poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

The British poet and painter known for his absurd wit, Edward Lear was born on May 12, 1812 and began his career as an artist at age 15. His father, a stockbroker of Danish origins, was sent to debtor's prison when Lear was thirteen and the young Lear was forced to earn a living. Lear quickly gained recognition for his work and in 1832 was hired by the London Zoological Society to execute illustrations of birds. In the same year, the Earl of Derby invited Lear to reside at his estate; Lear ended up staying on until 1836.

His first book of poems, A Book of Nonsense (1846) was composed for the grandchildren of the Derby household. Around 1836 Lear decided to devote himself exclusively to landscape painting (although he continued to compose light verse). Between 1837 and 1847 Lear traveled extensively throughout Europe and Asia.

After his return to England, Lear's travel journals were published in several volumes as The Illustrated Travels of a Landscape Painter. Popular and respected in his day, Lear's travel books have largely been ignored in the twentieth century. Rather, Lear is remembered for his humorous poems, such as "The Owl and the Pussycat," and as the creator of the form and meter of the modern limerick. Like his younger peer Lewis Carroll, Lear wrote many deeply fantastical poems about imaginary creatures, such as "The Dong with the Luminous Nose." His books of humorous verse also include Nonsense Songs (1871) and Laughable Lyrics (1877). Lear died on January 29, 1888 at the age of 76.

Although the subject and form of his works varies greatly, all of Lear's poems can be characterized by his irreverent view of the world; Lear poked fun at everything, including himself in "By Way of a Preface." Many critics view Lear's devotion to the ridiculous as a method for dealing with or undermining the all-pervasive orderliness and industriousness of Victorian society. Regardless of impetus, the humor of Lear's poems has proved irrefutably timeless.

The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo

Edward Lear, 1812 - 1888
On the Coast of Coromandel
   Where the early pumpkins blow,
      In the middle of the woods
   Lived the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.
Two old chairs, and half a candle,
One old jug without a handle--
      These were all his worldly goods,
      In the middle of the woods,
      These were all his worldly goods,
   Of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo,
   Of the Yonghy-Bonghy Bo.

Once, among the Bong-trees walking
   Where the early pumpkins blow,
      To a little heap of stones
   Came the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.
There he heard a Lady talking,
To some milk-white Hens of Dorking--
      "'Tis the Lady Jingly Jones!
      On that little heap of stones
      Sits the Lady Jingly Jones!"
   Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo,
   Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.

"Lady Jingly! Lady Jingly!
   Sitting where the pumpkins blow,
      Will you come and be my wife?"
   Said the Yongby-Bonghy-Bo.
"I am tired of living singly--
On this coast so wild and shingly--
      I'm a-weary of my life;
      If you'll come and be my wife,
      Quite serene would be my life!"
   Said the Yonghy-Bongby-Bo,
   Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.

"On this Coast of Coromandel
   Shrimps and watercresses grow,
      Prawns are plentiful and cheap,"
Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.
"You shall have my chairs and candle,
And my jug without a handle!
      Gaze upon the rolling deep
      (Fish is plentiful and cheap);
      As the sea, my love is deep!"
   Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo,
   Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.

Lady Jingly answered sadly,
   And her tears began to flow--
      "Your proposal comes too late,
   Mr. Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo!
I would be your wife most gladly!"
(Here she twirled her fingers madly)
      "But in England I've a mate!
      Yes! you've asked me far too late,
      For in England I've a mate,
   Mr. Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo!
   Mr. Yongby-Bonghy-Bo!

"Mr. Jones (his name is Handel--
   Handel Jones, Esquire, & Co.)
      Dorking fowls delights to send
   Mr. Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo!
Keep, oh, keep your chairs and candle,
And your jug without a handle--
      I can merely be your friend!
      Should my Jones more Dorkings send,
      I will give you three, my friend!
   Mr. Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo!
   Mr. Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo!

"Though you've such a tiny body,
   And your head so large doth grow--
      Though your hat may blow away
   Mr. Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo!
Though you're such a Hoddy Doddy,
Yet I wish that I could modi-
      fy the words I needs must say!
      will you please to go away
      That is all I have to say,
   Mr. Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo!
   Mr. Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo!"

Down the slippery slopes of Myrtle,
   Where the early pumpkins blow,
      To the calm and silent sea
   Fled the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.
There, beyond the Bay of Gurtle,
Lay a large and lively Turtle.
      "You're the Cove," he said, "for me;
      On your back beyond the sea,
      Turtle, you shall carry me!"
   Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo,
   Said the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.

Through the silent-roaring ocean
   Did the Turtle swiftly go;
      Holding fast upon his shell
   Rode the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.
With a sad primeval motion
Towards the sunset isles of Boshen
      Still the Turtle bore him well.
      Holding fast upon his shell,
      "Lady Jingly Jones, farewell!"
   Sang the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo,
   Sang the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.

From the Coast of Coromandel
   Did that Lady never go;
      On that heap of stones she mourns
   For the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.
On that Coast of Coromandel,
In his jug without a handle
      Still she weeps, and daily moans;
      On that little heap of stones
      To her Dorking Hens she moans,
   For the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo,
   For the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Edward Lear

Edward Lear

The British poet Edward Lear's poems can be characterized by his irreverent view of the world

by this poet

poem
A

A was an ant
Who seldom stood still,
And who made a nice house
In the side of a hill.

a
Nice little ant!

*

B

B was a book
With a binding of blue,
And pictures and stories
For me and for you.

b
Nice
poem
1. 
There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, "It is just as I feared!--
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!"


10. 
There was an Old Man in a tree,
Who was horribly bored by a Bee;
When they said, "Does it buzz?"
He replied, "Yes, it does!
"It's a regular brute
poem

I

They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
   In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter's morn, on a stormy day,
   In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, "You'll all be drowned!"
They called aloud, "Our