Monday, May 2, 2011

Poetry 101: The Nonsense of the Jabberwocky

So, it was National Poetry Month in the month of April, and though I dropped the ball on sharing this within the month of April, I have decided to redeem myself today, and share with you my all-time favorite poem. Unlike sharing my favorite book (which is absolutely impossible for me to really do), I will have to say that this is hands down, my FAVORITE poem. There is something so awesome about a poem which shouldn't make sense, yet it manages nonetheless with completely invented words. It's nonsensical, and that's just what I love about it. It's fun to say, it's fun to write. [In high school, I actually memorized this and found myself writing it in cursive in my notebook when I got bored in class. I know, DWEEB. But still, it's that good.]

In my 10th grade mythology class, my teacher Mr. Scheu gave us an assignment after we read this which I thought was genius. We had to create an epic poem which included invented words that you could understand the meaning of, and which still sounded sorta like words. This sounds hard, but really, if you just combine two words together, you can make a sort of hybrid word that takes on the meaning of both words. Lewis Carroll makes use of this in the Jabberwocky, like gallumphing might be a combination of galloping and harumphing (which does not recognize, but Wiktionary does, as: an expression of disdain, disbelief, protest, refusal, or dismissal).  So, a lot of the words in Carroll's "Jabberwocky" I'm not sure you can do this with-- I mean, look at them. But it's still fun to give it a shot.

So here it is, my favorite. You can love it or hate it, but feel free to share your opinion-- and your own favorite poem! And if you're feeling really brald (brave and bold!) then you might even write your own nonsensical epic poem.


'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 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.

          -- Lewis Carroll