The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Hunting of the Snark, by Lewis Carroll
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Title: The Hunting of the Snark
An Agony in Eight Fits
Author: Lewis Carroll
Posting Date: June 25, 2008 [EBook #13]
Release Date: March 8, 1992
Character set encoding: ASCII
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK ***
THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK
THE MILLENNIUM FULCRUM EDITION 1.2
THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK
an Agony in Eight Fits
If--and the thing is wildly possible--the charge of writing nonsense
were ever brought against the author of this brief but instructive
poem, it would be based, I feel convinced, on the line (in p.4)
"Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes."
In view of this painful possibility, I will not (as I might) appeal
indignantly to my other writings as a proof that I am incapable of
such a deed: I will not (as I might) point to the strong moral purpose
of this poem itself, to the arithmetical principles so cautiously
inculcated in it, or to its noble teachings in Natural History--I will
take the more prosaic course of simply explaining how it happened.
The Bellman, who was almost morbidly sensitive about appearances, used
to have the bowsprit unshipped once or twice a week to be revarnished,
and it more than once happened, when the time came for replacing it,
that no one on board could remember which end of the ship it belonged
to. They knew it was not of the slightest use to appeal to the Bellman
about it--he would only refer to his Naval Code, and read out in
pathetic tones Admiralty Instructions which none of them had ever been
able to understand--so it generally ended in its being fastened on,
anyhow, across the rudder. The helmsman used to stand by with tears in
his eyes; he knew it was all wrong, but alas! Rule 42 of the Code, "No
one shall speak to the Man at the Helm," had been completed by the
Bellman himself with the words "and the Man at the Helm shall speak to
no one." So remonstrance was impossible, and no steering could be done
till the next varnishing day. During these bewildering intervals the
ship usually sailed backwards.
As this poem is to some extent connected with the lay of the Jabberwock,
let me take this opportunity of answering a question that has often been
asked me, how to pronounce "slithy toves." The "i" in "slithy" is long,
as in "writhe"; and "toves" is pronounced so as to rhyme with "groves."
Again, the first "o" in "borogoves" is pronounced like the "o" in
"borrow." I have heard people try to give it the sound of the "o" in
"worry". Such is Human Perversity.
This also seems a fitting occasion to notice the other hard works in
that poem. Humpty-Dumpty's theory, of two meanings packed into one word
like a portmanteau, seems to me the right explanation for all.
For instance, take the two words "fuming" and "furious." Make up your
mind that you will say both words, but leave it unsettled which you will
first. Now open your mouth and speak. If your thoughts incline
ever so little towards "fuming," you will say "fuming-furious;" if they
turn, by even a hair's breadth, towards "furious," you will say
"furious-fuming;" but if you have the rarest of gifts, a perfectly
balanced mind, you will say "frumious."
Supposing that, when Pistol uttered the well-known words--
"Under which king, Bezonian? Speak or die!"
Justice Shallow had felt certain that it was either William or Richard,
but had not been able to settle which, so that he could not possibly say
either name before the other, can it be doubted that, rather than die,
he would have gasped out "Rilchiam!"
Fit the First
"Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.
"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true."
The crew was complete: it included a Boots--
A maker of Bonnets and Hoods--
A Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes--
And a Broker, to value their goods.
A Billiard-marker, whose skill was immense,
Might perhaps have won more than his share--
But a Banker, engaged at enormous expense,
Had the whole of their cash in his care.
There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck,
Or would sit making lace in the bow:
And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck,
Though none of the sailors knew how.
There was one who was famed for the number of things
He forgot when he entered the ship:
His umbrella, his watch, all his jewels and rings,
And the clothes he had bought for the trip.
He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
With his name painted clearly on each:
But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
They were all left behind on the beach.
The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because
He had seven coats on when he came,
With three pairs of boots--but the worst of it was,
He had wholly forgotten his name.
He would answer to "Hi!" or to any loud cry,
Such as "Fry me!" or "Fritter my wig!"
To "What-you-may-call-um!" or "What-was-his-name!"
But especially "Thing-um-a-jig!"
While, for those who preferred a more forcible word,
He had different names from these:
His intimate friends called him "Candle-ends,"
And his enemies "Toasted-cheese."
"His form is ungainly--his intellect small--"
(So the Bellman would often remark)
"But his courage is perfect! And that, after all,
Is the thing that one needs with a Snark."
He would joke with hyenas, returning their stare
With an impudent wag of the head:
And he once went a walk, paw-in-paw, with a bear,
"Just to keep up its spirits," he said.
He came as a Baker: but owned, when too late--
And it drove the poor Bellman half-mad--
He could only bake Bridecake--for which, I may state,
No materials were to be had.
The last of the crew needs especial remark,
Though he looked an incredible dunce:
He had just one idea--but, that one being "Snark,"
The good Bellman engaged him at once.
He came as a Butcher: but gravely declared,
When the ship had been sailing a week,
He could only kill Beavers. The Bellman looked scared,
And was almost too frightened to speak:
But at length he explained, in a tremulous tone,
There was only one Beaver on board;
And that was a tame one he had of his own,