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Edward Lear was a landscape painter as well as a poet. Perhaps that explains some of the color choices in his texts. He was especially fond of colors like "pea-green," which appeared not only in his famous verse, The Owl and the Pussy-Cat, but also in The Jumblies, a poem in which folks set to see in a sieve to "the lands where the Jumblies live;/Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,/ And they went to see in a Sieve."

Lear was the 20th child in a family of 21, and was raised by his eldest sister (a mere 21 years older than him -- Lear's poor mother!), who gave him drawing lessons. Lear had epilepsy as well as some respiratory ailments, so that his health was fairly precarious for much of his life. Nevertheless, he achieved success as a painter, with wealthy patrons, and was at one time asked to give painting lessons to a young Queen Victoria. He also published A Book of Nonsense in 1846, which went into three printings and popularized the Limerick as a form.

No doubt you know or have read The Owl and the Pussycat, so today, I give you The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.

The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò
by Edward Lear


I

On the Coast of Coromandel
&ensp Where the early pumpkins blow,
&emsp In the middle of the woods
&ensp Lived the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.
Two old chairs, and half a candle, --
One old jug without a handle,--
&emsp These were all his worldly goods:
&emsp In the middle of the woods,
&emsp These were all the worldly goods
&ensp Of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò,
&ensp Of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.

II

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

III

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

IV

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

V

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

VI

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

VII

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

VIII

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

IX

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

X

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


There are two lines in particular that I adore in this, and I'll tell you what they are. In stanza VII, I love the line-break in the midst of the word "modify": "Though you're such a Hoddy Doddy --/Yet I wish that I could modi-/fy the words I needs must say." Genius. And the other line I love is the first line of stanza IX, where he employs the phrase "the silent-roaring ocean." How perfectly beautiful and brilliant a phrase that is.





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Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
amanda_marrone
Mar. 23rd, 2007 01:31 pm (UTC)
I couldn't concentrate on the poem--I was too busy swooning thinking about having 21 kids! OMG! Poor Mrs. Lear indeed!
kellyrfineman
Mar. 23rd, 2007 04:41 pm (UTC)
Not just 21 -- 21 in something like 22 years. She certainly didn't catch any breaks!
slatts
Mar. 23rd, 2007 01:32 pm (UTC)
Great poem! Great Lesson!
I was about to joke he was a regular Bob Dylan with all his verses when two things kinda popped in my head and made me wonder if Mr.D hadn't "checked out" Mr.Lear himself....

The poem reads like an old folk song with it's last two repeating lines (like something Bobby would often borrow from in his early songs) and that "trick" you refer to with splitting the word...I know of at least one instance where Dylan does that too....

Probably coincidence but entertainingly interesting still the same!
kellyrfineman
Mar. 23rd, 2007 04:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Great poem! Great Lesson!
Lear's poem does look like it should be a long ballad. Having said which, I'm now hearing "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" on brainradio.
slatts
Mar. 23rd, 2007 04:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Great poem! Great Lesson!
you and your brainradio!

can't wait til we can get a simulcast webfeed!.... ;-)
susanwrites
Mar. 23rd, 2007 02:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks for another reason to smile today. You are my first stop for poetry Friday.
kellyrfineman
Mar. 23rd, 2007 04:43 pm (UTC)
I'm flattered! (The round-up is at Blue Rose Girls today).
boreal_owl
Mar. 23rd, 2007 03:42 pm (UTC)
Ah, this is great! Thanks, Kelly.
kellyrfineman
Mar. 23rd, 2007 04:43 pm (UTC)
You're welcome.

P.S. - That's one of my favorite owl icons yet!
lizjonesbooks
Mar. 23rd, 2007 05:10 pm (UTC)
That's so cute!!! I never read it before... Love the Jumblies, too. I hadn't thought of that in years.
kellyrfineman
Mar. 24th, 2007 02:49 pm (UTC)
I'd never read the Jumblies before this week, either, but something about the language in this one really appealed to me. Also, all the setting to sea in a Sieve part reminded me of "went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat", so I decided to go with one where they don't start off going to sea at all.
bluemalibu
Mar. 24th, 2007 06:24 am (UTC)
I LOVE THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you, Kelly.
What a treat!
kellyrfineman
Mar. 24th, 2007 02:47 pm (UTC)
You are very welcome!
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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