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  Rick Sutcliffe


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Jabberwocky and other nonsense

These are layered poems--nonsense on the surface, but when examined more deeply may have an elusive meaning. When considered more carefully still, they are nonsense after all. But so frabjous, such alleygaroo!


Lewis Carroll

(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

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, has 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. 

So much does it resonate that this poem has been parodied a number of times. One of the best is Tenureclocky, which can be found here. Others can be found here.

Deck Us All With Boston Charlie

Walt Kelly

Deck us all with Boston Charlie, 
Walla Walla, Wash, and Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley, 
Swaller dollar cauliflower Alleygaroo!

Don't we know archaic barrel,
Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou. 
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola Boola Pensacoola Hullabaloo!

The Walloping Window Blind

Charles E. Carryl

A capital ship for an ocean trip
Was the Walloping Window Blind.
No gale that blew dismayed her crew
Or troubled the captain's mind.

The man at the wheel was taught to feel
Contempt for the wildest blow.
And it often appeared when the weather had cleared
That he'd been in his bunk below.

The boatswain's mate was very sedate,
Yet fond of amusement too;
And he played hopscotch with the starboard watch
While the captain tickled the crew.

And the gunner we had was apparently mad
For he stood on the cannon's tail,
And fired salutes in the captain's boots
In the teeth of a booming gale.

The captain sat in a commodore's hat
And dined in a royal way
On toasted pigs and pickles and figs
And gummery bread each day.

But the rest of us ate from an odious plate
For the food that was given the crew
Was a number of tons of hot cross buns
Chopped up with sugar and glue.

We all felt ill as mariners will
On a diet that's cheap and rude,
And the poop deck shook when we dipped the cook
In a tub of his gluesome food.

Then nautical pride we laid aside,
And we cast the vessel ashore
On the Gulliby Isles, where the Poohpooh smiles
And the Anagzanders roar.

Composed of sand was that favored land
And trimmed in cinnamon straws;
And pink and blue was the pleasing hue
Of the Tickletoeteasers claws.

We climbed to the edge of a sandy ledge
And soared with the whistling bee,
And we only stopped at four o'clock
For a pot of cinnamon tea.

From dawn to dark, on rubagub bark
We fed, till we all had grown
Uncommonly thin. Then a boat blew in
On a wind from the torriby zone.

She was stubby and square, but we didn't much care,
And we cheerily put to sea.
We plotted a course for the Land of Blue Horse,
Due west 'cross the Peppermint Sea.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

Lewis Carroll

This is a poem Tweedledee recited for Alice in Through the Looking Glass.

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright--
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done--
'It's very rude of him', she said,
'to come and spoil the fun!'

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead--
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand:
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
'If this were only cleared away,'
They said, 'it would be grand!'

'If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year,
Do you suppose,' the Walrus said,
'That they could get it clear?'
'I doubt it,' said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

'O Oysters, come and walk with us!'
The Walrus did beseech.
'A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.'

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat--
And this was odd, because, you know,
they hadn't any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

'The time has come,' the walrus said,
'To talk of many things:
Of shoes-- and ships-- and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages-- and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings.'

'But wait a bit,' the Oysters cried,
'Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
and all of us are fat!'
'No hurry!' said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

'A loaf of bread,' the Walrus said,
'Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now, if you're ready, oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.'

'But not on us!' the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
'After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!'
'The night is fine,' the Walrus said.
'Do you admire the view?

'It was kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!'
The carpenter said nothing but
'Cut us another slice.
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!'

'It seems a shame,' the Walrus said,
'to play them such a trick.
After we've brought them out so far,
and made them trot so quick!'
The Carpenter said nothing but
'The butter's spread too thick!'

'I weep for you,' the Walrus said:
'I deeply sympathize.'
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

'O Oysters,' said the Carpenter,
'You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one!

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Updated 2005 12 28