founding text

Yesterday, between a full day of events on the stage of the San Carlos and going to drink and nosh amongst Seward Johnson’s life-size 3-D recreations of Impressionist paintings at the Custom House, I stopped at home to walk the dog. I couldn’t resist pulling out my copy of Joyce Carol Oates’ “The Faith of a Writer” and went to her essay “First Loves: From ‘Jabberwocky’ to ‘After Apple Picking.'” She writes there that Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” is “considered the greatest nonsense poem in English.” It’s one of the only poems I memorized as a kid. I distinctly remember throwing a softball back and forth with my older sister (named, um, Alice) and every time I dropped the ball I had to start over from the beginning. It was an effective learning technique, or maybe I just wasn’t very good at softball.
Anyway, here it is:
Jabberwocky
Lewis Carroll
`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, has 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.

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