Poem of the Week
Founded August 1996
<   PotW #193   >
This Week's Poem

Past Poems...
...by Poet
...by Title and First Line
...by Occasion

Contact about...
...Free Subscription
...Submitting a Poem
...other Questions

The Fine Print...
...Copyright Information
...Page Mission
...Privacy Policy

Links to...
...other Poetry Sites



          Anonymous (before 1665)

         These following are to be understood in two ways.

    I Saw a Peacock, with a fiery tail,
    I saw a Blazing Comet, drop down hail,
    I saw a Cloud, with Ivy circled round,
    I saw a sturdy Oak, creep on the ground,
    I saw a Pismire, swallow up a Whale,
    I saw a raging Sea, brim full of Ale,
    I saw a Venice Glass, Sixteen foot deep,
    I saw a well, full of mens tears that weep,
    I saw their eyes, all in a flame of fire,
    I saw a House, as big as the Moon and higher,
    I saw the Sun, even in the midst of night,
    I saw the man, that saw this wondrous sight.


pismire is an archaic term for an ant

In First Loves, Margaret Atwood describes this "trick" poem as "the first poem I can remember that opened up the possibility of poetry for me." The trick is the two ways it can be understood; read a line at a time, or read from the middle of one line to the middle of the next. The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes notes that it appears in a commonplace book dated to around 1665; it seems to have been first published in the Westminster-Drollery in 1671.

It can be found, for example, in:

  • A Person of Quality, ed. Westminster-Drollery. Or a Choice Collection of the Newest Songs & Poems Both at Court & Theaters. London: Printed for H. Brome, Licensed by Roger L'Estrange, 1671.
  • Opie, Iona and Peter Opie, eds. The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes. London: Oxford University Press, 1952.
  • Ciuraru, Carmela, ed. First Loves: Poets Introduce the Essential Poems that Captivated and Inspired Them. New York: Scribner, 2000.