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The Hunting of the Snark

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Blurb

An Agony in 8 Fits

(1876)

This nonsensical verse poem at times borrows from Carroll's "Jabberwocky"

Allegory, riddle, nonsense? Carroll himself was said to have admitted he didn't know. It can be viewed on one level as simply playing with words and rhyme. Yet there are subtle sub-texts that have baffled and delighted enthusiasts for years. Unpeeling an onion is one way of describing this work. Reading too much into a nonsense story in verse is another. Still worth a look to decide for yourself. Maybe the blank map is a clue to the real meaning. This poem is a personal journey and the map we need to populate for ourselves. Enjoy and good hunting!--Submitted by Paul Snarkhunter

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Preface
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) 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 say 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."

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