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Edward Lear and the Play of Poetry$
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James Williams and Matthew Bevis

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198708568

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198708568.001.0001

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‘The Owl and the Pussy-Cat’, and other Poems of Love and Marriage

‘The Owl and the Pussy-Cat’, and other Poems of Love and Marriage

(p.202) 9 ‘The Owl and the Pussy-Cat’, and other Poems of Love and Marriage
Edward Lear and the Play of Poetry

Daniel Karlin

Oxford University Press

Edward Lear’s ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ is one of the best-known poems of love and marriage in the English language, and one of few poems by Lear to have a happy–indeed ecstatic–ending. But in two sequels to the story, Lear drew back from his original vision of the Owl and Pussycat dancing by the light of the moon, and created darker and more troubling outcomes. His illustrations for the poem display a similar ambivalence. Daniel Karlin’s essay looks at the poem in this context, and in relation to other poems about love and marriage, as well as Lear’s letters. Lear’s yearning towards visionary or ecstatic states comes up against the inhibitions of the mind and the cross-purposes of the social world: the ‘odd couple’ of the Owl and the Pussy-cat represent an ideal which is only precariously maintained against these pressures.

Keywords:   Edward Lear, Victorian poetry, nonsense verse, love, marriage

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