Friday, February 27, 2009

The Owl and The Pussycat

Anatomy of a post, or How My Mind Works.

In the previous post, I included a photograph taken in 1945 of Coney Island, New York, in which you cannot see the beach for all the New Yorkers. In a comment, Reamus from California said, “I am not in that particular picture, but I am in a similar one no doubt at that very beach a number of 4th of July weekends later. Used to take the subway there all summer back when the world and we were young.”

I replied, “Why would you take the subway all summer long to a beach you couldn’t even see? Or maybe the beach wasn’t what you went to see.” The phrase went to see reminded me of the phrase went to sea which struck me as somewhat ironic since those folks at Coney Island couldn’t see the sea they went to sea to see and that further reminded me of Edward Lear’s poem, “The Owl and the Pussycat”:

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.

I poked around a little more on the internet and discovered that on May 12, 2000, the following paragraph appeared in the Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of painter and poet Edward Lear, born in Halloway, England (1812). He was the 20th of 21 children, and was raised by an aunt. He had to scramble to make a living: he traveled to Europe, Asia, and Africa to collect views that he would then turn into paintings to sell to Englishmen at home or abroad. Sometimes he set out a hundred paintings at a time and work on them simultaneously to have enough products to sell. He was a lonely man -- an epileptic who hid his seizures, a homosexual unable to find a mate, and a depressive, subject to what he called “the morbids.” But it’s not for his art or his sadness that he’s remembered, it’s for the little nonsense poems he wrote to give joy to the children of his friends and patrons. He always felt most comfortable around children, and he entertained them with poems such as “The Jumblies” and “The Owl and the Pussycat.” He popularized the limerick too.

That’s him up there in the picture.

And then it occurred to me that May 12 was also my Dad’s birthday -- May 12, 1906 -- and although he was neither an owl nor a pussycat, he went to sea too, though not in a beautiful pea-green boat. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II as a machinist’s mate on the USS PCE-869, which was a patrol craft escort of the type known as Sub Chaser.

Then it occurred to me that my father died of pancreatic cancer on March 3, 1967, and that the anniversary of his death is just a few days away.

It’s enough to give a person “the morbids.”

And that, more or less, dear reader, is How My Mind Works.


  1. Interesting little tour :) My boys memorized that poem when they were small. Sorry about your dad... I know there's never enough time with them. Or at least I didn't have enough time with mine. So many things I want to ask him.

  2. I just realized that beach pic was taken in 1945. Presumably summer. Which means I wasn't even born for another 15 1/2 years. So I couldn't really have even been a twinkle in my daddy's eye at that point. I wonder who was in row 57 slightly left of center?

  3. Your mind is like a computer.....taking new links and making new connections. Please don't get caught up or down in "the morbids". That's a rather good description of the state, however.

  4. One of my favorite poems as a little fellow, my uncle could recite it from memory, with great drama, and did most Sundays after a few glases of wine.

  5. Thanks for the info on Edward Lear. "The Owl and The Pussycat" is a very, very long time favorite.

    I quite understand your mental leaps from one thing to another; sometimes it takes only the merest bit of something to make a connection between disparate things.

    Hope you recover from "the morbids" soon, Friend.

  6. Wow what a trip down your memory lane. I kind of feel sea sick from all that motion. But I have always loved The Owl and the Pussycat poem.

  7. Rosezilla 1, Rosezilla 2, Jeannelle, Reamus, Pat, and Egghead - We're almost like a little far-flung family, aren't we?

  8. Sorry to be so late reading your posts! Busy busy busy with all kinds of other things. But I'm making up for it now.
    Your mind works like mine. Well, I've proved that too you already.
    I really like your posts and hope you'll be out of the morbids soon.

    WV: sourowel (sore owl or sour owl?)

  9. Duh, I meant to you, not too you.