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Writing Thoughts

The Jabberwocky

By April 6, 20134 Comments

It’s shaping up to be a beautiful weekend in Madison. Friday night, we went to the Church of Damn Good Music, otherwise known as the RiverRoots Kick-Off Event featuring The Black Lillies. More about that on Madison Monday. This afternoon we took in A Garden Affair–a fundraiser for the Lanier Mansion–where we had chilled strawberry soup and heard all about container gardening. Then I weeded, mulched, mowed and planted some arugula and kale in the backyard. Now I’m exhausted and ready for poetry.

I was one of those kids who memorized poetry just for the heck of it, though I tried to keep this to myself as much as possible. It is not the kind of thing that makes you particularly popular. One of the first poems I ever memorized was The Jabberwocky. In fact, I can’t really remember ever not having this poem memorized.

So I also cannot remember the first time I read this poem, though there’s a good chance that seeing it acted out on The Muppet Show might have been what led me to it.

There are several words listed  in the pages of English dictionaries now because of The Jabberwocky and Lewis Carroll.  “Chortle” is my favorite among them–completely invented by Carroll. How cool would it be to find your name in the dictionary explaining the etymology of a word?

The Jabberwocky


by 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 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.


  • Kate says:

    Wow, no wonder we’re friends, this is one of the first poems I ever memorized also. I used to recite at night in bed, to annoy my sister.

  • Valecia Crisafulli says:

    Okay, this is way too weird, beyond the GA connection. I can still recite Jabberwocky by heart. Just ask me, and it doesn’t take too much arm twisting. The revelation for me came when I was asked to come to both of my sons’ 6th grade classes when they were introduced to Lewis Carroll and the Jabberwock. How different the experience was for our two kids when their teacher asked me to perform this. Our older son Nick, now a theatre professor at Franklin College, was so proud. Our younger son Alex, an attorney with the Justice Department in DC, buried his head in his desk. Hey, I think I can still do this pretty well. But it’s been a defining moment for our family ever since. Thanks for writing about this, Robyn. Can’t believe it. See you soon.

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