Jabberwock

  • “’There’s no use trying,’ said Alice. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’ ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

From the ridiculous to the sublime. My other adolescent embrace of failure was a bit less flattering. I failed both Calculus and Poetry in my Senior Year. For Honor Roll boffins who are horrified at a ‘C’ grade, and downright ‘F’ is a bit of a stretch.

Having secured my place at university, I proceeded to take two extra courses even though I had zero time in my hyper-crowded final year to do the work for them. I enjoyed the classes and enjoyed the exposure to the material, but not doing any of the work led to me failing both of them in quite spectacular fashion. The Calculus class still made life easier my freshman year at college where I sailed through Calculus with an A. And the Poetry class just broadened my horizons including my first exposure to Lewis Carroll’s ‘Jabberwock’…

  
`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.


It’s great pasting this text into a Word document as it gets lit up with the red and green squiggles of the Spell and Grammar checkers. The notion of deliberately writing a piece from nonsense words is genius. A semiotic failure that enhances its impact with its lyricism. Like watching Madame Butterfly in Italian and having no idea what is being said but still being reduced to tears through the transparent expression of the emotions.

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