The Dong with a Luminous Nose

By Edward Lear 1812–1888 Edward Lear
When awful darkness and silence reign
Over the great Gromboolian plain,
      Through the long, long wintry nights; —
When the angry breakers roar
As they beat on the rocky shore; —
      When Storm-clouds brood on the towering heights
Of the Hills of the Chankly Bore: —

Then, through the vast and gloomy dark,
There moves what seems a fiery spark,
      A lonely spark with silvery rays
            Piercing the coal-black night, —
            A Meteor strange and bright: —
      Hither and thither the vision strays,
            A single lurid light.

Slowly it wander, — pauses, — creeps, —
Anon it sparkles, — flashes and leaps;
And ever as onward it gleaming goes
A light on the Bong-tree stems it throws.
And those who watch at that midnight hour
From Hall or Terrace, or lofty Tower,
Cry, as the wild light passes along, —
            "The Dong! — the Dong!
      "The wandering Dong through the forest goes!
            "The Dong! the Dong!
      "The Dong with a luminous Nose!"

            Long years ago
      The Dong was happy and gay,
Till he fell in love with a Jumbly Girl
      Who came to those shores one day.
For the Jumblies came in a sieve, they did, —
Landing at eve near the Zemmery Fidd
            Where the Oblong Oysters grow,
And the rocks are smooth and gray.
And all the woods and the valleys rang
With the Chorus they daily and nightly sang, —
            "Far and few, far and few,
            Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
            Their heads are green, and the hands are blue
            And they went to sea in a sieve.

Happily, happily passed those days!
            While the cheerful Jumblies staid;
      They danced in circlets all night long,
      To the plaintive pipe of the lively Dong,
            In moonlight, shine, or shade.
For day and night he was always there
By the side of the Jumbly Girl so fair,
With her sky-blue hands, and her sea-green hair.
Till the morning came of that hateful day
When the Jumblies sailed in their sieve away,
And the Dong was left on the cruel shore
Gazing — gazing for evermore, —
Ever keeping his weary eyes on
That pea-green sail on the far horizon, —
Singing the Jumbly Chorus still
As he sate all day on the grassy hill, —
            "Far and few, far and few,
            Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
            Their heads are green, and the hands are blue
            And they went to sea in a sieve.

But when the sun was low in the West,
      The Dong arose and said;
— "What little sense I once possessed
      Has quite gone out of my head!" —
And since that day he wanders still
By lake and dorest, marsh and hills,
Singing — "O somewhere, in valley or plain
"Might I find my Jumbly Girl again!
"For ever I'll seek by lake and shore
"Till I find my Jumbly Girl once more!"

      Playing a pipe with silvery squeaks,
      Since then his Jumbly Girl he seeks,
      And because by night he could not see,
      He gathered the bark of the Twangum Tree
            On the flowery plain that grows.
            And he wove him a wondrous Nose, —
      A Nose as strange as a Nose could be!
Of vast proportions and painted red,
And tied with cords to the back of his head.
      — In a hollow rounded space it ended
      With a luminous Lamp within suspended,
            All fenced about
            With a bandage stout
            To prevent the wind from blowing it out; —
      And with holes all round to send the light,
      In gleaming rays on the dismal night.

And now each night, and all night long,
Over those plains still roams the Dong;
And above the wail of the Chimp and Snipe
You may hear the squeak of his plaintive pipe
While ever he seeks, but seeks in vain
To meet with his Jumbly Girl again;
Lonely and wild — all night he goes, —
The Dong with a luminous Nose!
And all who watch at the midnight hour,
From Hall or Terrace, or lofty Tower,
Cry, as they trace the Meteor bright,
Moving along through the dreary night, —
      "This is the hour when forth he goes,
      "The Dong with a luminous Nose!
      "Yonder — over the plain he goes;
            "He goes!
            "He goes;
      "The Dong with a luminous Nose!"

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Poet Edward Lear 1812–1888

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Nature, Humor & Satire, Theater & Dance, The Body, Landscapes & Pastorals, Love, Music, Infatuation & Crushes

Poetic Terms Imagery, Rhymed Stanza, Refrain

 Edward  Lear

Biography

Vivien Noakes fittingly subtitled her biography of Edward Lear The Life of a Wanderer. On a literal level the phrase refers to Lear's constant traveling as a self-proclaimed "dirty landscape painter" from 1837 until he finally settled at his Villa Tennyson on the San Remo coast of Italy in 1880. But wandering, in that it suggests rootlessness, aimlessness, loneliness, and uncertainty, is also a metaphor for Lear's emotional life . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Nature, Humor & Satire, Theater & Dance, The Body, Landscapes & Pastorals, Love, Music, Infatuation & Crushes

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Poetic Terms Imagery, Rhymed Stanza, Refrain

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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