Jabberwocky

Jabberwocky-John Tenniel 1871
Jabberwock-John Tenniel 1871

The only extant work of Looking-Glass World literature, Jabberwocky is undoubtedly the masterpiece of nonsense.

After stepping through the mirror and encountering the White King and Queen, Alice discovers a book. While initially mystified by its contents, Alice realises that it is a Looking-Glass Book and to be able to read it she must hold it up to the mirror. Alice’s reaction to the poem is an excellent summation of its abstract power; “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas-only I don’t exactly know what they are!”

Later Alice encounters the semantician Humpty Dumpty (see my post Glory for further details on their meeting), who deciphers the more unusual coinages of the first stanza. However, considering Humpty’s cavalier attitude to the exact meaning of words and Alice’s subsequent dismissal of Humpty as most unsatisfactory, combined with the markedly different interpretations that Carroll had previously stated leaves the poem eluding traditional, concrete definition.

Nonsense as a form would be used frequently by various Modernist movements, notably Dada and the Italian Futurists, yet they tend to lack the deftness of touch of either Carroll or Lear.

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.

Lewis Carroll-1871

alice-in-wonderland-original-john-tenniel[1]
Jabberwocky creatures round the sundial-John Tenniel 1871
JABBERWOCKY+mervyn+peake[1]
Mervyn Peake-Jabberwock

15 thoughts on “Jabberwocky

  1. I wondered (should have known) this would make it into nonsense week. Have you ever heard Christopher Plummer reading Jabberwocky? He’s quite good. This is a brilliant bit of writing. It so naturally flows, as if the words weren’t made up at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes well you know my feelings on Alice, it is brilliant, it flows and a great piece of abstract writing. By its very nature writing strives towards meaning so very impressive. Hope I am not becoming unpredictable.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Only in this one case and only with those who know you very well. Alice makes regular appearances. This was sure to surface during Nonsense Week. It wouldn’t be right to disclose it!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well don’t worry on that… you are indeed like cake – you are never sure of the flavor until you get past the frosting (that is a compliment, btw)

        Liked by 1 person

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