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.