A Boat Beneath A Sunny Sky
By Lewis Carroll
A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July —
Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear —
Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream?
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known under his pen name Lewis Carroll, authored some of the most complicated and inventive poems and stories in the last 200 years. Both Jabberwocky and The Hunting Of The Snark are unfairly in my mind categorized as nonsensical poems or pigeon holed as “children’s” literature. Yet, I have met more than one grown adult who knew only one poem by memory and that poem was Jabberwocky and could recite it brilliantly after a couple of beers.
What about Carroll’s imagination continues to connect with generation after generation of readers? I believe it’s because his “nonsensical” literature actually makes more sense than some of our real life experiences. Danger and unfairness abounds in Alice in Wonderland but in the end she returns safe and sound to her sister’s side to share her adventure. Carroll turns the world upside down and topsy-turvy not as a parody but because that is how life can feel for many of us. Crafting all of his writing as “children’s” stories is the real brilliance of his subversive literature, allowing readers of all ages to identify with the humor and inventiveness while letting each of us decide how it connects to our imaginations. If you haven’t read Jabberwocky recently, here is a link.
Carroll’s ability to make up words is a gift limited to very few writers. I have only attempted it a couple of times in my own writing and nothing as bold or timeless as Carroll’s additions to the English language. The tradition of using made up words is a hallmark of poets that goes back to oral traditions by story tellers from the beginning of time. Maybe all new words start out as nonsense. And only become respected members of dialogue as time passes. Do you or your family have a made up word that fits perfectly in your vocabulary? Is it alive and well and have you immortalized it in a poem?
The Voice Of The Lobster
by Lewis Carroll
”Tis the voice of the Lobster: I heard him declare
‘You have baked me too brown, I must sugar my hair.’
As a duck with its eyelids, so he with his nose
Trims his belt and his buttons, and turns out his toes.
When the sands are all dry, he is gay as a lark,
And will talk in contemptuous tones of the Shark:
But, when the tide rises and sharks are around,
His voice has a timid and tremulous sound.’
‘I passed by his garden, and marked, with one eye,
How the Owl and the Panter were sharing a pie:
The Panther took pie-crust, and gravy, and meat,
While the Old had the dish as its share of the treat.
When the pie was all finished, the Owl, as a boon,
Was kindly permitted to pocket the spoon:
While the Panther received knife and fork with a growl,
And concluded the banquet by [eating the owl.]