|The Hunting of the Snark|
Ifand the thing is wildly possiblethe charge of writing nonsense were ever brought against the author of this brief but instructive poem, it would be based, I feel convinced, on the line
Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes:
In view of this painful possibility, I will not (as I might) appeal indignantly to my other writings as a proof that I am incapable of such a deed: I will not (as I might) point to the strong moral purpose of this poem itself, to the arithmetical principles so cautiously inculcated in it, or to its noble teachings in Natural HistoryI will take the more prosaic course of simply explaining how it happened.
The Bellman, who was almost morbidly sensitive about appearances, used to have the bowsprit unshipped once or twice a week to be revarnished; and it more than once happened, when the time came for replacing it, that no one on board could remember which end of the ship it belonged to.
|FIT THE FIRST:
[...] I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.
The Bellmans Speech
Whats the good of Mercators North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
They are merely conventional signs!
Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
But we've got our brave Captain to thank
(So the crew would protest) that he's bought us the best
A perfect and absolute blank!
|FIT THE THIRD:
The Bakers Tale
But oh, beamish nephew, beware of the day,
If your Snark be a Boojum! For then
You will softly and suddenly vanish away,
And never be met with again!
It is this, it is this that oppresses my soul,
When I think of my uncles last words:
And my heart is like nothing so much as a bowl
Brimming over with quivering curds!
|FIT THE FOURTH:
To seek it with thimbles, to seek it with care;
To pursue it with forks and hope;
To threaten its life with a railway-share;
To charm it with smiles and soap!
For the Snarks a peculiar creature, that wont
Be caught in a commonplace way.
Do all that you know, and try all that you dont:
Not a chance must be wasted to-day!
For England expectsI forbear to proceed:
Tis a maxim tremendous, but trite:
And youd best be unpacking the things that you need
To rig yourselves out for the fight.
|FIT THE FIFTH:
The Beavers Lesson
Taking Three as the subject to reason about
A convenient number to state
We add Seven, and Ten, and then multiply out
By One Thousand diminished by Eight.
The result we proceed to divide, as you see,
By Nine Hundred and Ninety and Two:
Then subtract Seventeen, and the answer must be
Exactly and perfectly true.
The method employed I would gladly explain,
While I have it so clear in my head,
If I had but the time and you had but the brain
But much yet remains to be said.
text checked (note V) Feb '05
Background graphic copyright © 2003 by Hal Keen