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Stew Much -- Sukumar Ray

Guest poem submitted by Rohit Jaisingh:
(Poem #853) Stew Much
 A duck once met a porcupine; they formed a corporation
 Which called itself a Porcuduck (a beastly conjugation!).

 A stork to a turtle said, "Let's put my head upon your torso;
 We who are so pretty now, as Stortle would be more so!"

 The lizard with the parrot's head thought: taking to the chilli
 After years of eating worms is absolutely silly.

 A prancing goat - one wonders why - was driven by a need
 To bequeath its upper portion to a crawling centipede.

 The giraffe with grasshopper's limbs reflected: Why should I
 Go for walks in grassy fields, now that I can fly?

 The nice contented cow will doubtless get a frightful shock
 On finding that its lower lombs belong to a fighting cock.

 It's obvious the Whalephant is not a happy notion:
 The head goes for the jungle, while the tail turns to the ocean,

 The lion's lack of horns distressed him greatly, so
 He teamed up with a deer - now watch his antlers grow!
-- Sukumar Ray
Translated by Satyajit Ray.
The Bengali version is titled "Haans chilo sojaru".

Given the level of interest in nonsense verse among the people on the
mailing list, I'm surprised that Sukumar Ray has not yet been run. Perhaps
it has to do with the paucity of good translations from the original
Bengali. The only one in wide circulation that I know of is Sukanta

At one level, this poem is wondrous for its vivid imagery. It evokes a
delightful and uninhibited response, like the tinkling laughter of a child -
spontaneous and devoid of any pollution.

At another level, one can draw analogies to the attempts to combine
incongruent units into a composite whole. Think of parallels in personal
relationships, (and here I run the risk of courting controversy) arranged
marriages, the North-South divide, mergers of companies ...


[More on Sukumar Ray]

Sukumar Ray was one of the leading figures in that flowering of Bengali
culture that occurred in the early years of the 20th century. Sadly, his
work remains little known outside his homeland; recent translations by
Sukanta Chaudhuri and Ray's (rather more famous) son Satyajit barely scratch
the surface of his wit and invention.

[broken link] is a fairly
comprehensive Ray site; it includes biographical information, time lines,
links, and a generous selection of his work (including the entire text of
his masterpiece, "Abol-Tabol"). Two caveats, though: much of the textual
material is in the original (Bengali) script, and the HTML of the site
itself is rather buggy.

Sukanta Chaudhuri's "The Select Nonsense of Sukumar Ray" is available on

[Minstrels Links]

Other poems translated from the Bengali:
Poem #177, Where The Mind is Without Fear  -- Rabindranath Tagore
Poem #367, Krishnakali  -- Rabindranath Tagore
Poem #673, The Flower-School -- Rabindranath Tagore
Poem #446, Banalata Sen  -- Jibanananda Das
Poem #662, Cat -- Jibanananda Das

Other nonsense poems:
Poem #91, Cottleston Pie  -- A. A. Milne
Poem #369, The Cantelope  -- Bayard Taylor
Poem #99, Nephelidia  -- Algernon Charles Swinburne
Poem #849, Sir Beelzebub -- Edith Sitwell
Poem #165, The Owl and the Pussy-Cat  -- Edward Lear
Poem #297, The Pobble Who Has No Toes  -- Edward Lear
Poem #356, The Akond of Swat  -- Edward Lear
Poem #378, There Was an Old Man with a Beard  -- Edward Lear
Poem #628, The Dong with a Luminous Nose -- Edward Lear
Poem #120, The Purple Cow  -- Gelett Burgess
Poem #444, Contours  -- Noel Coward
Poem #161, The Yarn of the Nancy Bell -- W. S. Gilbert
Poem #247, To Sit In Solemn Silence -- W. S. Gilbert
Poem #505, The Story of Prince Agib -- W. S. Gilbert
Poem #52, Jabberwocky  -- Lewis Carroll
Poem #265, The Mad Gardener's Song  -- Lewis Carroll
Poem #347, The Walrus and the Carpenter  -- Lewis Carroll
Poem #600, The Mouse's Tale -- Lewis Carroll

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