Friday, July 18, 2008



This is my favorite piece of writing. Just the title itself makes me envision what this poem will be about - nonsense words. I don't know if that was Lewis Carroll's intent, but that's what Jabberwocky sounds like to me. And that's what I like so much about this poem - all the made up words that mean absolutely nothing, and yet Lewis Carroll makes them have meaning.

I've read that the first use of the words 'chortled' and 'galumphing' were in this poem and that Carroll invented them. Now they are part of our everyday vocabulary. How many people can say they invented a new word?

And how talented do you have to be to make words like mimsy, brillig, and slithy mean something? Even if you don't know what Carroll had in mind, each word is evocative enough to give you a sense of what they might mean, even out of the context of the poem.

A sunny day is . . . well . . . a sunny day. We all pretty much envision the same thing. But if the day is brillig? It can mean a hundred different things to a hundred different people. And a vorpal sword? I can see it in hand, sunlight glinting off its jagged blade. The manxome foe is huge and threatening as he comes wiffling through the wood.

What does wiffling mean? I don't know, and neither does my Word program, because it keeps changing wiffling to waffling. But in my mind, wiffling is nothing like waffling. To me, it means fast and furious, or perhaps, as Carroll might have said, fasturious. And as the beast charges, I hear the snicker-snack of the vorpal blade, the quick one-two motion that - snicker-snack - cuts off the Jabberwock's head before it can blink an eye.

So here it is, a funderful piece of poetic nonsense and imagery. Enjoy!

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 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 wiffling 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.

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