Tag Archives: The Owl and the Pussycat

Stuff and Nonsense at Falmouth Art Gallery 22 June to 7th September 2019


Sneaky Peek: Part of my Edward Lear collection on display soon at Falmouth Art Gallery’s Stuff and Nonsense exhibition (22 June to 7 September 2019)

When I  went today from Z to A … from the Zoo to the Art Gallery

Spent Monday afternoon this week amidst the busy-ness of an art exhibition being taken down and a new one “Stuff and Nonsense” being put up at Falmouth Art Gallery in Cornwall, quietly shifting bits of my small Edward Lear collection around this lovely lockable well-lit wall cabinet.

Eventually after several hours, it settled to look like this. I wanted it to look a bit like a bookcase or bookshelf, so some titles are showing their spine only.


“Follow Alice down the rabbit hole and emerge into our extraordinary summer exhibition! A celebration of the stuff we all like – from the bizarre to the everyday.
All ages will be delighted by the nonsense rhymes and illustrations of Quentin Blake, Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear and Spike Milligan; fantastical stories including Rossetti’s wombat and the Cottingley Fairies; hilarious new automata; and shrines and assemblages from local artists and community groups.”

Featuring loans from the British Library, British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, TATE, Tower Hamlets Local History Archive, the Victoria & Albert Museum and private collections. Supported by the Government Indemnity Scheme and a Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grant from Art Fund.    (Exhibition blurb)

Many illustrators have produced illustrations of ‘The Owl and The Pussycat’ by Edward Lear, which was voted the Nation’s Favourite Children’s Poem in 2014: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/02/owl-and-the-pussycat-edward-lear-voted-favourite-childrens-poem

Within the ‘window cabinet’, there are a selection of these old and recent illustrations of ‘The Owl and The Pussycat’ poem by Edward Lear himself, Beatrix Potter, Charlotte Voake, Claire Ruddock, Michael Foreman, L. Leslie Brooke,  Malcolm Greensmith and even’ Owl and Pussycat’ stamp first day cover postmarks.

In the window cabinet, there are also Lear nonsense illustrations by Arnold Lobel and vintage hand puppets. There are several examples of Victorian era copies of  Lear’s own limericks, nonsense botany (The Biscuit Tree and  Tigerlillia terribilis) and one reproduction of his superb bird illustrations which he painted and engraved the animal collections  at Knowsley and London Zoo in early Victorian times.

I’m not sure if my loan contribution from the small Newquay Zoo collection and my own private collection of Lear stuff is classed as ‘nonsense’ (from one of Britain’s finest nonsense poets) or ‘stuff’ because I have slowly been collecting ‘stuff’ about Edward Lear for years. Maybe my window  collection is both happy nonsense and stuff at the same time.

On display also are other people’s family shrines and collections from small mantlepiece collections etc, to bigger collections  because everybody I know collects some meaningful stuff.

Falmouth has an interesting collection of children’s book illustrations and automata to draw on for this exhibition 



Arguably my Lear window cabinet collection is also small shrine to a man of silliness, ‘bosh’ and ‘nonsense’. Some of my pieces are ‘memorabilia’ books, an enamel plate and mug (for children or collectors?) from the Royal Academy 1988 centenary exhibition of his death.

There is a lovely photographic portrait of the bearded Lear on the front of  an Arts Council Edward Lear exhibition catalogue from 1958. Elsewhere his cartoony self caricatures and self portraits can be seen, amidst all the cats!

High up on the top shelf for adults and tall children to read  adults is one such Royal Academy book with a lovely 1939 poem by W.H. Auden (he of “stop all the clocks”, used in Four Weddings and A Funeral”) and print of Lear illustrations alongside pictures of Lear’s grave and that of his beloved cat Foss, his pussycat. (Sadly Lear never seemed to have a pet owl in the same way. Maybe it sailed away, for a year and a day …)

Elsewhere scattered amongst loans from the  British Library, British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, TATE, Tower Hamlets Local History Archive, the Victoria & Albert Museum and  Spike Milligan’s family are some more bits of nonsense that I have picked up for or since the Lear Bicentenary in 2012.

Continuing a long running partnership including Darwin’s bicentenary 2009, Falmouth Art Gallery and Newquay Zoo were planning a 2012  event or exhibition, which sadly due to ill health never happened. Lots of other zoos and museums and galleries happily did celebrate Lear’s birthday and bicentenary on May 12th 2012.

So here we are, celebrating nonsense, only seven years late …

Hugh Stewart, the Falmouth born film producer (1910-2011) amassed in later life a collection of over 100 translations and audio recordings in different languages of ‘The Owl and The Pussycat’ poem – we hope that some of these audio versions are available as an audio part of the exhibition.

What else is on loan from the zoo and my collection?

Stuff and nonsense in my collection that wouldn’t fit into the Edward  Lear window display has snuck into other cabinets as ‘placeholders’. Hopefully they will hold these places into the exhibition. It’s quite competitive for space as there is a lot of nonsense out there!

Other pieces are more officially framed up – some hand painted Lear limerick pages (by a child?) marked W.L.A. 1893 and  some of the lovely Royal Mail Stamp postcards  from the 1988 Lear Issue with Lear drawings.

Out of curiosity, like many zoo keepers, I have a wide collection of animal related things from animals on stamps and cigarette cards to lead and plastic zoo animals. Working on the education / children’s side of zoos I have collections of ‘animals in art’ books, postcards and poetry books.

I have included a couple of ‘flip the animal body parts to make a new mash up nonsense animal’ books by Sara Ball (‘Porguacan’) and Tony Van Meeuwissen (‘Remarkable Animals’) ;  some of Tony’s original book illustration paintings for this book are on display. Alongside them are my fabulous full set of 1934 Wills’ cigarette cards Animalalloys. These are suitably randomly arranged in 16 weird animal combinations inside the glass display case. Sadly none of them (yet) make rude animal names.


All 48 of the Animalloys cards, but not in their Falmouth Art gallery exhibition random order.

Looking at these ‘mixed up’ animals, I was reminded of a comment by Amelya, one of the local Newquay primary school children whom I worked with on Newquay Zoo’s 50th Anniversary (this May 2019). She had an imaginative prediction of how zoos will have changed in another 50 years, by our zoo centenary in 2069. Knowing that many animals were becoming rare or extinct, she thought, why not invent new ones?  “In 50 years time zoos will be full of animals. Animals with different DNAs all mixed up to make them really cool and even more cute and scary.”

Having a childhood love of fantastic nonsense from Lear and Lewis Carroll through to the Goons, I have included a couple of the published Goon Show Scripts 1 and 2, reproduced with the cast’s crazy Goon character doodles, alongside an old 1960s Penguin collection of Spike Milligan paperbacks with his great doodles and illustrations to illustrate his silly verse and ‘Milliganimals’.


Spike Milligan and other Goons actors doodled these (reproduced) scripts.

Keeping the zoo connection is an old Jersey Zoo / Dodo Club Millennium Calendar, salvaged after zoo use.  Inside and hopefully finding a place on display is a colourful and daft Gerald Durrell cartoon drawing of his travels and animals, like the drawings  that he used to do live and in public! As Lee Durrell his widow says, “Gerry loved sketching, and he would illustrate his lectures about animals and the [Jersey Zoo / Durrell Wildlife] Trust with quick doodles using a marker pen.” (quote from Durrell shop website, see Blog Post Script B.P.S.)

It is well worth a trip to see the rest of the Stuff and Nonsense exhibition (22 June to 7 September 2019) that I saw in part being mounted around me. I can’t wait to go back and see it all up and busy with people.  The exhibition should appeal to children and adults of all ages, perfect for the school summer holidays. Award-winning  Falmouth Art Gallery is well known as “Fabulous, Free and Family Friendly.” Exhibitions are often accompanied by a programme of fun art workshops as well.


FAG website

The exhibition  title phrase “stuff and nonsense” or “non-sense” itself has interesting and illustrious origins: https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/stuff-and-nonsense.html

I hope you make it along to and enjoy this interesting and varied exhibition.

You could have great fun counting how many owls and how many pussycats you can see in the whole Stuff and Nonsense exhibition? Tigerlillias count! 

Thanks to Henrietta, Natalie and all the amazing team at Falmouth Art gallery for their hospitality, putting my small part of their exhibition together.

Blog posted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo Education Department, 20 June 2019.

Blog Post Script 

Jersey Zoo / Durrell Wildlife Trust are selling some Gerald Durrell drawings as prints as fundraisers for conservation:

National Poetry Day Nonsense!


“The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat”

Celebrate National Poetry Day 28 September 2017 with one of the UK Nation’s favourite poems. Here are a few fun ideas from our blog archive for teaching more nonsense (poetry) in schools


lear stamps


Edward Lear bicentenary 2012 logo

Edward Lear bicentenary 2012 logo

and videos and translations of the poem in many world languages


STOP PRESS – the bompa.org website itself has now lapsed and the material has moved, file by file, by its creator Attila Veres to http://pimpoapo.byethost22.com/bompa/

owl and pussycat puppets 004

How will you celebrate National Poetry Day? http://www.nationalpoetryday.co.uk

Blogposted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo, 28 September 2017



Happy 204th birthday Edward Lear!

What nonsense and bosh to mark Edward Lear’s 204th birthday!

Edward Lear bicentenary 2012 logo

Edward Lear bicentenary 2012 logo

Three ways to celebrate this year’s International Owl and Pussycat Day 2016 to mark Edward Lear’s birthday on 12 May.



  1. You could read the famous and favourite poem in whatever language you choose!

You can find the original poem at www.nonsenselit.org



2. You could sort back here through years of occasional blogposts for lots of ideas for celebrating or teaching nonsense!



lear stamps

Lear 1990 centenary stamps from our Darwin 200 sister blog site https://darwin200stampzoo.wordpress.com/



3. You could buy something nonsensical and joyous like these “puppetry training aids” that  I found in crazy and colourful Danish store Tiger   emerging online and across UK high streets:


Only a £1 or 2  for these puppetry teaching aids at Tiger

And some suitable puppetry training nonsense ideas to use these wiggly eye rings (this sounds better in Danish):


Celebrate wildlife however weird, wacky or fantastical.


Posted by Mark Norris on International Owl and Pussycat Day 2016

Nominate Edward Lear for the new £20 note by 19 July 2015



The  Bank of England website has a competition to nominate a British visual artist for the new £20 note – why not add your vote for Edward Lear?

£20 note character nominations close on Sunday 19 July 2015.

Why Lear?

Because he was a  scientific illustrator of animals, doodler of nonsense Limerick illustrations and a man with a beard and facial hair that would make such a banknote hard to counterfeit or forge!



You are only allowed 100 words so I wrote my nomination at speed in the spirit of Lear in non-Limerick doggerel (which doesn’t scan that well)

There was an odd man called Edward Lear,

whose limericks were strangely queer;

Pobbles, jumblies, owls and cats,

And  Quangle-Wangle’s amazing hats

on a £20 note – imagine that!


Happy 203rd Birthday Mr Lear – it’s International Owl and Pussycat Day again!

Today’s marking of Edward Lear’s 203rd  birthday 12 May 2015, celebrating this pioneering wildlife illustrator and creator of nonsense verse, celebrates his nonsense botany:


A beautiful little something from our collection, using the 1988 centenary stamps and a great Owl and Pussycat postmark!

If you want to find out more about using postage stamps within teaching, check out the blog posts and links on our  Darwin200 stamp zoo website blog  

Find out more about Edward Lear, his famous poems and teaching and literacy ideas on the links and previous posts of this blog.

Happy Birthday Mr Lear!

Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo

Owl and Pussycat carved tree sculpture, Treefest Westonbirt 2013

Owl and pussycat  carvings by Dave Lucas, Westonbirt Treefest 2013  Source: FOWA website

Owl and pussycat carvings by Dave Lucas, Westonbirt Treefest 2013
Source: FOWA website

After chatting online to Forestry Commission colleagues at Westonbirt, I came across these fabulous pictures of The Owl and the Pussycat carved from a tree trunk by David Lucas. It was carved as part of Treefest 2013 and has now apparently been donated to Coln House School for their sensory area. Lucky school!

Owl and pussycat  carvings by Dave Lucas, Westonbirt Treefest 2013  Source: FOWA website

Owl and pussycat carvings by Dave Lucas, Westonbirt Treefest 2013
Source: FOWA website

I’ve sat in some good storytelling cahirs in schools and school grounds in the past, talking about animals but these really are magnificent!


You can see the statue in use at: http://www.colnhouseschool.org/index.php/2012-11-12-20-56-49/2013-12-03-14-12-30/the-owl-and-the-pussycat

See others on the Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum website  http://www.fowa.org.uk/your_westonbirt/blog/?p=3695

You can see more about the next Treefest 2015 at:


Happy New Lear 2015!

For more info on this Guinness parody of Lear see http://guinnesscollection-mick.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/dr-book-15-happy-new-lear-from-1957.html

Happy New Lear, a parody of Lear by Guinness and artist John Nash 1957

Happy New Lear, a parody of Lear by Guinness and artist John Nash 1957

Happy 202nd birthday 2014 Mr Lear!

Happy 202nd Birthday Mr. Lear! I cannot believe it is two years since zoos, museums, galleries, libraries,  schools and many others around the world celebrated Lear’s bicentenary on May 12 1812 / 2012 .

The last year or two since Edward Lear’s 200th birthday  has seen further Lear events (see Facebook link below). 2013 also saw the spirited sequel The Further Adventures of the Owl and The Pussycat by children’s author Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, Stick Man, Tiddler and other much loved captivating rhyming modern classic children’s picture books.

The poem / sequel is beautifully illustrated by Charlotte Voake, illustrator of many other interesting plant and animal based children’s books.

You can take a peek inside the book at the Puffin website.

I’m sure Mr Lear would be very proud that his characters live on.

We couldn’t let Lear’s 202nd birthday go past without rounding up some of the interesting online resources of inspiring nonsense (poems) for classrooms, in case you missed them :

1. Online Puffin Live interview  Further Adventures read by Julia Donaldson http://www.puffinvirtuallylive.co.uk/author/juliadonaldson

2. Puffin Virtually Live Teachers Pack with lots of nonsense ideas, mask templates http://www.puffinvirtuallylive.co.uk/assets/FurtherAdventuresOwlPussycat_PuffinVirtuallyLive.pdf

3. Event kit for libraries and teachers from the Reading Agency  with games, puzzles, masks  http://readinggroups.org/OwlPussycat_EVENT_LIBRARIES.pdf

4. More owl poem ideas for teachers and uniformed group leaders  http://www.freebookez.com/thank-you-owl-poem/

5. Telegraph interview with Julia Donaldson about Further Adventures http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/10257895/Julia-Donaldson-on-how-Edward-Lears-poems-influenced-her.html

Maybe its time for more Lear Prequels and Sequels:

What might Julia Donaldson write next? The Previous Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat? Or you class if you happen to be teaching nonsense in the classroom?

The Pobble Whose Toes Grew Back?  

Further Adventures of the Quangle Wangle’s Hat?

I often wondered what later happened to Lear’s not so well known characters “Four Children who went round the World” – Violet, Slingsby, Guy and Lionel  http://www.nonsenselit.org/Lear/ns/fc.html

I like the way Lear inserts some of his other characters into their bizarre world here, as if they just popped next door or tunneled through the pages. it makes the nonsense world just that little more believable.

There are lots more ideas on previous blog posts here and the Nonsense Lit webpage http://nonsenselit.wordpress.com/  and Lear events Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/learnonsense

I look forward to many more prequels, sequels, further adventures …

Until then, Happy 202nd birthday Mr Lear, 12 May 2014 !  Happy International Owl and Pussycat Day!








Puppets, poems, owls, pussycats and wedding presents – more ideas for celebrating International Owl and Pussycat day

Decided how you’ll celebrate International Owl and Pussycat Day, 12 May?

12 May is  Edward Lear’s birthday and 2012  is his 200th birthday. A bicentennial of bosh, a bicentenary of nonsense (and some superb landscape and animal paintings too). You might also have noticed it’s Dickens’ 200th birthday in 2012 as well.  Lots of the way Dickens’ bicentenary is celebrated you could borrow as ideas for Lear’s birthday too! see our events page http://nonsenselit.wordpress.com/ 

 What about an Owl and Pussycat puppet show?  

On my wedding day I was presented by my wife with an unusual wedding present, a vintage pair of Owl and Pussycat hand puppets, old enough to have the cardboard neck tube style head. The Owl and Pussycat poem is a poem about a wedding after all, and I did meet my wife doing puppetry and bug handling for Newquay Zoo on outreach at one of our partner galleries. Like British Sign Language and bugs (the bugs get vertigo and seasick pretty quick), I found that puppets and bugs don’t mix well.  But that’s another story …

We’ll come back to the wedding or birthday present idea in another – but what would you give the Owl and The Pussycat as a wedding gift? Who alive or dead, real or fictional, would you invite to their wedding reception? What nonsense plants would be be their wedding bouquet? http://www.nonsenselit.org/Lear/ns/nb.html Who would design the wedding outfits for guests? And the ring if the piggywig didn’t wnat to sell his? You could design (make and eat!) a suitable nonsense wedding cake, the invitations … Lear loved nonsesnse cookery and there are some nonsense cooking in his books http://www.nonsenselit.org/Lear/ns/cookery.html

Puppet theatres were a big Victorian passion and you can see how to make one on the fabulous Victorian Farm Christmas website crafts section with downloadable templates amongst many other fabulous ideas http://www.bbc.co.uk/victorianchristmas/activity/toy-theatre.shtml

You don’t need to build a whole theatre, a shoebox ‘television’ http://http://www.roughmagictheatre.co.uk/html/buxton_puppet_festival_-__shoe.html or a shadow puppet version are easy enough to rough together.

We’ve used puppets at the zoo and in gallery talks from time to time, using everything from hand puppets to an OHP Overhead Projector  (old technology now, should be few lying around in schools)  to proper lit from behind tissue paper or thin cloth screens and torches.

Esay puppetry? Print out the Owl and Pussycat illustrations on card whatever size you want, cut them out, put them on sticks and away you go …. paint the backdrop, use them as shadow puppets. http://www.nonsenselit.org/Lear/ns/index.html 







You don’t need much to make a stage – half a blocked doorway with a cloth pinned up (for the Owl and Pussycat Sea, naturally) or an upturned desk will do the trick.

The puppetry portal website http://www.puppetry.info/ has masses of useful information.

The wonderful Rough Magic Theatre from Bolton have Lear and Lewis Carroll shows using a suitcase shadow puppet theatre. Watch their video and you’ll be wanting to make one of these walking spiv suitcase stages yourself! http://www.roughmagictheatre.co.uk/html/jabberwocky_.html

If you can’t make it to Covent Garden, you visit the fabulous Pollock’s Tpyshop online  http://www.pollockstoytheatres.com/index.htm 


More ideas for International Owl and Pussycat Day in the next few weeks – and we’ve loved to hear how you are going to celebrate Edward Lear’s birthday using this poem or any other ways …

Now whicvh of all this will we do at Newquay Zoo on Lear’s birthday, 12 May 2012? So many to choose from?


Ten more ideas for teaching the Owl and Pussycat or other nonsense in the classroom!

Ten more random ideas for teaching the Owl and The Pussycat poem in your classroom …   a random selection as various Newquay Zoo staff  came up with these whilst eating our lunch. (No runcible spoons, mice or quince included.)

If you’d like to share your ideas for teaching the Owl and the Pussycat , add them to the comments section at the bottom of each post and we’ll upload these (after moderation).

No 1.  Show us your groovy moves!

In the poem the Owl and the Pussycat “danced by the light of the moon” (the moon, the moon) – but how did they dance? Remember this is a wedding dance, so rhythmless dad-dancing is possible! Did the Owl and the Pussycat, the Turkey  and the Pig dance differently? Can you show their character through their dance?

No. 2 Owl Heads and Pussycat Tails –

Print out the words of the poem or first verse and cut each line in half  then give a set to each small group to reassemble the poem (or just Jumblie up and  rearrange this).    

No. 3  Blankety Blank  verse or Conse-quince-s … 

Print out the poem with some, alternate  or all key rhyming words missing or blanked out and see if the group can work out what the missing words should be … you can always put the missing words in a jumble at the bottom of the sheet / page if you want to be helpful. Blanked out words with alternative words of their own are always an amusing variation … 

No. 4 Round and round the Owl and Pussycat …

What happens when you sing this as a round, one group starting a few lines after the other? (Chaos probably).  

No. 5  Wordsearch Owl or Crossword Puzzlecat

Pick out your favourite nonsense words and type them into a wordsearch or crossword puzzle making programme (there are loads to download on the Web). Alternatively let your spellchecker suggest changes to the ‘odd’ Lear nonsense  words in the poem, and let your computer or group adopt  these  other strange or more sensible ones … 

No. 6  “And sang to a small guitar” … musical versions?

Edward Lear often made up and published his own music to accompany his songs, and sang them to people at gatherings. (People’s opinion of his talent and singing voice varied). Many people from Stravinsky to Katy Perry have set  Lear’s Owl and Pussycat words to music (see the bompa.org webiste which will play them to you). Listen to these, talk about your favourites  and get each group to vote / make up a top five Owl and Pussycat Pop chart.

No. 7 More music – Bong! Ring! (a ding-ding)

“Small guitar”  aside, there are lots of possibilities in setting this to music or choral speaking for percussion and mouth sounds from the Bong tree, to the ‘ring’ at the end of his nose, the sounds of the sea … 

No. 8 Put it on (cardboard) TV

Did you used to make your own TV programmes as a child using a box and long strips of paper as a child? Make yourself / your group its own TV out of a shoebox or bigger box. Cut out the screen front panel. Insert two large kitchen roll tubes or dowel rods either side of the ‘screen’. Don’t forget to draw on the control knobs  to make it look like a TV etc.

Draw or illustrate the poem on a long roll / sheet of paper or several sheets of paper stuck together). Sing or say the poem as you turn the  tubes or rods to pass the pictures past the screen.

It helped pass the time on  many a wet day in the 1970s … when Lootube came before Youtube.

No. 9  Owl and Pussycat Bayeux Tapestry style?  

1066 and all that! Amongst your group tell the story of the Owl and the Pussycat with embroidered textile, painted or drawn panels, like the Bayeux Tapestry (depending how much time you have) with the text words at the top or bottom.  It would make a good class mural project for display …

No. 10 The Owl and The Pussycat’s “Purr-fect Day” version

Remember a charity version of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day song with one line each sung by various celebrities? When we talked to the London Zoo Education CREW about Owl and Pussycat Day, they wanted to apply this style to the Owl and the Pussycat as a video using a line each from lots of different zoo and keeper staff and then stick it on Youtube. Maybe they will.

It would be even funnier if each line was in a different language – see the bompa.org website for examples. If you have different first language speakers in your class, this would truly make it an ‘International‘ Owl and Pussycat Purrfect Day version …

That’s 10 daft ideas to be getting on with … but before we go, we have to mention Paul the Zoo Groundsman’s suggestion when I was telling the rest of my lunch table about the 120 translations of the poem on the bompa.org website. Paul was disappointed that it wasn’t in Morse Code (or Semaphore), so maybe you could add a Purrfect day line in Morse (or flag). (Thanks, Paul)

We worked out that if you transmitted the entire poem in Morse, there is a small risk that somewhere in the world, a Coastguard or Lifeboat station would pick it up and be put onto red alert, helicopters scrambled etc looking for a two small animals in a pea green boat sending out distress signals … Don’t blame us if this happens.     

Someone else noted there’s no Makaton, BSL or other Sign Language version of this poem either yet on the bompa.org website. What is the BSL sign for Runcible Spoon?  

Reminder / Think you can do dafter? If you’d like to share your ideas for teaching the Owl and the Pussycat , add them to the comments section at the bottom and we’ll upload these (after moderation). Alternately you can contact us via my zoo email – its mark.norris    and that’s @newquayzoo.org.uk    

We’d love to hear from you!   Email would be better than Morse …

Top nonsense teaching tip from Toxic Childhood expert Sue Palmer

The amazing Sue Palmer has been variously an inspirational  primary headteacher (who taught one of my friends as a wee girl),  involved in the National Literacy Strategy and now writes and lectures worldwide on childhood issues http://www.suepalmer.co.uk/ 
We asked Sue what she would do to celebrate Edward Lear and she told us about another of his fabulous nonsense poems:

Sue says about Edward Lear’s  birthday celebrations: “Great idea. The Dong With The Lumionous Nose makes a amazing performance poem for Y3 or Y4 9 (around 7 to 8 years old).” 

“My class divided it up into parts for choral recitation, made costumes and props, practised like mad and we did it for an assembly.”

“It went so well we were asked back to do it again the next week.  (I can still hear them…. ‘The D–o–ng, the D–o–ng…’)”  So a great idea for teaching “The Owl and Pussycat” as well … Thanks Sue!

Here’s the luminous nose text for you:

 When  awful darkness and silence reign
Over the great Gromboolian plain,
  Through the long, long wintry nights;–
When the angry breakers roar
As they beat on the rocky shore;–
  When Storm-clouds brood on the towering heights
Of the Hills of the Chankly Bore:–

Then, through the vast and gloomy dark,
There moves what seems a fiery spark,
  A lonely spark with silvery rays
  Piercing the coal-black night,–
  A Meteor strange and bright:–
Hither and thither the vision strays,
  A single lurid light.

Slowly it wanders,–pauses,–creeeps,–
Anon it sparkles,–flashes and leaps;
And ever as onward it gleaming goes
A light on the Bong-tree stems it throws.
And those who watch at that midnight hour
From Hall or Terrace, or lofty Tower,
Cry, as the wild light passes along,–
    ‘The Dong!–the Dong!
  ‘The wandering Dong through the forest goes!
    ‘The Dong! the Dong!
  ‘The Dong with a luminous Nose!’

    Long years ago
  The Dong was happy and gay,
Till he fell in love with a Jumbly Girl
  Who came to those shores one day,
For the Jumblies came in a sieve, they did,–
Landing at eve near the Zemmery Fidd
    Where the Oblong Oysters grow,
  And the rocks are smooth and gray.
And all the woods and the valleys rang
With the Chorus they daily and nightly sang,–
    ‘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.’

Happily, happily passed those days!
    While the cheerful Jumblies staid;
  They danced in circlets all night long,
  To the plaintive pipe of the lively Dong,
    In moonlight, shine, or shade.
For day and night he was always there
By the side of the Jumbly Girl so fair,
With her sky-blue hands, and her sea-green hair.
Till the morning came of that hateful day
When the Jumblies sailed in their sieve away,
And the Dong was left on the cruel shore
Gazing–gazing for evermore,–
Ever keeping his weary eyes on
That pea-green sail on the far horizon,–
Singing the Jumbly Chorus still
As he sate all day on the grassy hill,–
    ‘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.’

But when the sun was low in the West,
  The Dong arose and said;–
–‘What little sense I once possessed
  ‘Has quite gone out of my head!’–
And since that day he wanders still
By lake or forest, marsh and hill,
Singing–‘O somewhere, in valley or plain
‘Might I find my Jumbly Girl again!
‘For ever I’ll seek by lake and shore
‘Till I find my Jumbly Girl once more!’

    Playing a pipe with silvery squeaks,
    Since then his Jumbly Girl he seeks,
    And because by night he could not see,
    He gathered the bark of the Twangum Tree
      On the flowery plain that grows.
      And he wove him a wondrous Nose,–
    A Nose as strange as a Nose could be!
Of vast proportions and painted red,
And tied with cords to the back of his head.
    –In a hollow rounded space it ended
    With a luminous Lamp within suspended,
      All fenced about
      With a bandage stout
      To prevent the wind from blowing it out;–
    And with holes all round to send the light,
    In gleaming rays on the dismal night.

And now each night, and all night long,
Over those plains still roams the Dong;
And above the wall of the Chimp and Snipe
You may hear the sqeak of his plaintive pipe
While ever he seeks, but seeks in vain
To meet with his Jumbly Girl again;
Lonely and wild–all night he goes,–
The Dong with a luminous Nose!
And all who watch at the midnight hour,
From Hall or Terrace, or lofty Tower,
Cry, as they trace the Meteor bright,
Moving along through the dreary night,–
    ‘This is the hour when forth he goes,
    ‘The Dong with a luminous Nose!
    ‘Yonder–over the plain he goes,
      ‘He goes!
      ‘He goes;
    ‘The Dong with a luminous Nose!’

More Lear Lyrics at http://www.nonsenselit.org/Lear/ll/dln.html

More nonsense teaching ideas

If ever a poem deserved to have more pictures as illustrations, or a fantastic map drawn for it or a travel diary, or postcards home from the Dong? (The poem’s author Edward Lear was a great traveller and landscape painter too).

With the Owl and the Pussycat, The Dong and The Jumblies as great travellers and explorers, you might want to list and discuss more sensible things to take on a journey

Jumbly Girl? Jumbly Chorus?  check out my other favourite Lear poem (and strange sea journey) The Jumblies http://www.nonsenselit.org/Lear/ns/jumblies.html 

Warning – do not attempt any sea journeys in a sieve! Why not? There’s a Physics or Science lesson idea hidden in there somewhere, how to waterproof a sieve.