May 12, 2005

The Table and the Chair

by Edward Lear

THURSDAY, 12 MAY, 2005
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Poem: "The Table and the Chair" by Edward Lear from The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense © Penguin Books. Reprinted with permission.

The Table and The Chair

Said the Table to the Chair,
'You can hardly be aware,
How I suffer from the heat,
And from chilblains on my feet!
If we took a little walk,
We might have a little talk!
Pray let us take the air!'
Said the Table to the Chair.

Said the Chair to the table,
'Now you know we are not able!
How foolishly you talk,
When you know we cannot walk!'
Said the Table with a sigh,
'It can do no harm to try,
I've as many legs as you,
Why can't we walk on two?'

So they both went slowly down,
And walked about the town
With a cheerful bumpy sound,
As they toddled round and round.
And everybody cried,
As they hastened to their side,
'See! the Table and the Chair
Have come out to take the air!'

But in going down an alley,
To a castle in a valley,
They completely lost their way,
And wandered all the day,
Till, to see them safely back,
They paid a Ducky-quack,
And a Beetle, and a Mouse,
Who took them to their house.

Then they whispered to each other,
'O delightful little brother!
What a lovely walk we've taken!
Let us dine on Beans and Bacon!'
So the Ducky and the leetle
Browny-Mousy and the Beetle
Dined and danced upon their heads
Till they toddled to their beds.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of novelist and poet Rosellen Brown, born in Philadelphia (1939). Her novels include Tender Mercies, Before and After, and Half a Heart.

Her family moved around a lot when she was a child, and Brown began reading Turgenev and Dostoevsky. She said, "I was nine when words began to serve their extraordinary purposes for me. I was lonely and they kept me company. They materialized whenever I called on them without an argument or a competitive leer."

She said, "I still write for the same reason I wrote when I was nine years old, to speak more perfectly than I really can to a listener more perfect than any I know."

It's the birthday of Farley Mowat, born in Belleville, Ontario (1921). He is best known for his books about the Canadian arctic, including Never Cry Wolf, (1963) a best-seller, and The Dog Who Wouldn't Be, in which he wrote, "I suspect that at some early moment of his existence he concluded there was no future in being a dog. And so, with the tenacity that marked his every act, he set himself to become something else.

It's the birthday of the man who wrote,

"There was an old man who supposed That the street door was partially closed, But some very large rats ate his coats and his hats While that futile old gentleman dozed."
That was Edward Lear, born in London (1812). He was the 20th of 21 children—almost half of whom had died in infancy. He was raised by his sister who taught him to paint birds and flowers.

There was a market for illustrated books about birds, so Edward Lear got into that business and became a successful bird illustrator. He always painted from life. He painted the specimens that Charles Darwin brought back from his trip on the H.M.S. Beagle.

He suffered from depression, epilepsy, and terrible eyesight. He felt like an outcast in British society.

In 1832 came a turning point in his life. The Earl of Darby invited Edward Lear to come and paint all the animals in his private zoo, and Lear did and arrived at the estate and wound up spending most of his free time with the Earl's grandchildren. Edward Lear had never spent any time with children before. He found that he loved them. He became a clown. He sang songs for them, he drew cartoons, and he made up humorous poems.

And he wrote down those poems and they became his Book of Nonsense, which came out in 1846, the poem about the owl and the pussycat who went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat and the poem about the jumblies and others.

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




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