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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Jabberwocky - Lewis Carroll

'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 for 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 tugley 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.


We all need a little nonsense in our lives!  As Alice remarks upon reading this inThrough the Looking Glass:  'It seems very pretty,' she said when she had finished it, 'but it's rather hard to understand!' (You see she didn't like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn't make it out at all.) 'Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don't exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that's clear, at any rate.'

The very correct point made there is that while the language is deliberate nonsense (and very fun to say!), there's still a story being told, and the giddy, childish energy of the poem fills the mind with wild and exciting images.  No two people will see the same scene when they read this poem, and that's a good thing.  I think trying to understand it too much would ruin the effect, and dull what is otherwise a delightful read.

While there are meanings that can be assigned (some provided by Carroll himself) they are of little consequence.  It does not matter that the Jubjub bird is described as a "desperate bird that lives in perpetual passion" in The Hunting of the Snark.  That's largely irrelevant.  What matters is that you must beware the Jubjub bird!  I hope this bit of nonsense brightens your day.  Don't let's be silly.  Taking ourselves too seriously is one of the worst things we can do.

1 comment:

  1. What fun! Great to find this again. It evokes lovely memories of my husband reading it for our children many years ago. Thank you. Dee in Ireland

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