Friday phrases: whiffling through the tulgey wood

Back to some silliness. This time, it’s Lewis Carroll’s turn.

There is plenty of silliness in Carroll – much to choose from. But what I want to include today is The Jabberwocky, his strange and wonderful poem that has even merited its own Monty Python tribute.

It is one thing to learn a poem. But the greater fun comes with the opportunity to recite it, preferably with some kind of audience to hand (even one will do).

The Jabberwocky is one I can reach for if needed. One of the great delights, when reading it aloud, is the natural crescendo through this verse (below) towards ‘burbled’.

That a terrible monster exists, we can accept. That it needs a brave knight to vanquish it – agreed. But that the terrible monster will burble, on approach, completely undercuts the fear and dread factor. It’s one of the reasons why I love it as a poem.

Many moons ago, when studying The Annotated Alice at school, I came to learn the Anglo-Saxon background to the poem – and you can too, if you want.

But in many ways, I prefer to leave behind the author’s initial intentions in writing the piece, and abandon my ears to the clash of sounds and images that Carroll conjures up.

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The Jabberwocky

“…And, as in uffish thought he stood,

The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

And burbled as it came!”

Lewis Carroll

[You can read the whole poem at the link above.]

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