Thursday

Jan. 20, 2005

The Jumblies

by Edward Lear

THURSDAY, 20 JANUARY, 2005
Listen (RealAudio) | How to listen

Poem: "The Jumblies" by Edward Lear.

The Jumblies

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 every one 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.


Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of poet Edward Hirsch, born in Chicago, Illinois (1950). He's written several collections of poetry, including Wild Gratitude (1986), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award. His other books include On Love (1998), Earthly Measures (1994) and For the Sleepwalkers (1981).

Edward Hirsch said, "Books are our only beacons, our imaginative guides through the labyrinths of human experience."


It's the birthday of novelist and short-story writer Robert Olen Butler, born in Granite City, Illinois (1945). He won the Pulitzer Prize in short fiction in 1993 for his collection "A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain" (1992).

Butler worked as a cab driver, an editor, in a steel-mill, and as a teacher in both high school and college. He started off at Northwestern University as a theater major, but before graduating he turned to playwriting, deciding he would "rather write the words than mouth them." He began writing on his twenty-first birthday. He said, "For a time I had been thinking of writing, and I thought, well if I'm going to write, I'd better do something." He received his M.A. in playwriting from the University of Iowa in 1969. He signed up to serve in the Vietnam War and was assigned to army intelligence and he spent a year learning Vietnamese.

Butler was sent overseas in 1971, but was not sent to a combat zone. He lived in an old French Hotel, and he would frequently go out in the middle of the night to talk to the locals in the alleys and doorways of Saigon. He also wrote a play while he was there.

He returned to the U.S. in 1972 and worked as an editor and reporter in New York City. He wrote his first novels using a lapboard while traveling to and from work on the Long Island Railroad.

Butler's first novel, The Alleys of Eden, was published in 1981—after twenty-one publishers had turned it down. It was the first book in what would become a Vietnam trilogy. The novel received very good reviews, but it sold only a few thousand copies.

He wrote six novels before winning the Pulitzer Prize, but it was only after the award that he achieved any commercial success from his writing.

Butler says, "I didn't sell much for a long time. And before I sold that first novel, I wrote five ghastly novels, about forty dreadful short stories, and twelve truly awful full-length plays, all of which have never seen the light of day and never will."

Butler went on to write another collection of short stories called Tabloid Dreams (1997), in which all the stories are based on actual headlines he had seen in grocery store tabloid newspapers.


It's the birthday of filmmaker Federico Fellini, born in Rimini, Italy (1920). Fellini was a perfectionist who oversaw all the details of a film's production. He wrote all of his scripts, with help from dialogue writers, and was even involved in the final editing of his films. He said he approached making movies the way Marco Polo sailed for the Orient—not really knowing what may happen along the journey or where the end may lie.

Fellini spent his early childhood at a strict boarding school run by priests. One of the regular punishments was to make a student kneel for half an hour on grains of maize. As a treat on Sundays they marched to the beach, where they would say prayers while kneeling and looking at the sea. The only thing he seemed to be any good at while in school was drawing, and he and his friends would frequently miss their classes.

When he was twelve he ran away and joined a traveling circus, but the police eventually found him and brought him back. At seventeen he moved to Florence, and later to Rome, and he went on to support himself as an actor, a newspaper cartoonist, and a radio scriptwriter. He wrote for a serial program about Cico and Pallina, the Italian version of "Blondie and Dagwood."

Fellini had to move frequently when he first left school because he would often have romantic affairs with his landladies, and he'd have to move when they ended. Fellini went on to have what he called "the most important year of his life" in 1939, when he traveled with his friend, the comedian Aldo Fabrizi, all across Italy with a vaudeville troupe.

Fellini earned a reputation as a good sketch writer, scenery painter, bit player, and "company poet." It was in this trip that Fellini saw his country and experienced the variety of what he called its "human landscape." He said, "A different language is a different vision of life."

When Fabrizi was offered the lead role in a film comedy, Fellini provided the film's storyline, beginning his film career. He went on to marry Giulietta Masina, an actress, after a four-month courtship that began when he became intrigued by her voice. She had taken over as the voice of Pallina. She went on to star in several of his films. She said of her husband, "The only time Federico blushes is when he tells the truth."

One of his best-known films is La Dolce Vita (1960). In 1993, he was awarded the Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement. He had a massive heart attack later that year and he died soon afterward of heart and lung failure.

He said, "All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster's autobiography."


It's the birthday of Austrian-born wildlife conservationist and writer Joy Adamson, born in what is now Opava, Czech Republic (1910). She's best known as the author of Born Free (1960), the first in a series of books about lions.

She said, "Since we humans have the better brain, isn't it our responsibility to protect our fellow creatures from, oddly enough, ourselves?"


Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Sharon Olds at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »