Deftly merging two themes...
(Poem #628) The Dong with a Luminous Nose
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 on 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 - creeps - Anon it sparkles - flashes and leaps; And ever as onward it gleaming goes A light on the Bong-tree stem 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 fateful 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 sat all day on the grass 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 and 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 wail of the Chimp and Snipe You may hear the wail 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 the luminous Nose! Yonder - over the plain he goes; He goes; He goes! The Dong with a luminous Nose!"
Mysterious, surreal, deeply tinged with melancholy - "The Dong with a Luminous Nose" embodies many of the themes that characterize Lear's longer work. It's also more than a little reminiscent  of Yeats' magnificent "Song of Wandering Aengus"  in its, errm, 'plot', and of the dream poems that Martin has been running of late, in its twilit atmosphere. Questions of theme apart, notice how "The Dong" shares with Hope's "Reverie of Mahomed Akram" (yesterday's poem) a highly idiosyncratic use of rhyme and metre: as is the case with the Hope poem, the irregularity contributes greatly to the overall dreamy effect. Once again, it's a tribute to the poet's prosodic skill that this difficult task is pulled off without a hint of awkwardness or artificiality. thomas.  'Reminiscent' is probably not the best choice of word, given that Lear's poem predates Yeats' by at least 30 years (though I don't have the exact dates to hand).  poem #1 - yes, the very first poem ever run on the Minstrels. [Someone Else's Commentary] [Lear's] songs are not as nonsensical as his limericks, and have often been interpreted as the reductio ad absurdum of Romantic poetry. By Bowra (The Romantic Imagination, 1950, p. 279), for example: "He differs from his models not in his means but in his end. He wished to write nonsense, and with the insight of genius saw that the romantic technique was perfectly suited to it. With him the romantic indefiniteness passes beautifully into absurdity, and his own inchoate sorrows vanish in the divine light of nonsense." Hugh Kenner (A Homemade World, 1975, p. 70) emphasizes the escapism implicit in such a practice: "Tennyson's friend Edward Lear at length perceived that the safest course for poetry, since its ligatures with phenomena were causing it so much trouble, was to shut itself up completely in its own cocoon of suggestion." This is especially evident in poems such as The Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò, which tells the story of an unrequited love, and The Dong with a Luminous Nose, clearly about feelings of solitude; these are usually considered reflections of Lear's personal condition. -- Marco Graziosi, [broken link] http://utenti.tripod.it/elear/learss.html [Links] Other Lear poems: "The Owl and the Pussycat" is one of _the_ masterpieces of nonsense verse: poem #165. (There's a Lear biography attached to the commentary accompanying this poem). Lear more or less invented the limerick as we know it; "There was an Old Man with a Beard" is a good example of his pioneering work: poem #378 "The Pobble Who Has No Toes" cuts just as melancholy a figure as the unfortunate Dong: poem #297 "The Akond of Swat" is hilarious in its progressively-increasing flights of absurdity: poem #356 Previous poems in the Nose theme: "The Sniffle", by Ogden Nash: poem #625 Cyrano's speech, "Twenty Ways to Insult a Nose", by Edmond Rostand: poem #626 Previous poems in the Dream theme: "The Ice-Cart", by Wilfred Gibson: poem #622 "Reverie of Mahomed Akram at the Tamarind Tank", by Laurence Hope (Adela Nicolson): poem #627 More about the wandering Jumblies (including a reference to their sojourn in the Hills of the Chankly Bore) can be found in Lear's poem titled (you guessed it) "The Jumblies", which you can read at [broken link] http://www.engr.mun.ca/~john/jumblies.html Incidentally, the stanza "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." (within quotes in today's poem) appears as a refrain in "The Jumblies".