Poem of the Month

The Owl and the Pussy-cat | Edward Lear

the owl and the pussy-cat edward lear banner image

I
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.

Edward Lear, Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany, and Alphabets, 1871
poem of the month


“How pleasant to know Mr Lear!”

Edward Lear was a British poet, landscape painter, illustrator, and diarist. Born on May 12th 1812, he began his creative career at the young age of 13. After his father was imprisoned on counts of fraud, young Lear found work in the household of Lord Stanley. He used his wit and drawing skills to entertain the Lord’s children and soon began to carve a name for himself in the field of illustrating. He quickly gained widespread recognition for his work and was celebrated among fellow artists as well as lay-persons.

By 1846, Lear published A Book of Nonsense, his first book of poems. His own illustrations feature alongside his poems, and this helped propel his writing career. Lear travelled for over a decade, across Europe and Asia, documenting his adventures by journaling along the way. Though Lear’s travel writing was highly successful in his day, he is now most notably remembered for his poetry.

Read Edward Lear



Jumblies, limericks, and runcible spoons

Edward Lear’s poetry has been interpreted and adapted into many different mediums. His works of ‘nonsense’ align him with the wonderful wit of Lewis Carroll, both harbouring incredible imaginations which continue to be references to this day.

Invented words go hand-in-hand with Lear’s famous wordplay. However, he also relished surprising his readers and peers with adaptations of traditional poetic forms. Lear is also famed for inventing the modern limerick. He popularised the form and included comic illustrations alongside every verse.

We celebrate Edward Lear for the whimsy and light he brought to the world of literature, especially poetry, and hope that generations to come will continue to enjoy his writing.

The Owl and the Pussy-cat, Edward Lear (1812 – 1888)
The Owl and the Pussy-cat, Edward Lear (1812 – 1888)

If you love this poem, next read Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll, or The Song of the Jellicles by T. S. Eliot.

Check out more poetry by exploring our entire collection of poetry books and anthologies..

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What do you think of ‘The Owl and the Pussy-cat’? Have you read any more nonsense poetry? Let us know in the comments below.

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2 Comments

  • Reply Margaret Doel May 17, 2021 at 9:48 am

    The Owl and the Pussy Cat is my most favourite poem.My daughter has given me the further adventures of them, but the original brings back so many happy childhood memories.

  • Reply Leonie Egan June 1, 2021 at 12:50 pm

    I remember learning this charming poem as a schoolchild and even a few years later, learning to sing it as a song. However, my very favourite poem was Winkin, Blinkin and Nodd.

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