Thursday, February 21, 2008

A look at "The Owl and the Pussy Cat"

I have considered for sometime launching a column specifically for the purpose of reviewing literature. I am, as you must know by now, a voracious reader. Though future endeavors will be aimed mainly at current literature - fiction, non-fiction, and poetry - I have chosen to pick limb from limb - and to annotate - a timeless and absurd child's poem entitled "The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear first published in 1871. Some of the verbiage is antiquated or obscure. I often wonder what children make of this.

On the surface this poem should be a very short undertaking. Owls and cats are not the dearest of friends. Depending on breed and stature, they would either be worthy adversaries or the cat would be lunch for the owl. Not so. These two are sweethearts. I think not.

Stanza I
The Owl and the Pussycat 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!'
Excuse me! I know of few if any pussycats who would venture forth in any boat, regardless of color. And furthermore, honey? Canned tuna, maybe, but honey? Both of these creatures are carnivores. And owls don't sing. So much for this stanza.
Stanza II
Pussy said to the Owl, 'You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you ging!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?'
Let me just interject that a ring is the least of their problems.
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in the 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.
This part is only plausible if you ignore the fact that the two of them lived on honey for a year and a day. I have read accounts of humans afloat on rafts in the sea for mere days or weeks, and the end result was not happy.
Stanza II
'Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?'
Said the Piggy, 'I will.'
Ah! That explains why they brought all that money.
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
Only a turkey would marry these two!
They dined on mince, and slides 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.
They dined on what? Minced, in and of itself, only means "chopped in fine pieces." I don't remember the mention of cutlery anywhere in the body of this poem. And a runcible spoon? this item, considering a possibly unmnetioned Swiss Army Knife (conceivably used to extract the ring from the pig), is not a common inclusion. It is, instead a very specialized slotted spoon.
I give this poem a rating of 8 out of 10. In spite of content it remains entirely entertaining (and you can dance to it).
Believe it or not, there exists Lear's unfinished posthumous "The Children of the Owl and the Pussycat." Never mind!
Until Nest time, I remain...
-Browser, the library cat
Printed in the Pine River Jounal 21 February 2008

1 comment:

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