The Hunting of the Snark

The Hunting of the Snark

Original Text

Lewis Carroll. The Hunting of the Snark. Illustrated by Henry Holiday. Ed. James Tanis and John Dolley. Los Altos, CA: William Kaufman, Inc., in cooperation with Bryn Mawr College Library, 1981. ROBA PR 4611 H8 1981



an Agony,
in Eight Fits.






[The Right of Translation and Reproduction is Reserved.]

Inscribed to a dear Child:
in memory of golden summer hours
and whispers of a summer sea.
Girt with a boyish garb for boyish task,
   Eager she wields her spade; yet loves as well
Rest on a friendly knee, intent to ask
   The tale he loves to tell.
Rude spirits of the seething outer strife,
   Unmeet to read her pure and simple spright,
Deem, if you list, such hours a waste of life,
   Empty of all delight!
Chat on, sweet Maid, and rescue from annoy
   Hearts that by wiser talk are unbeguiled.
Ah, happy he who owns that tenderest joy,
   The heart-love of a child!
Away, fond thoughts, and vex my soul no more!
   Work claims my wakeful nights, my busy days--
Albeit bright memories of that sunlit shore
   Yet haunt my dreaming gaze!
If--and the thing is wildly possible--the 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 (in p.18)
"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
History--I 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. They knew it was not of the slightest use
to appeal to the Bellman about it--he would only
refer to his Naval Code, and read out in pathetic tones
Admiralty Instructions which none of them had ever
been able to understand--so it generally ended in
its being fastened on, anyhow, across the rudder. The
helmsman* used to stand by with tears in his eyes; he
*This office was usually undertaken by the Boots, who found in it
a refuge from the Baker's constant complaints about the insufficient
blacking of his three pair of boots.
knew it was all wrong, but alas! Rule 42 of the Code,
"No one shall speak to the Man at the Helm," had been
completed by the Bellman himself with the words "and
the Man at the Helm shall speak to no one." So remon{\-}
strance was impossible, and no steering could be done
till the next varnishing day. During these bewildering
intervals the ship usually sailed backwards.
As this poem is to some extent connected with the
lay of the Jabberwock, let me take this opportunity
of answering a question that has often been asked me,
how to pronounce "slithy toves." The "i" in "slithy"
is long, as in "writhe"; and "toves" is pronounced so
as to rhyme with "groves." Again, the first "o" in
"borogoves" is pronounced like the "o" in "borrow."
I have heard people try to give it the sound of the
"o" in "worry." Such is Human Perversity.
This also seems a fitting occasion to notice the other
hard works in that poem. Humpty-Dumpty's theory,
of two meanings packed into one word like a port{\-}
manteau, seems to me the right explanation for all.
For instance, take the two words "fuming" and
"furious." Make up your mind that you will say both
words, but leave it unsettled which you will say first.
Now open your mouth and speak. If your thoughts
incline ever so little towards "fuming," you will say
"fuming-furious;" if they turn, by even a hair's breadth,
towards "furious," you will say "furious-fuming;" but
if you have that rarest of gifts, a perfectly balanced
mind, you will say "frumious."
Supposing that, when Pistol uttered the well-known
"Under which king, Bezonian? Speak or die!"
Justice Shallow had felt certain that it was either
William or Richard, but had not been able to settle
which, so that he could not possibly say either name
before the other, can it be doubted that, rather than
die, he would have gasped out "Rilchiam!"
Fit the First. The Landing . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Fit the Second. The Bellman's Speech . . . . . . . 15
Fit the Third. The Baker's Tale . . . . . . . . . . 27
Fit the Fourth. The Hunting . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
Fit the Fifth. The Beaver's Lesson . . . . . . . . 47
Fit the Sixth. The Barrister's Dream . . . . . . . 61
Fit the Seventh. The Banker's Fate . . . . . . . . 71
Fit the Eighth. The Vanishing . . . . . . . . . . . 79
Fit the First.
1"Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried,
2    As he landed his crew with care;
3Supporting each man on the top of the tide
4    By a finger entwined in his hair.
5"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
6    That alone should encourage the crew.
7Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
8    What I tell you three times is true."
9The crew was complete: it included a Boots--
10    A maker of Bonnets and Hoods--
11A Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes--
12    And a Broker, to value their goods.
13A Billiard-marker, whose skill was immense,
14    Might perhaps have won more than his share--
15But a Banker, engaged at enormous expense,
16    Had the whole of their cash in his care.
17There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck,
18    Or would sit making lace in the bow:
19And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck,
20    Though none of the sailors knew how.
21There was one who was famed for the number of things
22    He forgot when he entered the ship:
23His umbrella, his watch, all his jewels and rings,
24    And the clothes he had bought for the trip.
25He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
26    With his name painted clearly on each:
27But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
28    They were all left behind on the beach.
29The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because
30    He had seven coats on when he came,
31With three pair of boots--but the worst of it was,
32    He had wholly forgotten his name.
33He would answer to "Hi!" or to any loud cry,
34    Such as "Fry me!" or "Fritter my wig!"
35To "What-you-may-call-um!" or "What-was-his-name!"
36    But especially "Thing-um-a-jig!"
37While, for those who preferred a more forcible word,
38    He had different names from these:
39His intimate friends called him "Candle-ends,"
40    And his enemies "Toasted-cheese."
41"His form in ungainly--his intellect small--"
42    (So the Bellman would often remark)
43"But his courage is perfect! And that, after all,
44    Is the thing that one needs with a Snark."
45He would joke with hy{ae}nas, returning their stare
46    With an impudent wag of the head:
47And he once went a walk, paw-in-paw, with a bear,
48    "Just to keep up its spirits," he said.
49He came as a Baker: but owned, when too late--
50    And it drove the poor Bellman half-mad--
51He could only bake Bridecake--for which, I may state,
52    No materials were to be had.
53The last of the crew needs especial remark,
54    Though he looked an incredible dunce:
55He had just one idea--but, that one being "Snark,"
56    The good Bellman engaged him at once.
57He came as a Butcher: but gravely declared,
58    When the ship had been sailing a week,
59He could only kill Beavers. The Bellman looked scared,
60    And was almost too frightened to speak:
61But at length he explained, in a tremulous tone,
62    There was only one Beaver on board;
63And that was a tame one he had of his own,
64    Whose death would be deeply deplored.
65The Beaver, who happened to hear the remark,
66    Protested, with tears in its eyes,
67That not even the rapture of hunting the Snark
68    Could atone for that dismal surprise!
69It strongly advised that the Butcher should be
70    Conveyed in a separate ship:
71But the Bellman declared that would never agree
72    With the plans he had made for the trip:
73Navigation was always a difficult art,
74    Though with only one ship and one bell:
75And he feared he must really decline, for his part,
76    Undertaking another as well.
77The Beaver's best course was, no doubt, to procure
78    A second-hand dagger-proof coat--
79So the Baker advised it-- and next, to insure
80    Its life in some Office of note:
81This the Banker suggested, and offered for hire
82    (On moderate terms), or for sale,
83Two excellent Policies, one Against Fire,
84    And one Against Damage From Hail.
85Yet still, ever after that sorrowful day,
86    Whenever the Butcher was by,
87The Beaver kept looking the opposite way,
88    And appeared unaccountably shy.
Fit the Second.
89The Bellman himself they all praised to the skies--
90    Such a carriage, such ease and such grace!
91Such solemnity, too! One could see he was wise,
92    The moment one looked in his face!
93He had bought a large map representing the sea,
94    Without the least vestige of land:
95And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
96    A map they could all understand.
97"What's the good of Mercator's North Poles and Equators,
98    Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?"
99So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
100    "They are merely conventional signs!
101"Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
102    But we've got our brave Captain to thank
103(So the crew would protest) "that he's bought us the best--
104    A perfect and absolute blank!"
105This was charming, no doubt; but they shortly found out
106    That the Captain they trusted so well
107Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
108    And that was to tingle his bell.
109He was thoughtful and grave--but the orders he gave
110    Were enough to bewilder a crew.
111When he cried "Steer to starboard, but keep her head larboard!"
112    What on earth was the helmsman to do?
113Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes:
114    A thing, as the Bellman remarked,
115That frequently happens in tropical climes,
116    When a vessel is, so to speak, "snarked."
117But the principal failing occurred in the sailing,
118    And the Bellman, perplexed and distressed,
119Said he had hoped, at least, when the wind blew due East,
120    That the ship would not travel due West!
121But the danger was past--they had landed at last,
122    With their boxes, portmanteaus, and bags:
123Yet at first sight the crew were not pleased with the view,
124    Which consisted to chasms and crags.
125The Bellman perceived that their spirits were low,
126    And repeated in musical tone
127Some jokes he had kept for a season of woe--
128    But the crew would do nothing but groan.
129He served out some grog with a liberal hand,
130    And bade them sit down on the beach:
131And they could not but own that their Captain looked grand,
132    As he stood and delivered his speech.
133"Friends, Romans, and countrymen, lend me your ears!"
134    (They were all of them fond of quotations:
135So they drank to his health, and they gave him three cheers,
136    While he served out additional rations).
137"We have sailed many months, we have sailed many weeks,
138    (Four weeks to the month you may mark),
139But never as yet ('tis your Captain who speaks)
140    Have we caught the least glimpse of a Snark!
141"We have sailed many weeks, we have sailed many days,
142    (Seven days to the week I allow),
143But a Snark, on the which we might lovingly gaze,
144    We have never beheld till now!
145"Come, listen, my men, while I tell you again
146    The five unmistakable marks
147By which you may know, wheresoever you go,
148    The warranted genuine Snarks.
149"Let us take them in order. The first is the taste,
150    Which is meagre and hollow, but crisp:
151Like a coat that is rather too tight in the waist,
152    With a flavour of Will-o-the-wisp.
153"Its habit of getting up late you'll agree
154    That it carries too far, when I say
155That it frequently breakfasts at five-o'clock tea,
156    And dines on the following day.
157"The third is its slowness in taking a jest.
158    Should you happen to venture on one,
159It will sigh like a thing that is deeply distressed:
160    And it always looks grave at a pun.
161"The fourth is its fondness for bathing-machines,
162    Which is constantly carries about,
163And believes that they add to the beauty of scenes--
164    A sentiment open to doubt.
165"The fifth is ambition. It next will be right
166    To describe each particular batch:
167Distinguishing those that have feathers, and bite,
168    From those that have whiskers, and scratch.
169"For, although common Snarks do no manner of harm,
170    Yet, I feel it my duty to say,
171Some are Boojums--" The Bellman broke off in alarm,
172    For the Baker had fainted away.
Fit the Third.
173They roused him with muffins--they roused him with ice--
174    They roused him with mustard and cress--
175They roused him with jam and judicious advice--
176    They set him conundrums to guess.
177When at length he sat up and was able to speak,
178    His sad story he offered to tell;
179And the Bellman cried "Silence! Not even a shriek!"
180    And excitedly tingled his bell.
181There was silence supreme! Not a shriek, not a scream,
182    Scarcely even a howl or a groan,
183As the man they called "Ho!" told his story of woe
184    In an antediluvian tone.
185"My father and mother were honest, though poor--"
186    "Skip all that!" cried the Bellman in haste.
187"If it once becomes dark, there's no chance of a Snark--
188    We have hardly a minute to waste!"
189"I skip forty years," said the Baker, in tears,
190    "And proceed without further remark
191To the day when you took me aboard of your ship
192    To help you in hunting the Snark.
193"A dear uncle of mine (after whom I was named)
194    Remarked, when I bade him farewell--"
195"Oh, skip your dear uncle!" the Bellman exclaimed,
196    As he angrily tingled his bell.
197"He remarked to me then," said that mildest of men,
198    " 'If your Snark be a Snark, that is right:
199Fetch it home by all means--you may serve it with greens,
200    And it's handy for striking a light.
201" 'You may seek it with thimbles--and seek it with care;
202    You may hunt it with forks and hope;
203You may threaten its life with a railway-share;
204    You may charm it with smiles and soap--' "
205("That's exactly the method," the Bellman bold
206    In a hasty parenthesis cried,
207"That's exactly the way I have always been told
208    That the capture of Snarks should be tried!")
209" 'But oh, beamish nephew, beware of the day,
210    If your Snark be a Boojum! For then
211You will softly and suddenly vanish away,
212    And never be met with again!'
213"It is this, it is this that oppresses my soul,
214    When I think of my uncle's last words:
215And my heart is like nothing so much as a bowl
216    Brimming over with quivering curds!
217"It is this, it is this--" "We have had that before!"
218    The Bellman indignantly said.
219And the Baker replied "Let me say it once more.
220    It is this, it is this that I dread!
221"I engage with the Snark--every night after dark--
222    In a dreamy delirious fight:
223I serve it with greens in those shadowy scenes,
224    And I use it for striking a light:
225"But if ever I meet with a Boojum, that day,
226    In a moment (of this I am sure),
227I shall softly and suddenly vanish away--
228    And the notion I cannot endure!"
Fit the fourth.
229The Bellman looked uffish, and wrinkled his brow.
230    "If only you'd spoken before!
231It's excessively awkward to mention it now,
232    With the Snark, so to speak, at the door!
233"We should all of us grieve, as you well may believe,
234    If you never were met with again--
235But surely, my man, when the voyage began,
236    You might have suggested it then?
237"It's excessively awkward to mention it now--
238    As I think I've already remarked."
239And the man they called "Hi!" replied, with a sigh,
240    "I informed you the day we embarked.
241"You may charge me with murder--or want of sense--
242    (We are all of us weak at times):
243But the slightest approach to a false pretence
244    Was never among my crimes!
245"I said it in Hebrew--I said it in Dutch--
246    I said it in German and Greek:
247But I wholly forgot (and it vexes me much)
248    That English is what you speak!"
249"'Tis a pitiful tale," said the Bellman, whose face
250    Had grown longer at every word:
251"But, now that you've stated the whole of your case,
252    More debate would be simply absurd.
253"The rest of my speech" (he explained to his men)
254    "You shall hear when I've leisure to speak it.
255But the Snark is at hand, let me tell you again!
256    'Tis your glorious duty to seek it!
257"To seek it with thimbles, to seek it with care;
258    To pursue it with forks and hope;
259To threaten its life with a railway-share;
260    To charm it with smiles and soap!
261"For the Snark's a peculiar creature, that won't
262    Be caught in a commonplace way.
263Do all that you know, and try all that you don't:
264    Not a chance must be wasted to-day!
265"For England expects--I forbear to proceed:
266    'Tis a maxim tremendous, but trite:
267And you'd best be unpacking the things that you need
268    To rig yourselves out for the fight."
269Then the Banker endorsed a blank check (which he crossed),
270    And changed his loose silver for notes.
271The Baker with care combed his whiskers and hair,
272    And shook the dust out of his coats.
273The Boots and the Broker were sharpening a spade--
274    Each working the grindstone in turn:
275But the Beaver went on making lace, and displayed
276    No interest in the concern:
277Though the Barrister tried to appeal to its pride,
278    And vainly proceeded to cite
279A number of cases, in which making laces
280    Had been proved an infringement of right.
281The maker of Bonnets ferociously planned
282    A novel arrangement of bows:
283While the Billiard-marker with quivering hand
284    Was chalking the tip of his nose.
285But the Butcher turned nervous, and dressed himself fine,
286    With yellow kid gloves and a ruff--
287Said he felt it exactly like going to dine,
288    Which the Bellman declared was all "stuff."
289"Introduce me, now there's a good fellow," he said,
290    "If we happen to meet it together!"
291And the Bellman, sagaciously nodding his head,
292    Said "That must depend on the weather."
293The Beaver went simply galumphing about,
294    At seeing the Butcher so shy:
295And even the Baker, though stupid and stout,
296    Made an effort to wink with one eye.
297"Be a man!" said the Bellman in wrath, as he heard
298    The Butcher beginning to sob.
299"Should we meet with a Jubjub, that desperate bird,
300    We shall need all our strength for the job!"
Fit the Fifth.
301They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
302    They pursued it with forks and hope;
303They threatened its life with a railway-share;
304    They charmed it with smiles and soap.
305Then the Butcher contrived an ingenious plan
306    For making a separate sally;
307And had fixed on a spot unfrequented by man,
308    A dismal and desolate valley.
309But the very same plan to the Beaver occurred:
310    It had chosen the very same place:
311Yet neither betrayed, by a sign or a word,
312    The disgust that appeared in his face.
313Each thought he was thinking of nothing but "Snark"
314    And the glorious work of the day;
315And each tried to pretend that he did not remark
316    That the other was going that way.
317But the valley grew narrow and narrower still,
318    And the evening got darker and colder,
319Till (merely from nervousness, not from goodwill)
320    They marched along shoulder to shoulder.
321Then a scream, shrill and high, rent the shuddering sky,
322    And they knew that some danger was near:
323The Beaver turned pale to the tip of its tail,
324    And even the Butcher felt queer.
325He thought of his childhood, left far far behind--
326    That blissful and innocent state--
327The sound so exactly recalled to his mind
328    A pencil that squeaks on a slate!
329"'Tis the voice of the Jubjub!" he suddenly cried.
330    (This man, that they used to call "Dunce.")
331"As the Bellman would tell you," he added with pride,
332    "I have uttered that sentiment once.
333"'Tis the note of the Jubjub! Keep count, I entreat;
334    You will find I have told it you twice.
335Tis the song of the Jubjub! The proof is complete,
336    If only I've stated it thrice."
337The Beaver had counted with scrupulous care,
338    Attending to every word:
339But it fairly lost heart, and outgrabe in despair,
340    When the third repetition occurred.
341It felt that, in spite of all possible pains,
342    It had somehow contrived to lose count,
343And the only thing now was to rack its poor brains
344    By reckoning up the amount.
345"Two added to one--if that could but be done,"
346    It said, "with one's fingers and thumbs!"
347Recollecting with tears how, in earlier years,
348    It had taken no pains with its sums.
349"The thing can be done," said the Butcher, "I think.
350    The thing must be done, I am sure.
351The thing shall be done! Bring me paper and ink,
352    The best there is time to procure."
353The Beaver brought paper, portfolio, pens,
354    And ink in unfailing supplies:
355While strange creepy creatures came out of their dens,
356    And watched them with wondering eyes.
357So engrossed was the Butcher, he heeded them not,
358    As he wrote with a pen in each hand,
359And explained all the while in a popular style
360    Which the Beaver could well understand.
361"Taking Three as the subject to reason about--
362    A convenient number to state--
363We add Seven, and Ten, and then multiply out
364    By One Thousand diminished by Eight.
365"The result we proceed to divide, as you see,
366    By Nine Hundred and Ninety and Two:
367Then subtract Seventeen, and the answer must be
368    Exactly and perfectly true.
369"The method employed I would gladly explain,
370    While I have it so clear in my head,
371If I had but the time and you had but the brain--
372    But much yet remains to be said.
373"In one moment I've seen what has hitherto been
374    Enveloped in absolute mystery,
375And without extra charge I will give you at large
376    A Lesson in Natural History."
377In his genial way he proceeded to say
378    (Forgetting all laws of propriety,
379And that giving instruction, without introduction,
380    Would have caused quite a thrill in Society),
381"As to temper the Jubjub's a desperate bird,
382    Since it lives in perpetual passion:
383Its taste in costume is entirely absurd--
384    It is ages ahead of the fashion:
385"But it knows any friend it has met once before:
386    It never will look at a bribe:
387And in charity-meetings it stands at the door,
388    And collects--though it does not subscribe.
389"Its flavour when cooked is more exquisite far
390    Than mutton, or oysters, or eggs:
391(Some think it keeps best in an ivory jar,
392    And some, in mahogany kegs:)
393"You boil it in sawdust: you salt it in glue:
394    You condense it with locusts and tape:
395Still keeping one principal object in view--
396    To preserve its symmetrical shape."
397The Butcher would gladly have talked till next day,
398    But he felt that the Lesson must end,
399And he wept with delight in attempting to say
400    He considered the Beaver his friend.
401While the Beaver confessed, with affectionate looks
402    More eloquent even than tears,
403It had learned in ten minutes far more than all books
404    Would have taught it in seventy years.
405They returned hand-in-hand, and the Bellman, unmanned
406    (For a moment) with noble emotion,
407Said "This amply repays all the wearisome days
408    We have spent on the billowy ocean!"
409Such friends, as the Beaver and Butcher became,
410    Have seldom if ever been known;
411In winter or summer, 'twas always the same--
412    You could never meet either alone.
413And when quarrels arose--as one frequently finds
414    Quarrels will, spite of every endeavour--
415The song of the Jubjub recurred to their minds,
416    And cemented their friendship for ever!
Fit the Sixth.
417They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
418    They pursued it with forks and hope;
419They threatened its life with a railway-share;
420    They charmed it with smiles and soap.
421But the Barrister, weary of proving in vain
422    That the Beaver's lace-making was wrong,
423Fell asleep, and in dreams saw the creature quite plain
424    That his fancy had dwelt on so long.
425He dreamed that he stood in a shadowy Court,
426    Where the Snark, with a glass in its eye,
427Dressed in gown, bands, and wig, was defending a pig
428    On the charge of deserting its sty.
429The Witnesses proved, without error or flaw,
430    That the sty was deserted when found:
431And the Judge kept explaining the state of the law
432    In a soft under-current of sound.
433The indictment had never been clearly expressed,
434    And it seemed that the Snark had begun,
435And had spoken three hours, before any one guessed
436    What the pig was supposed to have done.
437The Jury had each formed a different view
438    (Long before the indictment was read),
439And they all spoke at once, so that none of them knew
440    One word that the others had said.
441"You must know ---" said the Judge: but the Snark exclaimed "Fudge!"
442    That statute is obsolete quite!
443Let me tell you, my friends, the whole question depends
444    On an ancient manorial right.
445"In the matter of Treason the pig would appear
446    To have aided, but scarcely abetted:
447While the charge of Insolvency fails, it is clear,
448    If you grant the plea 'never indebted.'
449"The fact of Desertion I will not dispute;
450    But its guilt, as I trust, is removed
451(So far as relates to the costs of this suit)
452    By the Alibi which has been proved.
453"My poor client's fate now depends on your votes."
454    Here the speaker sat down in his place,
455And directed the Judge to refer to his notes
456    And briefly to sum up the case.
457But the Judge said he never had summed up before;
458    So the Snark undertook it instead,
459And summed it so well that it came to far more
460    Than the Witnesses ever had said!
461When the verdict was called for, the Jury declined,
462    As the word was so puzzling to spell;
463But they ventured to hope that the Snark wouldn't mind
464    Undertaking that duty as well.
465So the Snark found the verdict, although, as it owned,
466    It was spent with the toils of the day:
467When it said the word "GUILTY!" the Jury all groaned,
468    And some of them fainted away.
469Then the Snark pronounced sentence, the Judge being quite
470    Too nervous to utter a word:
471When it rose to its feet, there was silence like night,
472    And the fall of a pin might be heard.
473"Transportation for life" was the sentence it gave,
474    "And then to be fined forty pound."
475The Jury all cheered, though the Judge said he feared
476    That the phrase was not legally sound.
477But their wild exultation was suddenly checked
478    When the jailer informed them, with tears,
479Such a sentence would have not the slightest effect,
480    As the pig had been dead for some years.
481The Judge left the Court, looking deeply disgusted:
482    But the Snark, though a little aghast,
483As the lawyer to whom the defence was intrusted,
484    Went bellowing on to the last.
485Thus the Barrister dreamed, while the bellowing seemed
486    To grow every moment more clear:
487Till he woke to the knell of a furious bell,
488    Which the Bellman rang close at his ear.
Fit the Seventh.
489They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
490    They pursued it with forks and hope;
491They threatened its life with a railway-share;
492    They charmed it with smiles and soap.
493And the Banker, inspired with a courage so new
494    It was matter for general remark,
495Rushed madly ahead and was lost to their view
496    In his zeal to discover the Snark
497But while he was seeking with thimbles and care,
498    A Bandersnatch swiftly drew nigh
499And grabbed at the Banker, who shrieked in despair,
500    For he knew it was useless to fly.
501He offered large discount--he offered a cheque
502    (Drawn "to bearer") for seven-pounds-ten:
503But the Bandersnatch merely extended its neck
504    And grabbed at the Banker again.
505Without rest or pause--while those frumious jaws
506    Went savagely snapping around--
507He skipped and he hopped, and he floundered and flopped,
508    Till fainting he fell to the ground.
509The Bandersnatch fled as the others appeared
510    Led on by that fear-stricken yell:
511And the Bellman remarked "It is just as I feared!"
512    And solemnly tolled on his bell.
513He was black in the face, and they scarcely could trace
514    The least likeness to what he had been:
515While so great was his fright that his waistcoat turned white--
516    A wonderful thing to be seen!
517To the horror of all who were present that day,
518    He uprose in full evening dress,
519And with senseless grimaces endeavoured to say
520    What his tongue could no longer express.
521Down he sank in a chair--ran his hands through his hair--
522    And chanted in mimsiest tones
523Words whose utter inanity proved his insanity,
524    While he rattled a couple of bones.
525"Leave him here to his fate--it is getting so late!"
526    The Bellman exclaimed in a fright.
527"We have lost half the day. Any further delay,
528    And we sha'nt catch a Snark before night!"
Fit the Eighth.
529They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
530    They pursued it with forks and hope;
531They threatened its life with a railway-share;
532    They charmed it with smiles and soap.
533They shuddered to think that the chase might fail,
534    And the Beaver, excited at last,
535Went bounding along on the tip of its tail,
536    For the daylight was nearly past.
537"There is Thingumbob shouting!" the Bellman said,
538    "He is shouting like mad, only hark!
539He is waving his hands, he is wagging his head,
540    He has certainly found a Snark!"
541They gazed in delight, while the Butcher exclaimed
542    "He was always a desperate wag!"
543They beheld him--their Baker--their hero unnamed--
544    On the top of a neighbouring crag,
545Erect and sublime, for one moment of time
546    In the next, that wild figure they saw
547(As if stung by a spasm) plunge into a chasm,
548    While they waited and listened in awe.
549"It's a Snark!" was the sound that first came to their ears,
550    And seemed almost too good to be true.
551Then followed a torrent of laughter and cheers:
552    Then the ominous words "It's a Boo-"
553Then, silence. Some fancied they heard in the air
554    A weary and wandering sigh
555Then sounded like "-jum!" but the others declare
556    It was only a breeze that went by.
557They hunted till darkness came on, but they found
558    Not a button, or feather, or mark,
559By which they could tell that they stood on the ground
560    Where the Baker had met with the Snark.
561In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
562    In the midst of his laughter and glee,
563He had softly and suddenly vanished away---
564    For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

Publication Start Year
RPO poem Editors
Ian Lancashire