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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 Jumblies

Edward Lear, 1812 - 1888

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 Sieve ain't big,
But we don't care a button! we don't care a fig!
   In a Sieve we'll go to sea!"
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.

II

They sailed in a Sieve, they did,
   In a Sieve they sailed so fast,
With only a beautiful pea-green veil
Tied with a ribbon by way of a sail,
   To a small tobacco-pipe mast;
And every one said, who saw them go,"
0 won't they be soon upset, you know!
For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,
And happen what may, it's extremely wrong
   In a Sieve to sail so fast!"
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.

III

The water it soon came in, it did,
   The water it soon came in;
So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet
In a pinky paper all folded neat,
   And they fastened it down with a pin.
And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,
And each of them said, "How wise we are!
Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,
   While round in our Sieve we spin!"
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.

IV

And all night long they sailed away;
   And when the sun went down,
They whistled and warbled a moony song
To the echoing sound of a coppery gong,
   In the shade of the mountains brown.
"0 Timballo! How happy we are,
When we live in a sieve and a crockery-jar,
And all night long in the moonlight pale,
We sail away with a pea-green sail,
   In the shade of the mountains brown!"
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.

V

They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
   To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,
   And a hive of silvery Bees.
And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws,
And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,
And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,
   And no end of Stilton Cheese.
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.

VI

And in twenty years they all came back,
   In twenty years or more,
And every one said, "How tall they've grown!
For they've been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,
   And the hills of the Chankly Bore";
And they drank their health, and gave them a feast
Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast;
And every one said, "If we only live,
We too will go to sea in a Sieve,--
   To the hills of the Chankly Bore!"
      Far and few, far and few,
         Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
         And they went to sea in a Sieve.

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
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
poem
A     tumbled down, and hurt his Arm, against a bit of wood.
B     said, "My Boy, O! do not cry' it cannot do you good!"
C     said, "A Cup of Coffee hot can't do you any harm."
D     said, "A Doctor should be fetched, and he would cure the arm."
E     said, "An Egg beat up in milk would quickly make him well."
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