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.


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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