Poetry Wednesday: The Jumblies of Lear

I can’t say that I appreciate Edward Lear’s limericks.  They don’t scan right to my ear and I can’t force myself into finding them clever by considering the time period or that he popularized the form.  Sorry.

However, I do think his longer poems rock.

“The Owl and the Pussycat,” with its irresistible runcible spoon and exotic (to an American kid, anyway) quince* is the one most of us see in school and I do love it; but while those of us who have read both can’t deny that Mr. Lear’s delightful in pea-green—or suffered subconscious sea-sickness—you have to give credit to the Jumblies individualistic style. 

They certainly know how to shop, anyway,  and I’ve always wanted a hive of silvery bees.**

Illustration by Edward Lear

The Jumblies
(Edward Lear)

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 away in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they sailed so fast,
With only a beautiful pea-green veil
Tied with a riband by way of a sail,
To a small tobacco-pipe mast;
And every one said, who saw them go,
‘O 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.
‘O 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 everyone 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.

_______________________________________
*When I was growing up, any fruit that wasn’t a Jello or pudding (or Jello Pudding) flavor was considered way sophisticated.  That could explain a few things about me . . .

**That may explain some things, too.

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7 thoughts on “Poetry Wednesday: The Jumblies of Lear

  1. Reminds me of a mix of Lewis Carroll (e.g., Jabberwocky) and someone else–can’t quite put a finger on who??

  2. “For they’ve been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,
    And the hills of the Chankly Bore;”

    I want to go to the Torrible Zone and the hills of Chankly Bore. Sounds like fun.

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