The Jabberwocky

by Lewis Carroll   1871

‘Twas brillig, and the silthy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy wre 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!
Oh, 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.

[Suggested by Timothy Lane] __________________________________________________
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6 Responses to The Jabberwocky

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Tim,

    This is the first time I have read this poem. I do not understand it. Can you clarify it for me? Thanks.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I’m afraid the only one who can explain this is Lewis Carroll — or maybe Lewis Padgett, author of the SF story “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”. (The story was voted into a tie for 7th for the Science Fiction Hall of Fame back in the 1960s. Padgett was a pseudonym for Henry Kuttner, sometimes in collaboration with his wife, C. L. Moore.)

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Thanks, I was wondering if there was some back story which would account for what is otherwise jibberish. Sounds a little like someone on LSD or some such hallucinogen.

  2. Anniel says:

    No one may know except Lewis Carroll, but I memorized this as a young child because I loved the sounds that ALMOST made sense and the rhythm was catchy. I still want to see the frumious bandersnatch just so I know what one looks like. My children would always stop what the were doing when I recited this to them.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      We had it in 6th grade and I memorized it then, though I consulted an omnibus volume of Carroll’s writing to get the punctuation right.

  3. Anniel says:

    Timothy – My youngest daughter just called and we discussed this poem in light of those things that cannot be translated from one language to another. We were laughing about trying to translate this and if it’s ever been tried in any language. And what we miss because no one can translate something great in another language into English. Her love of Haiku makes her gnash her teeth over bad translations.

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