Friday, March 03, 2006

The Walrus and The Carpenter

Lewis Carroll


The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright --
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done --
'It's very rude of him.' she said,
'To come and spoil the fun!'

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead --
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand:
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
'If this were only cleared away,'
They said, 'it would be grand.

''If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year,
Do you suppose,' the Walrus said,
'That they could get it clear?''
I doubt it,' said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

'O Oysters, come and walk with us!
The Walrus did beseech.'
A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.

'The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head --
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

Out four young Oysters hurried up.
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat --
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more --
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

'The time has come,' the Walrus said,
'To talk of many things:
Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax --
Of cabbages -- and kings --
And why the sea is boiling hot --
And whether pigs have wings.

''But wait a bit,' the Oysters cried,
'Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!'
'No hurry!' said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

'A loaf of bread,' the Walrus said,
'Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed --
Now, if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.'

'But not on us!' the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
'After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!'
'The night is fine,' the Walrus said,
'Do you admire the view?'

'It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!'
The Carpenter said nothing but
'Cut us another slice-
I wish you were not quite so deaf-
I've had to ask you twice!'

'It seems a shame,' the Walrus said,
'To play them such a trick.
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!
'The Carpenter said nothing but
'The butter's spread too thick!'

'I weep for you,'the Walrus said:
'I deeply sympathize.'
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

'O Oysters,' said the Carpenter,
'You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none --
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

One of the joys of being an early collaborator on a new poetry project is that you get to be the first one to post your favourite poems and watch other people go "Damn! I wish I'd thought of that."[1] (Mandatory Plug: You too can be an early contributor to this blog! See details here)

The Walrus and the Carpenter has to be one of the most delightful poems ever written. How many poems combine such delicious wickedness with such signing rhythm? How many poems can manage a conversational ease of tone and still make you laugh out loud? How many poems can pretend so successfully to be nothing more than a simple children's story, but manage to be so deeply, hilariously, subversive; and leave a dozen phrases planted forever in your head? This is triviality at its most exquisite, and no collection of well loved poetry can ever be complete without it.

As usual, see commentary on Minstrels here.

[1] Ludwig, don't say I didn't give you the chance.


Blogger Ludwig said...

You evil person! Stole our theme from right under our noses, my precious. Ne'ertheless, there is hope...

Didn't realize original poetry wasn't being accepted, else we could've done stirring renditions of [self dabba warning] this or this.

Maybe the original "Jabberwocky" will be presented some day. "The Walrus and The Carpenter" is just a fantastic poem. So funny and macabre, what with that laconic Carpenter and all. It is perfect in its weirdness (What in the name of all that is good and sane are a Walrus and Carpenter doing together?)

3/05/2006 08:42:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home