Jan 12 Lewis Carroll: Jabberwocky

I read this book as a kid not really understanding it very well; it didn’t really have a plot not like a fairy tale which, though dream-like, had a narrative strand that I could understand. Still it amused me and there were parts that I would re-read from time to time though it’s been so long that I’ve forgotten a good deal of it, but there are some things I’ll never forget.

I acquainted myself with an older woman, also a lover of poetry, who introduced the notion of memorizing poetry as an academic exercise. “Don’t they still do that in the schools?” she asked me. No, they don’t. At the time of my education there was a silly emphasis on freeing the child to think (whatever that means), so there was zero memorization at all, which made the times tables rather difficult. But I thought that having children memorize poetry was an excellent idea – one half of education is simply memorization (and the atlas of jargon that needs to be memorized in the Health Sciences is a testament to that), why not train the child’s mind to do so with simple exercises of poetry memorization in their early years?

I used to spend hours trying to memorize poems on my own simply because I loved them. I memorized song lyrics, and tried very hard to memorize Hamlet’s soliloquy (though the context of it was far beyond me at the time), and many others, but this was by far my favorite and the hardest – after all what the hell is a borogrove?

Many people have proposed many theories on where this poem came from, I even read an account that stated that it originated from a medieval tale about a knight who had to rescue a woman from a well and it turns out to be a dragon that he kills and brings a curse on himself (or something like that). The author re-printed the tale and it’s not quite as light-hearted as the poem (it’s actually rather grim). There was even a specific town that the tale referred to, but that has all left my memory (I should’ve memorized more poems, I guess). But the author of the book suggested that Carroll (or Dodgson whoever you want to refer to him as) had read this tale and been influenced by it. They even went to so far as to suggest that the weird words used are actually arcane words no longer used by English speakers.

I side with the people that thought he was influenced by the tale, but they are just nonsense words and the poem is just a bit of fun.


by 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 Jabberwork, 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 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 it’s head
He went galumphing back.

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

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

I decided to try my hand at a word nonsense poem – mostly I just used a nonsense word per sentence. It was nice to play though. ee cummings would be proud.

Midnight Picnic

Sniggles and Tigers play in the sand
to eligate a host of contraband
Ladies laugh at this most boxom sight
Though procrasters of blasters would shudder to fright
of this ferocious castagade of nebulous delight.

Shall we have our own promenade of momesome apparetifs?
Shall we howl in the moonlit sun like fathsome Indian chiefs?
Or hide among the fastigalls and drink our lovely teefs.


About penneloppe

I like to write horror, dark fantasy and crime fiction. Sometimes, I'll write science fiction, but usually I like to write science fact. I also write screenplays and stage plays. My day job is office work. I live in Seattle and I have a cat.
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