Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Manxsome foes

If I had to pick an all time favorite poem, it's got to be "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Caroll. I think that people who have done a lot of work to find history and usage for the words are amazing, but I think that we have to make sure not to get stuck in that as the only way we examine the poem. What I love is how it doesn't just have that level of purposeful indeterminacy that I'm always on about, but that it is built on that principle. It can mean whatever you want it to mean. In keeping with that, here's the poem: read it out loud to yourself, then read it out loud to yourself some way that makes you feel embarassed, a way that you're happy no one can hear you perform it. Because it's meant to perform. After the poem, I found some performances that make me smile; maybe you'll like them, too.

Jabberwocky

'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 hast 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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A really interesting reading.



The famous Kate Burton version from the 1983 film "Alice in Wonderland" from the "Great Performances" TV series. What it loses in expression, it gains in creepiness, I think.



The more famous sung version by Donovan.



This is probably the best recitation I've ever heard.

2 comments:

wendy said...

I'm one of M's friends...Did you know composer Lee Hoiby set this to music? It is a very interesting and challenging American Art Song. I have not sung it myself but a colleague of mine has and it was very difficult for her..as most Hoiby pieces are. You would youtube it.

J. Campbell said...

thanks for the heads-up! I'll look for it!