Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Jabberwocky

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Wow does spellcheck not like Lewis Carroll.

So, Charles Dodgson was a controversial guy. It was rumored he stammered only in the company of other adults and was clear spoken with children. He was a singing, writing, mathematician with an aptitude for charades. Although Dodgson was close to Alice Liddell and the name 'Alice' is layered into the blueprints of his writing-- writing aside from his great Wonderland and Looking Glass masterpieces--Dodgson maintained that Alice Liddell was not his inspiration. Curiouser and curiouser.

However he came upon this collection of sharp, clean, satisfying sounds--it is marvelous. He sustains the clicking exactness of hard rhymes snapping together. It does not matter that the words are jumbled, nonsensical fragments. Each piece lands lightly on its four feet as if it has always been there.

I have been thinking about invention. There is a knuckle cracking pop when a good idea comes bouncing along. A trepidation in committing it to the three dimensional real estate of the Roman alphabet. And then when it works--it is delicious.


  1. Or maybe Lewis Carroll didn't like spell check... His works are very interesting, but I always wondered if he picked up the caterpillar's bad habit while writing Through the Looking-Glass.

  2. I love the mind of Lewis Carroll. Did you know that he never intended and answer for, Why is the raven like a writing desk? I find that funny for some reason. Everyone wants everything to have some sort of deeper meaning and sometimes it just doesn't. That's why the nonsensical is so wonderful, we can just enjoy it for what it is...or isn't.

    Curiouser and curiouser.

  3. whitney, i definitely think carroll disliked spell check. i always imagined that if carroll was any character he was the catapillar.

    g, i didn't know that! how brilliant. it is just the combination of sound that he was after--definitely curious and curiouser. thank you!

  4. I memorized this in fifth grade. We had to recite a poem a week. My favorite sound is "snicker-snack".

    Who's Charles Dodgson?

  5. I've always thought the best word in there was "vorpal" -- the vorpal blade sounds so sinister, twisted and evil and of course you are free to imagine it however you like. It's the kind of word you'd find in The Thirteen Clocks.

  6. caroline starr rose, that is carroll's real name! i love snicker snack too.

    majorreader, i love the thirteen clocks! my mother gave he her copy when i was really young and that made it even more wonderful. he killed whisper for mentioning mittens--can't beat that.

  7. Just hopping by - hop on over to The Wormhole!
    Happy Reading – have a great weekend!

  8. Thanks for taking me back in time, I have always loved this poem and yet haven't even thought about it in such a long time.


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