The Beautiful Pea-Green Boat

The Green Boat

When I was on another walk today, this time around Beecraigs Loch in West Lothian, I came across something that brought to mind a poem which I haven’t thought about in years.  The item in question was a pea-green boat.  Any ideas about the poem?  Yes, you’re quite right:

The Owl and the Pussycat
by Edward Lear

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, you are, you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are.”

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.

“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.

 Do you remember this poem from your childhood?  It’s always been one of my favourites, despite the fact that it caused me no little consternation.  I had no idea what ‘quince’ was or a ‘runcible spoon’.  I was unsure as to whether we had any Bong trees growing in our garden.  I was concerned that the newlyweds wouldn’t be able to spend a £5 note if it had honey all over it.  But of course, this is the wonderful thing about nonsense poems, isn’t it?  We don’t need to know what all the words mean; we can allow our selves to get caught up by the magic of a great imagination, until we too are adrift with the owl and the pussycat.

Was this one of your favourites poems too?  What other poems did you enjoy as a child?  What is it about nonsense poetry that makes us love it so?


March 1, 2008. Creativity, Inspiration.


  1. Chris Moran replied:

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Chris Moran

  2. barbara replied:

    This was the first poem of any length I memorized – I did it as a 3rd grader. We were allowed a choice of poem from a HUGE book of poetry. When I saw the title of your post today, I just knew… it had to be my owl and the pussycat.

    I can still say it after 45 years.

    …and they danced by the light of the moon!

    And I love your photo – it is a perfect companion piece.

  3. mrschili replied:

    Poetry wasn’t a big part of my childhood (I grew up in a… oh, how do I put it delicately?… culturally challenged, slightly disadvantaged household), but I learned this poem as an adult and love it. It just seems so light and sweet (and I love the idea of interspecies marriage).

    I have to tell you, though, that I HATED (and still do intensely dislike) Jabberwocky. Just can’t do it.

    I have a great love of some poems, though poetry isn’t my focus as an English teacher. I’m overly fond of Acquainted with the Night by Frost and You Darkness by Rilke. There are a bunch of others, too, but these hold a special place in my heart because of their unexpected take on the concept of darkness…

  4. diane replied:

    Love the poem (reminds me of the sweet daughter who is now a married 30-year-old) and your beautiful photograph.

    Children need poetry in their lives, from nursery rhymes to epics to song lyrics, so that they can dance to the music of language and life.


  5. Nicholas replied:

    My grandmother had a nice set of runcible spoons. Home made quince jelly was the sort of thing that was sold in glass jars at garden fetes by little old ladies at the bring-and-buy stall! I remember that poem very well. I always, for some reason, bracket it with The Walrus & The Carpenter. Where I went to prep school, each form had to learn a poem every term, and recite it, ensemble, at the last assembly of the term. We also had to learn an individual poem each, which we had to recite, one by one, with the entire school and staff watching us. Old stand-bys included The Charge of The Light Brigade, The Highwayman, Ode to Autumn and of course not forgetting “In Xanadu did Kulkai Kahn a stately pleasure dome decree etc etc” One term I broke the mould when I learned and recited a couple of the Cautionary tales by Hillaire Belloc. The applause was most satisfying!

  6. wonderwebby replied:

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I grew up with a Child’s Garden of Verses which had some lovely poems, and another huge compendium of rhymes.
    I also loved this one
    A Frog he would a-wooing go,
    Heigho! says Rowley,
    Whether his mother would let him or no.
    With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach,
    Heigho! says Anthony Rowley.

    So off he set with his opera hat,
    Heigho! says Rowley,
    And on the way he met with a Rat.
    With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach,
    Heigho! says Anthony Rowley.

    “Now pray, Mr. Rat, won’t you come with me,”
    Heigho! says Rowley,
    “Kind Mrs. Mousey for to see?”
    With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach,
    Heigho! says Anthony Rowley.

    And when they came to Mousey’s hall,
    Heigho! says Rowley,
    They gave a knock and they gave a call.
    With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach,
    Heigho! says Anthony Rowley.

    “Pray, Mrs. Mouse, are you within?”
    Heigho! says Rowley,
    “Yes, kind sirs, I’m sitting to spin.”
    With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach,
    Heigho! says Anthony Rowley.

    “Pray, Mrs. Mouse, will you give us some beer?”
    Heigho! says Rowley,
    “For Froggy and I are fond of good cheer.”
    With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach.
    Heigho! says Anthony Rowley.

    “Pray, Mr. Frog, will you give us a song?”
    Heigho! says Rowley,
    “But let it be something that’s not very long.”
    With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach,
    Heigho! says Anthony Rowley.

    “Indeed, Mrs. Mouse,” replied the frog,
    Heigho! says Rowley,
    “A cold has made me as hoarse as a hog.”
    With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach,
    Heigho! says Anthony Rowley.

    “Since you have caught cold, Mr. Frog,” Mousey said,
    Heigho! says Rowley,
    “I’ll sing you a song that I have just made.”
    With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach,
    Heigho! says Anthony Rowley.

    But while they were all a merry-making,
    Heigho! says Rowley,
    A cat and her kittens came tumbling in.
    With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach,
    Heigho! says Anthony Rowley.

    The cat she seized the rat by the crown;
    Heigho! says Rowley,
    And the kittens pulled the little mouse down.
    With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach,
    Heigho! says Anthony Rowley.

    This put Mr. Frog in a terrible fright,
    Heigho! says Rowley,
    He put on his hat, and he wished them goodnight.
    With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach,
    Heigho! says Anthony Rowley.

    But as Mr. Frog was crossing the brook,
    Heigho! says Rowley,
    A lily-white duck came and gobbled him up.
    With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach,
    Heigho! says Anthony Rowley.

    So there was an end of one, two, and three,
    Heigho! says Rowley,
    The rat, the mouse, and little froggee!
    With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach,
    Heigho! says Anthony Rowley.

  7. amypalko replied:

    Glad you found me, Chris! I hope you continue to enjoy what you read here 🙂

    So glad to have found someone who loves this poem too, Barbara! It has so many great lines in it, doesn’t it? And the imagery is so beautiful. Though that line, ‘And they danced by the light of the moon’, has to be one of my favourites too.

    I must admit to not being overly keen on Jabberwocky myself, Mrschili. I do, however, love Acquainted With The Night, and I’ve included it in this blog back in November. You can read it again here, along with pictures:

    I love that idea of reciting poetry at assembly, Nicholas, especially en masse! Those were some great poems that you mentioned. Coleridge’s Kubla Kahn really has the power to excite the imagination, doesn’t it? Also, I’m going to have to go and reread The Walrus and the Carpenter. I remember it as a great poem, but I can’t recall any specifics. It was the kind of poem that you would find in a child’s poetry anthology along with The Owl and the Pussycat though, which is possibly why you associate them.

    Thank you so much for sharing that lovely poem, Wonderwebby! Heigho, indeed 🙂

  8. Toni replied:

    That is a lovely image of a charming boat!

    Thanks for sharing that poem. I haven’t read it in ages!

    I did have a favorite childhood poem but for the life of me I can’t remember its title. I do remember having a fascination with how e.e. cummings wrote, all in lower-case. His style hooked me first, and then his words. He still is my favorite poet.

  9. Joanna Young replied:

    Hi Amy

    I rediscovered nonsense recently, mainly from re-reading Alice, but there are lots of other great examples. I am intrigued by the way it can speak to us without us knowing what the words mean.

    I didn’t like Jabberwocky as a child but it has become very important to me as an adult. I now see the Jabberwock as the personal monster that many of us need to learn to slay, and when we do, well it’s a frabjous day indeed 🙂


  10. Daz Cox replied:

    I found myself spontaniously reciting this classic Spike Milligan poem the other day!


    Why is there no monument
    To Porridge in our land?
    It it’s good enough to eat,
    It’s good enough to stand!

    On a plinth in London
    A statue we should see
    Of Porridge made in Scotland
    Signed, “Oatmeal, O.B.E.”
    (By a young dog of three)

    Spike Milligan

  11. amypalko replied:

    I love e.e. cummings too, Toni. I remember you shared ‘i carry your heart’ on this blog when I posted [somewhere i have never travelled]:
    Both beautiful poems 🙂

    I think that’s a wonderful way to view the Jabberwock, Joanna. It will be a frabjous day indeed!

    I love that poem, Daz, and it’s completely new to me! We do make the best porridge though, it has be said 😉

  12. Prize Draw - Poetry « Lives Less Ordinary replied:

    […] The Owl and the Pussycat […]

  13. 9 Random Facts About Me « Damien at the Speed of Life replied:

    […] The Rock Chick Amy Katelynjane Malcolm Ms.Caesi Isabella Mori […]

  14. Wigs replied:

    I love the picture.

  15. tommy replied:

    Thanks for the photo & poem. I am confused because I never heard the poem except the haunting Laurie Anderson version which surely sounds different than intended.

    Sorry to hear that some don’t care for the epic Jabberwocky tale. Perhaps if the boy brought the head of the monster to his damsel (was she in distress?) as a token of his affection… It’s true that the poem seems out of place in a book written for a young girl, but then everything in the book is out of place. It’s delightfully disorienting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback URI

%d bloggers like this: