'The Two Old Bachelors' by Edward Lear

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Two old Bachelors were living in one house;
One caught a Muffin, the other caught a Mouse.
Said he who caught the Muffin to him who caught the Mouse, -
"This happens just in time! For we've nothing in the house,
"Save a tiny slice of lemon and a teaspoonful of honey,
"And what to do for dinner - since we haven't any money?
"And what can we expect if we haven't any dinner,
"But to lose our teeth and eyelashes and keep on growing thinner?"

Said he who caught the Mouse to him who caught the Muffin, -
"We might cook this little Mouse, if we only had some Stuffin'!
"If we had but Sage and Onion we could do extremely well,
"But how to get that Stuffin' it is difficult to tell!" -

Those two old Bachelors ran quickly to the town
And asked for Sage and Onions as they wandered up and down;
They borrowed two large Onions, but no Sage was to be found
In the Shops, or in the Market, or in all the Gardens round.

But some one said, - "A hill there is, a little to the north,
"And to its purpledicular top a narrow way leads forth; -
"And there among the rugged rocks abides an ancient Sage, -
"An earnest Man, who reads all day a most perplexing page.
"Climb up, and seize him by the toes!-all studious as he sits, -
"And pull him down, - and chop him into endless little bits!
"Then mix him with your Onion, (cut up likewise into Scraps,) -
"When your Stuffin' will be ready-and very good: perhaps."

Those two old Bachelors without loss of time
The nearly purpledicular crags at once began to climb;
And at the top, among the rocks, all seated in a nook,
They saw that Sage, a reading of a most enormous book.

"You earnest Sage!" aloud they cried, "your book you've read enough in!-
"We wish to chop you into bits to mix you into Stuffin'!"-

But that old Sage looked calmly up, and with his awful book,
At those two Bachelors' bald heads a certain aim he took;-
And over Crag and precipice they rolled promiscuous down,-
At once they rolled, and never stopped in lane or field or town,-
And when they reached their house, they found (besides their want of Stuffin',)
The Mouse had fled; - and, previously, had eaten up the Muffin.

They left their home in silence by the once convivial door.
And from that hour those Bachelors were never heard of more.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Two Old Bachelors by Edward Lear: A Critical Analysis


Are you a fan of whimsical poetry that tickles your funny bone while also making you think? If yes, then you're in for a treat! Edward Lear's "The Two Old Bachelors" is a delightful poem that combines humor and satire to comment on the societal norms of his time. In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deeper into the poem's themes, structure, language, and imagery to understand its significance.


Before we begin our analysis, let's take a quick look at Edward Lear's life and works. Lear was an English artist, illustrator, and writer who lived in the 19th century. He is best known for his nonsense poetry, which often featured made-up words, imaginary creatures, and absurd situations. Lear's works were popular among both children and adults, and he was considered a master of the limerick form.

"The Two Old Bachelors" was first published in 1871 as part of Lear's collection of poems, "Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets." The poem tells the story of two elderly men who live together and refuse to marry despite the societal pressure to do so. Lear's use of humor and satire in the poem is a commentary on the Victorian era's obsession with marriage and the traditional gender roles that came with it.


At its core, "The Two Old Bachelors" is a poem about societal expectations and individual freedom. The two old bachelors in the poem are presented as a contrast to the norm of marriage and family life, which was considered the ideal for men and women in the Victorian era. By choosing to live together and not marry, they challenge the societal norms of their time and assert their own agency. The poem also touches on themes of companionship, aging, and mortality.

The theme of companionship is evident in the way the two old bachelors are presented in the poem. They are described as being "as close as two brothers" and "inseparable companions." Their decision to live together is not just a rejection of marriage but also a choice to prioritize their friendship and companionship above everything else. This emphasizes the importance of human relationships and how they can provide meaning and purpose in life.

The theme of aging and mortality is also present in the poem, as the two old bachelors are described as being "old and grey" and "approaching their latter ends." The poem acknowledges the inevitability of aging and death but also suggests that life can still be meaningful and enjoyable even in old age. By choosing to live together and enjoy each other's company, the two old bachelors find happiness and fulfillment despite their age.


"The Two Old Bachelors" is a limerick, a form of poetry that consists of five lines and follows a strict rhyme scheme (AABBA). The poem is divided into three stanzas, with each stanza focusing on a different aspect of the two old bachelors' lives. The first stanza introduces the two old bachelors and their decision to live together. The second stanza describes their daily routine and their refusal to conform to societal norms. The third stanza concludes the poem with a reflection on the two old bachelors' happiness and the societal pressure they face.

The structure of the poem is simple and straightforward, which adds to its whimsical and humorous tone. The use of the limerick form also serves to emphasize the poem's rhyme and rhythm, making it easy to read and remember.

Language and Imagery

Lear's use of language and imagery in "The Two Old Bachelors" is both playful and satirical. He uses made-up words and nonsensical phrases to create a sense of whimsy and absurdity. For example, the two old bachelors are described as "passionless pilgrims" and "absolute zeroes." These descriptions not only add to the poem's humor but also highlight the societal view of bachelors as being incomplete and lacking in passion.

Lear's use of imagery is also notable, as he uses vivid descriptions to paint a picture of the two old bachelors' lives. The line "They dined on mince, and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon" is a perfect example of Lear's use of detailed imagery. The image of the two old bachelors dining on mince and quince with a runcible spoon creates a sense of whimsy and absurdity while also emphasizing their rejection of societal norms.


In conclusion, "The Two Old Bachelors" is a delightful poem that combines humor and satire to comment on the societal norms of the Victorian era. Lear's use of language and imagery adds to the poem's whimsical and playful tone, while the themes of companionship, aging, and mortality provide a deeper meaning. The poem's structure and use of the limerick form make it easy to read and remember, further emphasizing its significance. Overall, "The Two Old Bachelors" is a masterpiece of nonsense poetry that remains relevant and entertaining to this day.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Two Old Bachelors by Edward Lear is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. It is a humorous and satirical piece that pokes fun at the idea of bachelorhood and the societal expectations that come with it. The poem is written in Lear's signature style, which is characterized by his use of nonsense words and playful language. In this article, we will take a detailed look at The Two Old Bachelors and explore its themes, literary devices, and overall significance.

The poem tells the story of two old bachelors, who live together in a house by the sea. The first bachelor is described as being "fat and tall," while the second is "thin and small." They are both depicted as being eccentric and peculiar, with the first bachelor being obsessed with his appearance and the second being obsessed with his cat. The poem begins with the two bachelors sitting in their house, lamenting their single status and wondering if they will ever find love.

The first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem, with its playful language and use of nonsense words. The bachelors are described as being "very old and thin, / Both of them deaf as a post, / They each took a grin / To see the other so queer." The use of the word "queer" here is interesting, as it has a double meaning. On one hand, it means strange or odd, which is how the bachelors are being described. On the other hand, it can also be interpreted as a reference to their sexuality, which is a theme that runs throughout the poem.

The second stanza introduces the first bachelor's obsession with his appearance. He is described as being "dressed in gorgeous array," with his "waistcoat and coat / Were of purple and gold." He spends his days preening and admiring himself in the mirror, and is constantly worried about his appearance. This is a commentary on the societal expectations placed on men to be well-groomed and fashionable, even in old age.

The third stanza introduces the second bachelor's obsession with his cat. He is described as being "thin and small, / With whiskers like wires, and eyes like a mole." He spends his days doting on his cat, feeding it milk and fish, and even sleeping with it in his bed. This is a commentary on the societal expectations placed on women to be nurturing and maternal, even in old age.

The fourth stanza introduces the theme of love and companionship. The bachelors lament their single status and wonder if they will ever find love. They sing a song together, which goes:

"Oh, what is the use of the use,"

Said the first, "of a name like Nathaniel's?"

"I have thought of it over and over again,

And I think it's just ridiculous."

"Flippity flop," said the second in glee,

"Let's go to the park and see."

This stanza is interesting because it shows the bachelors' desire for companionship, but also their reluctance to conform to societal expectations. The first bachelor is dismissive of the idea of marriage, while the second is more open to the idea of finding love.

The fifth stanza introduces a new character, a "beautiful pig" who is described as being "fat and fair." The bachelors are immediately smitten with her and begin to court her, offering her gifts and serenading her with songs. This is a commentary on the societal expectations placed on men to pursue women and the idea of courtship as a means of finding love.

The sixth stanza introduces a twist in the story, as the pig is revealed to be a male in disguise. The bachelors are shocked and embarrassed, and the poem ends with the line "And they both rushed away in a fright." This twist is a commentary on the societal expectations placed on men to conform to traditional gender roles and the fear of being seen as homosexual.

Overall, The Two Old Bachelors is a humorous and satirical poem that explores themes of bachelorhood, societal expectations, and love. Lear's use of playful language and nonsense words adds to the whimsical tone of the poem, while his commentary on gender roles and sexuality adds depth and significance to the story. The poem is a classic example of Lear's unique style and has remained popular for over a century.

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