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Learn some nonsense by heart

Updated Monday, 7th September 2015
Go on an adventure with Edward Lear's Nonsense Songs, as you find a nonsense alphabet of animals and learn some nonsense by heart.

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Learn some nonsense by heart

The Owl and the pussycat illustration by Edward Lear Why not learn one of Lear’s poems by heart? Edward Lear’s poems are extremely memorable because of their rhymes and rhythms. If you’ve ever heard the opening lines of The Owl and the Pussy-Cat (who went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat), you can probably remember what they took with them. (If you can’t, it was some honey and plenty of money wrapped up in a five-pound note).

Here is a poem from another of Lear's collections, The Book of Nonsense, which you could learn by heart:

There was an Old Person of Gretna,
Who rushed down the crater of Etna;
When they said, “Is it hot?” he replied, “No, it’s not!”
That mendacious Old Person of Gretna.

Now you will always be able to talk nonsense on demand!

If you have other suggestions for short poems people might like to learn, add them to the comments at the bottom of this page.


Dr Shafquat Towheed reads an example of a nonsense alphabet of animals

P was a Polly all red, blue and green,
The most beautiful Polly that ever was seen.
P, poor little Polly.

Find a nonsense alphabet of animals

Alaskan Brown Bear at Milwaukee Zoo Why not visit a zoo or somewhere else where you can see lots of animals? Whilst you’re there, find animals with names beginning with each letter of the alphabet (or as many as you can manage), then write a poem for each one. Begin your verses like this and fill in the gaps:

B was a…

Bats hanging upside down from mesh, Columbus Zoo Make the first and third lines rhyme with each other and also the second with the fourth. Try to write each line so that it has exactly two stressed syllables in it (it doesn’t matter how many unstressed syllables there are).

Here’s what Lear wrote:

B was a bat,
Who slept all the day,
And fluttered about
When the sun went away.
Brown little bat!

If you would like to share your own verse, add it into the comments at the bottom of this page.

More about Edward Lear's Nonsense Songs

Graphic Books: Learn how Edward Lear’s books were printed using the then-innovative technique of lithography.  

Reading in and out of the nursery: Learn how Victorian children would have enjoyed an expensive book like Edward Lear's collections of nonsense verse. 

The Secret Life of Books: Find out more about the other books in the series. 


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