A Short Analysis of Edward Lear’s ‘The Dong with a Luminous Nose’

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

‘The Dong with a Luminous Nose’ is one of the greatest nonsense poems by the Victorian poet and artist Edward Lear (1812-88). Among other things, Lear is known for popularising the limerick among Victorian readers, and for being, along with Lewis Carroll, probably the chief exponent of nonsense verse in English. (We have gathered together our pick of the best nonsense poems in a separate post.)

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A. E. Housman’s Light Verse: ‘The Crocodile’

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle enjoys the comic verse by one of the most ‘miserable’ poets in English literature

‘The Crocodile or, Public Decency’ is not one of the best-known poems of A. E. Housman (1859-1936), the classical scholar and poet who failed his Finals at Oxford but went on to become Professor of Latin at Cambridge (and to inspire the character of Inspector Morse, I might add).

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‘I Saw a Peacock’: The 400 Year-Old Nonsense Poem

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle analyses a poem that represents the meeting-point of ancient riddle and modern nonsense

‘I Saw a Peacock’ is an anonymous nonsense poem that is included in Quentin Blake’s The Puffin Book of Nonsense Verse (Puffin Poetry), a wonderful anthology which I’d recommend to any fans of nonsense verse. I thought I’d make ‘I Saw a Peacock’ the topic of this week’s Secret Library column because is a fun little poem and a few words of analysis will help to show how clever and fun it is in its construction. It’s also not as well-known as it perhaps should be. But first, here is the poem:

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The Great Panjandrum Himself: Nonsense Literature Before Carroll and Lear

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle explores the eighteenth-century origins of nonsense literature

When did the tradition of English nonsense literature arise? Who invented nonsense literature? Although Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear are the names that immediately spring to mind, several eighteenth-century writers should get a mention in the history of nonsense writing. One is Henry Carey, who among other things coined the phrase ‘namby-pamby’ in his lambasting of the infantile verses of his contemporary, Ambrose Philips; another is the playwright Samuel Foote, known as the ‘English Aristophanes’, who lost one of his legs in an accident but took it good-humouredly, and often made jokes about it.

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Five of the Best Edward Lear Poems

The greatest poems by Edward Lear selected by Dr Oliver Tearle

Although he’s well-known as a pioneer of the poetic form known as the limerick, Edward Lear (1812-88) wrote a number of other classic poems which are among the finest examples of ‘nonsense verse’. Here are five of Edward Lear’s best poems, along with some information about each of them.

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