Thursday, March 17, 2011

Revision Lesson: The Owl and the Pussy-Cat


I'm addicted to this Owl video from Japan.
Remember that there is still need there.
Doctors Without Borders is there.

I have been revising the last two days.




It's a really niggling process for me.
I pick up individual commas and polish them on my shirt.
I print the pages out and pin them on the clothesline and look at them with binoculars.*
In this way, I make progress at the rate of 56 words per hour.

There are four sentences, 49 words, devoted to a boat. It's supposed to be a very desirable boat. I know that. My job is showing convincing the readers. All I have to do is make them fall in love with the boat—at least for the span of three lines. The first thing that popped into my head was a "beautiful pea green boat." In the end, I didn't use those words, but I considered it. During my consideration. I sought out the poem that stuck that boat in my imagination in the first place: Edward Lear's "The Owl and the Pussy Cat." You probably know it by heart. It's a very easy poem to know by heart.

What I didn't know was how the poem looked before Lear revised it.

Here's an early draft.

Our mother was the Pussy-cat, our father was the Owl,
And so we're partly little beasts and partly little fowl,
The brothers of our family have feathers and they hoot,
While all the sisters dress in fur and have long tails to boot.
We all believe that little mice
For food are singularly nice.
Our mother died long years ago. She was a lovely cat
Her tail was 5 feet long, and grey with stripes, but what of that?
In Sila forest on the East of far Calabria's shore
She tumbled from a lofty tree - none ever saw her more.
Our owly father long was ill from sorrow and surprise,
But with the feathers of his tail he wiped his weeping eyes.
And in the hollow of a tree in Sila's inmost maze
We made a happy home and there we pass our obvious days.

From Reggian Cosenza many owls about us flit
And bring us worldly news for which we do not care a bit.
We watch the sun each morning rise, beyond Tarento's strait;
We go out ........................ before it gets too late;
And when the evening shades begin to lengthen from the trees
........................as sure as bees is bees.
We wander up and down the shore .......................
Or tumble over head and heels, but never, never more
Can see the far Gromboolian plains ......................
Or weep as we could once have wept o'er many a vanished scene;
This is the way our father moans - he is so very green.
Our father still preserves his voice, and when he sees a star
He often sings ....................... to that original guitar
....................................................
...................................................
The pot in which are parents took the honey in their boat,
But all the money has been spent, beside the £5 note.
The owls who come and bring us news are often ..........
Because we take no interest in poltix of the day.)

And here's the final poem.

I

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!"

II

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.

III

"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.

All I can say is holy cats. That's revision.

*No, I don't, but I read about someone who did that—and I mean to try it sometime.

It's Poetry Friday
The host this week is 
Andromeda Jazmon at A Wrung Sponge
Every week I'm astonished.
That's how it works.


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