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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Edward Lear: Cold are the crabs


Macrocercus aracanga [now Ara macao] (Red and Yellow Maccaw)

Cold are the crabs that crawl on yonder hills,
Colder the cucumbers that grow beneath,
And colder still the brazen chops that wreathe
The tedious gloom of philosophic pills!
For when the tardy film of nectar fills
The simple bowls of demons and of men,
There lurks the feeble mouse, the homely hen,
And there the porcupine with all her quills.
Yet much remains -- to weave a solemn strain
That lingering sadly -- slowly dies away,
Daily departing with departing day
A pea-green gamut on a distant plain
When wily walrusses in congresses meet --
Such such is life --

Plyctolophus leadbetteri (Leadbetter's Cockatoo)

Macrocinthus hyacinthus (Hyacinthine Maccaw)

Psittacula kuhlii (Kuhl's Parrakeet)

Trichoglossus rubritorquis (Scarlet-collared Parrakeet)

Palaeornis rosaceus (Roseate Parrakeet)

Palaeornis novae-hollandiae (New Holland Parrakeet)

Platycercus pileatus (Red-capped Parrakeet)

Platycercus pileatus (Red-capped Parrakeet)

Platycercus barnardi (Barnard's Parrakeet)

Platycercus baueri (Bauer's Parrakeet)

Psittacara patagonica (Patagonian Parrakeet-Maccaw)

Platycercus tabuensis (Tabuan Parrakeet)

Edward Lear (1818-1888): Illustrations of the Family of Ptsittacidae, or Parrots, 1830 (images via uw digital collections)


Edward Lear self-portrait
, illustrating a real incident in which he had encountered a stranger who claimed that "Edward Lear" was merely a pseudonym; Lear (on the right) is showing the stranger (left) the inside of his hat, with his name in the lining
: Edward Lear (1812-1888), n.d., from Edward Lear's Nonsense Omnibus, 1943

Edward Lear: Cold are the crabs, n.d., Houghton Library ms. [perhaps unfinished -- ?]; opening line parodies Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812-1818), Canto II, xii, 3: 'Cold as the crags upon his native coast'; text from The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense, 2001


TC said...

Lear, a young person from Holloway with an epileptic condition, became a professional ornithological draughtsman at the age of sixteen and published this astonishing portfolio of his parrots at the age of 19.

For those who may have enjoyed the limericks in the post below, more may be found (illustrated not by Lear himself but by someone), here:

Edward Lear: There Was An Old Man of Cape Horn

Edward Lear: There Was An Old Man Who Screamed Out

Anonymous said...

The Lear posts and the last Wyatt have all had the effect (after a long day of dentistry -- my own and my cat Felix's -- we're both feeling wobbly, but he's not required to maintain a "professional" demeanor and everyone cuts him breaks when he shows signs of irritation because.....because) of making me indecently happy. Thank you. The Wyatt, with which I was unfamiliar, really haunts me.



Yes, "astonishing" -- these parrots. Preceded by those zoos, followed by Lear's words and pictures -- Johnny thanks you (as do I). Meanwhile, looking out at that ridge as the clouds descend, looking colder and colder, will it snow again? ? ?


light grey of cloud above shadowed green
ridge, moon in pale blue sky above trees
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

adding that to limit “real”
selected form, “flat”

subject, something happened,
these vertical fields

silver of low sun reflected in channel,
shadowed green of ridge across from it

TC said...

Aye, cold are the crags and the crabs, bleak the sky, desolate and forlorn the subdued peeping of the birds, steady the dripping of the gelid trickle in the rainspouts, sad the shivering of the undignified venerables, clamp-like the attaching of the cat bodies to the fugitive warmth-sources, dire the snow forecast, as day breaks... and rushing traffic honks.

Steve, in my mind I dedicated the zoo and parrot posts to Johnny. (A bit of motivation always helps.)

And Curtis, in fact I selected the bottom four zoo posters in your honour, as they are from the Philadelphia Zoo.

The blue elephant in particular has been haunting me. Of course that elephant appears largely concocted from the artistic imagination rather than from any actual animal in the savannah much less the Philadelphia Zoo. But still...

We once saw a terrible, terrible film about the cruel treatment of elephants in zoos. It discouraged me for years from looking at images of zoos.

But the Brookfield Zoo remains a place of powerful and curious memories. That was in its time, from inception in I believe 1934 onwards, a unique place, in that there was some attempt at locating animals in at least a vague approximation of their original habitats... Though now that I think of it, the fetid indoor cages and the limited roaming space and repetitive routines of the outdoor areas did seem to render many of the larger beasts semi-comatose, a sort of twilight or sundown state that, again now reconsidered, retains the stamp of a particular kind of "well-meaning" human cruelty.


Thanks Tom, came through -- 'loud and clear'.