Saturday, May 12, 2012


(I have no idea why they typography is so screwed up today.  Apologies!)

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edward Lear, the Victorian nonsense poet whose poems were familiar to me as a child (I still remember a number of them, word for word!) and which I read constantly to my children.  I hope they read the same poems to their children. I'm sure you all know The Owl and the Pussycat and The Jumblies.  Here's "Calico Pie."  It's less familiar--and a little bit sad.  And another favorite, "How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear."  Lear's dark side is omnipresent in his nonsense, like Maurice Sendak's, whose loss we learned of this past week. Thanks to Verlyn Klinkenborg of the New York Times for drawing this anniversary to my attention.  Enjoy!

Calico Pie

Calico Pie,
The little Birds fly
Down to the calico tree,
Their wings were blue,
And they sang 'Tilly-loo!'
Till away they flew,
And they never came back to me!
They never came back!
They never came back!
They never came back to me!

Calico Jam,
The little Fish swam
Over the syllabub sea,
He took off his hat
To the Sole and the Sprat,
And the Willeby-wat,
But he never came back to me!
He never came back!
He never came back!
He never came back to me!

Calico Ban,
The little Mice ran,
To be ready in time for tea,
They drank it all up,
And danced in the cup,
But they never came back to me!
They never came back!
They never came back!
They never came back to me!

Calico Drum,
The Grasshoppers come,
The Butterfly, Beetle, and Bee,
Over the ground,
Around and around,
With a hop and a bound -
But they never came back!
They never came back!
They never came back!
They never came back to me! 

How pleasant to know Mr. Lear

How pleasant to know Mr. Lear,
Who has written such volumes of stuff.
Some think him ill-tempered and queer,
But a few find him pleasant enough.

His mind is concrete and fastidious,
His nose is remarkably big;
His visage is more or less hideous,
His beard it resembles a wig.

He has ears, and two eyes, and ten fingers,
(Leastways if you reckon two thumbs);
He used to be one of the singers,
But now he is one of the dumbs.

He sits in a beautiful parlour,
With hundreds of books on the wall;
He drinks a great deal of marsala,
But never gets tipsy at all.

He has many friends, laymen and clerical,
Old Foss is the name of his cat;
His body is perfectly spherical,
He weareth a runcible hat.

When he walks in waterproof white,
The children run after him so!
Calling out, "He's gone out in his night-
Gown, that crazy old Englishman, oh!"

He weeps by the side of the ocean,
He weeps on the top of the hill;
He purchases pancakes and lotion,
And chocolate shrimps from the mill.

He reads, but he does not speak, Spanish,
He cannot abide ginger beer;
Ere the days of his pilgrimage vanish,
How pleasant to know Mr. Lear! 

1 comment:

CHI SPHERE said...

Perhaps the ghost of Ed is in the web who's finally come back to you!
My grandma used to play her grand piano while I lay under it and recited Lear's poems to nonsense tunes she would invent. Many summer afternoons were spent this way and reading those you've shared here bring smiles to me. I imagine Luka will enjoy them as his ability to understand grows. I'd just love to taste some Calico Pie and Jam some day!