Jabberwocky–its ALL Blarney!

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.


Sheer Genius, No? Generations of school children have had to study this poem to get a sense of nonsense. Wikipedia says:

The poem is sometimes used in primary schools to teach students about the use of portmanteaux and nonsense words in poetry, as well as use of nouns and verbs.[2]

Because I didnt know what a portmanteau word was, I also looked THAT up:

“Portmanteau word” is used to describe a linguistic blend, namely “a word formed by blending sounds from two or more distinct words and combining their meanings”.[1]

So, Brillig, slithy, gyre, gimble et al are portmanteaux. ok. Anyway, back to the Jabberwocky. That poem has always held a special fascination for me, I consider it sheer Genius of a type Ive never seen in print since. Perhaps it was drug induced? Perhaps it was an epiphany, or maybe just an attempt to amuse a child with silliness. Whatever. What I do know is wordsmiths everywhere will tell you that Jabberwocky is the epitome of the wordsmithing craft. The words THEMSELVES become the focus. I can think of maybe one other example of nonsense similar to Jabberwocky, and that is the song I AM THE WALRUS, by John Lennon (but credited as Lennon/McCartney)

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly.
I’m crying.

Sitting on a cornflake, waiting for the van to come.
Corporation tee-shirt, stupid bloody tuesday.
Man, you been a naughty boy, you let your face grow long.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob.

Mister city policeman sitting
Pretty little policemen in a row.
See how they fly like lucy in the sky, see how they run.
I’m crying, i’m crying.
I’m crying, i’m crying.

Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog’s eye.
Crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess,
Boy, you been a naughty girl you let your knickers down.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob.

Sitting in an english garden waiting for the sun.
If the sun don’t come, you get a tan
From standing in the english rain.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob g’goo goo g’joob.

Expert textpert choking smokers,
Don’t you thing the joker laughs at you?
See how they smile like pigs in a sty,
See how they snied.
I’m crying.

Semolina pilchard, climbing up the eiffel tower.
Elementary penguin singing hari krishna.
Man, you should have seen them kicking edgar allan poe.
I am the eggman, they are the eggmen.
I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob g’goo goo g’joob.
Goo goo g’joob g’goo goo g’joob g’goo.

Yellow Matter Custard? the ewww factor is off the charts! I always liked the line about “boy, you’ve been a naughty girl you let your knickers down” and that bit about “expert textpert choking smokers, dont you think the joker laughs at you” seems to be a gauntlet thrown down to anyone who tries to figure it out. or not…(is that a joker I hear laffing?)

Ok, there you have it. My paen to nonsense, to wordsmithing, to BLARNEY if you will.


~ by irishgrl on December 29, 2008.

8 Responses to “Jabberwocky–its ALL Blarney!”

  1. Alice in Wonderland….The joys of growing up with it stuck in your head. I realize now that it influenced me more than I thought it did.
    The Jabberwocky was something I didn’t come across until years later and it made no sense so I passed it off. I much prefer The Walrus and the Carpenter, honestly. 😛 But, there IS something special about the Jabberwocky. They say Carroll was high when he wrote it all, so that might explain it.

    Also, I am the Walrus is an AWESOME song.
    Love the Beatles.
    They are epic. The Magical Mystery tour is an awesome CD as well.
    But the nonsense part…Ah, yes nonsense.
    I like the whole two-lines of the knickers part:
    Crabalocker fishwife, pornographic priestess,
    Boy, you been a naughty girl you let your knickers down.
    Always have.

  2. I actually wrote either my own version of Jabberwocky or translated it, I cant remember. I think I was in 7th grade…I remember I got an A, the teacher was surprised at how well I did with it (whatever it was!) because I think most of my classmates were put off by the nonsense of it. I dont know whether Carroll was high or not when he wrote it, but I think I could easily write something along those lines without being high, so I suppose he could too. This poem has special interest for me because I like words. I play with words. I bend and twist them and change them (like in some of my deliberate mispellings). There’s just something about the ANARCHY of this poem that appeals to me. Its non-conformist streak. I feel right at home amongst the verses of Jabberwocky. Yes.

    As for I am the Walrus, Lennon was another wordsmith. And he deliberately brought together disparate unrelated elements so as to confound anyone who tried to dissect this piece. He was an Anarchist too, (IMO) in spite of all his talk of PEACE.

  3. I don’t know if he was high or not, but that’s what I heard from someone who had to do a project on him for math class (somehow, he did stuff relating to math, I have no idea what, though – can’t remember 😛 ).
    Not sure if it’s non-conformist, or because he was appealing to children – they don’t know any better that you’re not supposed to mess with words.

    Anarchy can be peaceful. It SHOULD be peaceful.
    But yes.
    You can’t take it apart and analyze it. Like Cobain’s stuff!! YAY FOR AWESOME SONGMAKERS!!!! 🙂

  4. Ahahahahha…NOT THE JABBERWOCKY…WE had to do that in school…O NOES…

  5. Haven’t read this in years. Thanks for posting. Fleetwood Mac – before Stevie & Lindsey – had a live recording called “Merely A Portmanteaux” released by some bootleggers in the early seventies. Had Tennyson cover art if I recall corrubitively.

  6. “corrubitively” Why I think he’s got it! The vorpal sword award goes to my good friend Justin!

    Methinks good old Lewis had no idea how many folks he would inspire with his wordplay….

  7. According to my college professor who taught an English-lit class on Lewis Carrol — he wasn’t just high, he was Trippin’… I can believe it and I absolutely LOVE all of his works. My daughter can still recite Jabberwocky perfectly from memory…

  8. I think that was an urban legend (about Lewis Carrol being on drugs) but I dont know for sure. I can recite some of the poem from memory still…and that was over 30 years ago! Just like the Preamble to the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address! some stuff is just too good to not memorize!

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