By the light of the moon

When I was a very small child there was an ad on TV, I was far to young to know what it was for, that featured a young mother reading aloud to her child. Her voice was beautiful and haunting, and these were the words she said:

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.

I did not know the meanings of all the words, but I loved the sound of ‘mince’, and of ‘slices of quince’, and I long pondered the great mystery of how a spoon could be runcible. It was clear, whoever these dancing people were, that they were very happy.

It would be quite a few years before I learned that “they” were an owl and a pussycat very much in love, and that I was hearing the work of Edward Lear, born 200 years ago today.

The feeling I had as a small child hearing these magical words, learning that there can be deep and powerful meaning even in the sound of things, has never left me. I suspect it contributed to my love of poetry, and perhaps even a bit to my love of the moon. I also suspect that the work of Edward Lear has had a similarly profound and lovely effect on the minds and souls of children for many generations.

Happy birthday Mr. Lear, and thank you.

One thought on “By the light of the moon”

  1. There’s a charmingly illustrated version of this story with drawings by Jan Brett. I used to read it to my daughter when she was younger. The drawings have a sweet sub-plot with two little fish who fall in love in the sea under the boat.

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