01 April 2013

April is National Poetry Month! First up, Lewis Carroll

I love April - it's National Poetry Month!  I try to read more poetry this month - it's a type of literature that's harder for me to read (I can't read quickly due to the form) but I love the rhyming and rhythm.  Which is why I tend to gravitate toward older poems with set forms.

I've always wanted to do a set of April posts about poems but never got around to it.  This year, though, I am on top of it!

Since April 1st is also April Fools' Day, I decided to start the month off with Lewis Carroll.  With nonsense words and silly rhymes Lewis is always good for a laugh.  "The Hunting of the Snark" isn't as widely read as, say, Alice in Wonderland, but it rolls along delightfully.  Here's the opening of the poem, the "Fit the First" (and those Jasper Fforde fans will recognize the Bellman as, well, the Bellman).

Fit the First

            The Landing
"Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried,
   As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
   By a finger entwined in his hair.
"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
   That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
   What I tell you three times is true."

The crew was complete: it included a Boots—
   A maker of Bonnets and Hoods—
A Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes—
   And a Broker, to value their goods.

A Billiard-marker, whose skill was immense,
   Might perhaps have won more than his share—
But a Banker, engaged at enormous expense,
   Had the whole of their cash in his care.

There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck,
   Or would sit making lace in the bow:
And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck,
   Though none of the sailors knew how.

There was one who was famed for the number of things
   He forgot when he entered the ship:
His umbrella, his watch, all his jewels and rings,
   And the clothes he had bought for the trip.

He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
   With his name painted clearly on each:
But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
   They were all left behind on the beach.

The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because
   He had seven coats on when he came,
With three pair of boots—but the worst of it was,
   He had wholly forgotten his name.

He would answer to "Hi!" or to any loud cry,
   Such as "Fry me!" or "Fritter my wig!"
To "What-you-may-call-um!" or "What-was-his-name!"
   But especially "Thing-um-a-jig!"

While, for those who preferred a more forcible word,
   He had different names from these:
His intimate friends called him "Candle-ends,"
   And his enemies "Toasted-cheese."

"His form is ungainly—his intellect small—"
   (So the Bellman would often remark)
"But his courage is perfect! And that, after all,
   Is the thing that one needs with a Snark."

He would joke with h├Žnas, returning their stare
   With an impudent wag of the head:
And he once went a walk, paw-in-paw, with a bear,
   "Just to keep up its spirits," he said.

He came as a Baker: but owned, when too late—
   And it drove the poor Bellman half-mad—
He could only bake Bride-cake—for which, I may state,
   No materials were to be had.

The last of the crew needs especial remark,
   Though he looked an incredible dunce:
He had just one idea—but, that one being "Snark,"
   The good Bellman engaged him at once.

He came as a Butcher: but gravely declared,
   When the ship had been sailing a week,
He could only kill Beavers. The Bellman looked scared,
   And was almost too frightened to speak:

But at length he explained, in a tremulous tone,
   There was only one Beaver on board;
And that was a tame one he had of his own,
   Whose death would be deeply deplored.

The Beaver, who happened to hear the remark,
   Protested, with tears in its eyes,
That not even the rapture of hunting the Snark
   Could atone for that dismal surprise!

It strongly advised that the Butcher should be
   Conveyed in a separate ship:
But the Bellman declared that would never agree
   With the plans he had made for the trip:

1 comment:

  1. The puzzles in Henry Holiday's illustrations are fun too: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bonnetmaker/sets/72157631165419450/detail/.

    Regards from Munich
    Goetz

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