The Owl and the PussyCat by EDWARD LEAR its history and influence

"The Owl and the Pussy-Cat"

Is a timeless and whimsical poem written by the English artist, illustrator, and poet Edward Lear, born 12th of may 1812.

Edward Lear was initially known for his talent as a natural history painter, specializing in illustrations of birds and animals. He was largely self-taught and possessed a natural artistic ability from a young age. His early influences included his sister, who was also an artist, and his relationship with Lord Derby, who recognized Lear's talent and encouraged him to pursue his artistic abilities.

Lear's transition to poetry was influenced by his illustrations as he often included them in his literature. His limericks, which became his signature style, were first published in "A Book of Nonsense" in 1846. Despite his success as a poet, Lear was initially reluctant to be associated with his limericks, as he was more focused on being recognized as a serious artist in high society.

Published in 1871 as part of Lear's collection entitled "Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets" the poem has since become one of Lear's most beloved and enduring works.

original art by Edward Lear

The Original image drawn by Lear


This print features a delightful drawing by the skilled Edward Lear from his famous book, "Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets," first published in 1871. The illustration, titled "The Owl and the Pussycat," portrays a serene evening on a rowboat amidst calm waters. An elegant owl strums a guitar, serenading his feline companion on the bow. Lear's exceptional talent shines through, capturing every detail with vibrant colors and playful expressions. This scene transports us to a world where nonsense songs blend with tales of love and friendship, encouraging us to embrace our inner child and embark on creative journeys. The print pays homage to Lear's artistic brilliance and celebrates the timeless magic of storytelling.

photo of Edward Lear

A drawing of the late Edward Lear Born in 1812

"The Owl and the Pussycat" is a charming and whimsical poem written by Edward Lear in 1871. The poem tells the story of an owl and a pussycat who, in a nonsensical and fantastical world, fall in love and embark on a journey to a place where "the Bong-tree grows". The poem is beloved for its playful language, imaginative imagery, and enduring themes of love and adventure. 
The original poem

"The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea,
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!"

Pussy said to the Owl, "You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?" Said the Piggy, "I will."
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon."


cute owl and pussycat book

An early poetry book Published by FREDERICK WARNE, LONDON, 1924

Background and Inspiration:

Edward Lear was renowned for his literary nonsense and limericks, often characterized by imaginative language and playful elements. "The Owl and the Pussy-Cat" is no exception, showcasing Lear's ability to craft delightful and fantastical tales.

The inspiration for the poem is believed to have roots in Lear's close friendship with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, particularly with William Holman Hunt. Lear, who was known for his proficiency in drawing and painting, provided illustrations for Hunt's painting "The Afterglow in Egypt," featuring an owl and a cat. This collaboration may have sparked the whimsical narrative of the poem.

Below, an early cartoon video inspired by Leahs poem, circa March 9, 1934. With Farmer Al Falfa

The Tale Unfolds:

"The Owl and the Pussy-Cat" unfolds as a romantic and whimsical narrative. The Owl and the Pussy-Cat set sail in a pea-green boat, armed with a guitar and a runcible spoon. The duo sails across the sea, marries in the land where the Bong-Tree grows, and dines on mince and slices of quince. Lear's imaginative language and playful rhymes contribute to the poem's enduring charm.

Many paintings were also inspired by the poem as well as greeting cards, posters, stamps.

The Owl And The Pussycat" inspired from Edward Lear's famous poem. From an original acrylic painting, by Laura Robertson, this beautiful print would make a lovely gift for a baby shower, or perhaps a honeymoon couple.
modern painting of the owl and pussycat
Print By Laura Robertson. A painting hand made by Stuart Wright An Illustration by Chris Dunn
 Lears work also inspired many childrens cartoons , and nursery rythmes


Legacy and Adaptations:

Over the years, "The Owl and the Pussy-Cat" has become a cultural touchstone. Its playful language and fantastical narrative have made it a favorite among readers of all ages. The poem's enduring popularity has led to various adaptations, including children's books, theatrical productions, and musical compositions.


The poems lyrics as read by Judi Dench


 The nonsensical yet endearing nature of the poem has allowed it to transcend generations, appealing to both children and adults alike. Lear's legacy as a master of literary nonsense is epitomized in this charming and imaginative work.

Further afield the poem has even influenced restaurants , "At the Owl and Runcible Spoon" is a charming and whimsical restaurant that takes its name from the famous poem, based in Bloomington , Indiana , usa.

restaurant logo

The significance of this poem to the restaurant's name and theme lies in its portrayal of true love, adventure, and travel - themes that are reflected in the restaurant's ambiance and menu.


In 2014 a survey of the nation's favorite children's poems, it was found that the top three verses are each more than a century old. "The Owl and the Pussycat" claimed the first spot, followed by "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" in second place and "Humpty Dumpty" securing the third position.


In 1988, the centenary of Lear's death was commemorated in Britain with a set of Royal Mail stamps and an exhibition at the Royal Academy. A plaque now marks Lear's birthplace area at Bowman's Mews, Islington, in London.
The bicentenary of his birth in 2012 was celebrated worldwide with events, exhibitions, and lectures. An International Owl and Pussycat Day was organized on his birth anniversary as part of the global festivities


stamps to commemorate Lear


"The Owl and the Pussy-Cat" remains a testament to Edward Lear's ability to infuse joy and whimsy into literature. The poem's legacy endures, enchanting readers with its playful language, delightful characters, and the timeless appeal of a romantic adventure on the high seas. Lear's contribution to the world of literary nonsense and his knack for crafting enduring tales continue to make "The Owl and the Pussy-Cat" a cherished piece of literature more than a century after its creation.