “runcible cat,” a “runcible goose” (in the sense of “silly person”), and a “runcible wall.

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One thought on “The Owl and the Pussy-cat

  1. Diane Kirkup says:

    Magical to read this again … and special because an owl flew down into my yard this week, just feet outside my window, we looked face to face … magical indeed!

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