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The Pobble Who Has No Toes -- Edward Lear

(Poem #297) The Pobble Who Has No Toes
The Pobble who has no toes
Had once as many as we;
When they said "Some day you may lose them all;"
He replied "Fish, fiddle-de-dee!"
And his Aunt Jobiska made him drink
Lavender water tinged with pink,
For she said "The World in general knows
There's nothing so good for a Pobble's toes!"

The Pobble who has no toes
Swam across the Bristol Channel;
But before he set out he wrapped his nose
In a piece of scarlet flannel.
For his Aunt Jobiska said "No harm
Can come to his toes if his nose is warm;
And it's perfectly known that a Pobble's toes
Are safe, -- provided he minds his nose!"

The Pobble swam fast and well,
And when boats or ships came near him,
He tinkledy-blinkledy-winkled a bell,
So that all the world could hear him.
And all the Sailors and Admirals cried,
When they saw him nearing the further side -
"He has gone to fish for his Aunt Jobiska's
Runcible Cat with crimson whiskers!"

But before he touched the shore,
The shore of the Bristol Channel,
A sea-green porpoise carried away
His wrapper of scarlet flannel.
And when he came to observe his feet,
Formerly garnished with toes so neat,
His face at once became forlorn,
On perceiving that all his toes were gone!

And nobody ever knew,
From that dark day to the present,
Whoso had taken the Pobble's toes,
In a manner so far from pleasant.
Whether the shrimps, or crawfish grey,
Or crafty Mermaids stole them away -
Nobody knew: and nobody knows
How the Pobble was robbed of his twice five toes!

The Pobble who has no toes
Was placed in a friendly Bark,
And they rowed him back, and carried him up
To his Aunt Jobiska's Park.
And she made him a feast at his earnest wish
Of eggs and buttercups fried with fish, -
And she said "It's a fact the whole world knows,
That Pobbles are happier without their toes!"
-- Edward Lear
The Pobble's Aunt Jobiska is one of my favourite poetic personages, if only
because she seems to embody the many oh-so-familiar characteristics of aunts
everywhere [1].

The Pobble himself is a rather mysterious character. Like his soulmate, the Dong
with the Luminous Nose, he lives in a surreal, twilit world, populated with
Runcible Cats, Jumbly Girls and Oblong Oysters...


PS. As an aside, I just love the effrontery with which Lear coins the name
'Jobiska', and then goes on to rhyme it with 'whiskers'...

[1] To any of my aunts who may happen to chance upon this email - this doesn't
apply to you, of course :-)


Edward Lear's most celebrated poem is 'The Owl and the Pussycat', which you can
read at poem #165 - there's also a
brief biography of the poet at the same URL.

The other canonical example of nonsense verse is Samuel Foote's 'The Great
Panjandrum', at poem #208

[Connection with the theme]

Edward Lear spent most of his adult life traveling, mainly around the
Mediterranean (though he also spent long stretches in India and Ceylon). He
stayed in Rome, Corfu and San Remo at various times in his life; while there, he
produced a series of justly-celebrated watercolours. His favourite subjects were
songbirds and landscapes, both of which he drew with a delicate touch and a
painstaking attention to detail. The Ashmolean in Oxford has an extensive
selection of his work; it's well worth a visit, if you ever find yourself in
that part of the world.

62 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

John Wilkins said...

Note that John Maynard Smith, in his book _Evolution_ coined the term
"Aunt Jobiska's Theorem" for "It is a fact everyone knows".

Helen Thompson said...

I have always wished that I had written this!!
Pure brilliance!

Waddell Glenda said...

We lost our Jobiska last summer and still miss her dearly. When our
daughter was 3 she declared - while we were reading about the Pobble -
that if she ever got another dog she would name her "Jobiska". And she
did. Jobiska, our beautiful airedale lived to be 12 years of age and in
her time did many gigs with our daughter on her clarinet and Jobiska as
soloist. Her last performance was for a large audience of seniors who
laughed for the entire 70 minute performance and then insisted that they
each feed Jobiska their ice cream cone. Turns out seniors are very
familiar with the breed since they were very popular in the '30s.
Thanks to EL for coining the name.

Glenda Waddell

John Weston said...

Wonderful - I read this poem when I was only 6 years old and now 67 years later I rediscover it. Once more the pleasure is all mine.
John Weston

Patricia Glenn said...

"Fish fiddle dee dee!" Who asserted that the Pobble and the Dong are
soulmates? Nonesense! The Dong roams the world (actually the Great
Grumboolian Plain) looking for his "Jumbly Girl." Be more precise,

Aunty Panty


EL is the most under-rated of all the Children's writers. He should be up there with Carrol and Baum. To this day, when I speak to my adult children about my sisters, I always refer to them as your Aunt Jobisca and, shocking as it seems, in fast food restaurants you cannot order lavender water tinged tinged with pink.

Richard Bank said...

I thought that an "Aunt Jobiska" is someone who always says everything is OK. The Jobiska theorum is new to me. Pass the lavender water.

kbennett232 said...

My husband has unfortunately just had his toe amputated. Many thanks Mr
Wolf and his team. Our friend "Peter" from the Co-op suggested we look up this
poem. Enjoyed it immensely and it made us smile.

javieth said...

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Anonymous said...

What delicious verses! I don't remember who gave me the collected work of Edward Lear when I was a child, but I remember doubling over in stitches at reading his "Nonsense Cookery," and still cite the recipes. As long as human beings will be able to laugh, I hope they'll find, or have access to, the poems of Edward Lear.
Marcia Lieberman

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