Thursday, October 29, 2009

Poem Analysis #3

If you haven't caught up on it yet, please peruse last week's discussion thread here

For this week's poem analysis, I thought I would pick a poem that was suitably creepy. First, I thought of "The Raven," but it is rather long, so I went with one I was reminded of thanks to Cicely's choice of "The Walrus and the Carpenter" for her OULIPO last week. 

by Lewis Carroll
from Through the Looking Glass

'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.

Okay, so the obvious point is that Carroll loved to make up words. That is why this poem is classified as "nonsense" poetry. I take issue with that, however. I feel like even with the ridiculous sounding words, some sense can surely be made. There is a clear narrative and sequence of events. I particularly like the made-up adjectives and sound-words (onomatopoeia) such as "snicker-snack". I think I have stood in "uffish thought" many times as well. Read it a few times, then let me know what you think.


Mimi said...

Seems to me I know a 'beamish boy'. I love this poem, and think it is understandable even with the made up words. Is that because I make up words myself? The sense of the meaning comes through loud and clear.

Anonymous said...

The skillful use of nonsense reminds me of: Dr. Seuss (for example, in The Lorax), Anthony Burgess in A Clockwork Orange, and even J.K. Rowling once in a while. (And then there's Tolkien, who made up entire languages with different sound patterns depending on the nature of the creatures: guttural for dwarves, ethereal for elves.) Other than Dr. Seuss, it must be a British thing.

Anonymous said...

Ah, one of my absolute, all-time favorites! As a matter of fact, this is the poem that first came to mind for the last challenge, but good luck finding those nouns in a dictionary!

"Whiffling", "burbled", "galumphing"...even without the onomotopeia factor, just the context makes it clear what is meant.

And then, I can't forget Mad Magazine's take on it, here:

"Beware the Station-Break, my son,
The voice that lulls, the ads that vex!
Beware the Doctors Claim, and shun
That horror called Brand-X!"

The Q-Tip'd Dash went Spic and Span!

Oh, Fab wash day, Cashmere Bouquet!"
He Handi-Wrapped in Joy.

Brilliance, in both forms!


paige said...

hehe - i like this one... i often *feel* like this... but not today.

Alicia said...

Ok, I'm going to suck it up and post, but I'm not quite sure what to say. I've read it a few times and it's still so nonsensical to me. (Is nonsensical even a word? LOL!) I agree that it has a Dr. Seuss sound to it. I love the way it flows, it seems to have a bit of a bounce to it. I'm still not sure what the majority of it really means, but the words are fun none the less. Thanks for sharing this one, I'm sure it's been a long while since the last time I read it!