The Hunting of the Snark

An Agony in Eight Fits by Lewis Carroll
With nine illustrations by Henry Holiday

modified from eBooks@Adelaide
2009-01-20, Götz Kluge added: Easter Greeting, Carroll's dedication to Gertrude Chataway,
line numbering and better images.
(The cover image is an assemblage by Götz Kluge
based on artwork by C. Martens & T. Landseer, H. Holiday & J. Swain.)
Last update: 2024-06-19.

This is a mirrored and modified web edition
of a file which originally has been published by eBooks@Adelaide.

Rendered into HTML by Steve Thomas.

Last updated Sat Jan 13 17:38:15 2007.

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(Modifications: Carroll's dedication to Gertrude Chataway,
Easter Greeting

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University of Adelaide
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Table of Contents




Fit the First


Fit the Second


Fit the Third


Fit the fourth


Fit the Fifth


Fit the Sixth


Fit the Seventh


Fit the Eighth







Please to fancy, if you can, that you are reading a real letter, from a real friend whom you have seen, and whose voice you can seem to yourself to hear wishing you, as I do now with all my heart, a happy Easter.

Do you know that delicious dreamy feeling when one first wakes on a summer morning, with the twitter of birds in the air, and the fresh breeze coming in at the open window —when, lying lazily with eyes half shut, one sees as in a dream green boughs waving, or waters rippling in a golden light? It is a pleasure very near to sadness, bringing tears to one's eyes like a beautiful picture or poem. And is not that a Mother's gentle hand that undraws your curtains, and a Mother's sweet voice that summons you to rise? To rise and forget, in the bright sunlight, the ugly dreams that frightened you so when all was dark —to rise and enjoy another happy day, first kneeling to thank that unseen Friend, who sends you the beautiful sun?

Are these strange words from a writer of such tales as "Alice"? And is this a strange letter to find in a book of nonsense? It may be so. Some perhaps may blame me for thus mixing together things grave and gay; others may smile and think it odd that any one should speak of solemn things at all, except in church and on a Sunday: but I think —nay, I am sure —that some children will read this gently and lovingly, and in the spirit in which I have written it.

For I do not believe God means us thus to divide life into two halves —to wear a grave face on Sunday, and to think it out-of-place to even so much as mention Him on a week-day. Do you think He cares to see only kneeling figures, and to hear only tones of prayer —and that He does not also love to see the lambs leaping in the sunlight, and to hear the merry voices of the children, as they roll among the hay? Surely their innocent laughter is as sweet in His ears as the grandest anthem that ever rolled up from the "dim religious light" of some solemn cathedral?

And if I have written anything to add to those stores of innocent and healthy amusement that are laid up in books for the children I love so well, it is surely something I may hope to look back upon without shame and sorrow (as how much of life must then be recalled!) when my turn comes to walk through the valley of shadows.

This Easter sun will rise on you, dear child, feeling your "life in every limb," and eager to rush out into the fresh morning air —and many an Easter-day will come and go, before it finds you feeble and gray-headed, creeping wearily out to bask once more in the sunlight —but it is good, even now, to think sometimes of that great morning when the "Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings."

Surely your gladness need not be the less for the thought that you will one day see a brighter dawn than this —when lovelier sights will meet your eyes than any waving trees or rippling waters —when angel-hands shall undraw your curtains, and sweeter tones than ever loving Mother breathed shall wake you to a new and glorious day —and when all the sadness, and the sin, that darkened life on this little earth, shall be forgotten like the dreams of a night that is past!

Your affectionate friend,


EASTER, 1876.

Inscribed to a dear Child:
in memory of golden summer hours
and whispers of a summer sea

Girt with a boyish garb for a boyish task,
 Eager she wields her spade: yet loves a 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.4)

“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 helmsman1 used to stand by with tears in his eyes; he 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 remonstrance was impossible, and no steering could be done till the next varnishing day. During these bewildering intervals the ship usually sailed backwards.

1 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 pairs of boots.

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 words in that poem. Humpty-Dumpty’s theory, of two meanings packed into one word like a portmanteau, 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 the rarest of gifts, a perfectly balanced mind, you will say “frumious.”

Supposing that, when Pistol uttered the well-known words —

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


001  “Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,
002   As he landed his crew with care;
003  Supporting each man on the top of the tide
004   By a finger entwined in his hair.

Supporting each man on the top of the tide

005  “Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
006   That alone should encourage the crew.
007  Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
008   What I tell you three times is true.

009  The crew was complete: it included a Boots
010   A maker of Bonnets and Hoods
011  A Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes —
012   And a Broker, to value their goods.

013  A Billiard-marker, whose skill was immense,
014   Might perhaps have won more than his share —
015  But a Banker, engaged at enormous expense,
016   Had the whole of their cash in his care.

017  There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck,
018   Or would sit making lace in the bow:
019  And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck,
020   Though none of the sailors knew how.

021  There was one who was famed for the number of things
022   He forgot when he entered the ship:
023  His umbrella, his watch, all his jewels and rings,
024   And the clothes he had bought for the trip.

025  He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
026   With his name painted clearly on each:
027  But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
028   They were all left behind on the beach.

029  The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because
030   He had seven coats on when he came,
031  With three pairs of boots —but the worst of it was,
032   He had wholly forgotten his name.

He had wholly forgotten his name

033  He would answer to “Hi!” or to any loud cry,
034   Such as “Fry me!” or “Fritter my wig!
035  To “What-you-may-call-um!” or “What-was-his-name!”
036   But especially “Thing-um-a-jig!”

037  While, for those who preferred a more forcible word,
038   He had different names from these:
039  His intimate friends called him “Candle-ends,”
040   And his enemies “Toasted-cheese.”

041  “His form is ungainly —his intellect small —”
042   (So the Bellman would often remark)
043  “But his courage is perfect! And that, after all,
044   Is the thing that one needs with a Snark.”

045  He would joke with hyenas, returning their stare
046   With an impudent wag of the head:
047  And he once went a walk, paw-in-paw, with a bear,
048   “Just to keep up its spirits,” he said.

049  He came as a Baker: but owned, when too late —
050   And it drove the poor Bellman half-mad —
051  He could only bake Bridecake —for which, I may state,
052   No materials were to be had.

053  The last of the crew needs especial remark,
054   Though he looked an incredible dunce:
055  He had just one idea —but, that one being “Snark,”
056   The good Bellman engaged him at once.

057  He came as a Butcher: but gravely declared,
058   When the ship had been sailing a week,
059  He could only kill Beavers. The Bellman looked scared,
060   And was almost too frightened to speak:

061  But at length he explained, in a tremulous tone,
062   There was only one Beaver on board;
063  And that was a tame one he had of his own,
064   Whose death would be deeply deplored.

065  The Beaver, who happened to hear the remark,
066   Protested, with tears in its eyes,
067  That not even the rapture of hunting the Snark
068   Could atone for that dismal surprise!

069  It strongly advised that the Butcher should be
070   Conveyed in a separate ship:
071  But the Bellman declared that would never agree
072   With the plans he had made for the trip:

073  Navigation was always a difficult art,
074   Though with only one ship and one bell:
075  And he feared he must really decline, for his part,
076   Undertaking another as well.

077  The Beaver’s best course was, no doubt, to procure
078   A second-hand dagger-proof coat —
079  So the Baker advised it — and next, to insure
080   Its life in some Office of note:

081  This the Banker suggested, and offered for hire
082   (On moderate terms), or for sale,
083  Two excellent Policies, one Against Fire,
084   And one Against Damage From Hail.

085  Yet still, ever after that sorrowful day,
086   Whenever the Butcher was by,
087  The Beaver kept looking the opposite way,
088   And appeared unaccountably shy.

The Beaver kept looking the opposite way

Fit the Second


089  The Bellman himself they all praised to the skies —
090   Such a carriage, such ease and such grace!
091  Such solemnity, too! One could see he was wise,
092   The moment one looked in his face!

093  He had bought a large map representing the sea,
094   Without the least vestige of land:
095  And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
096   A map they could all understand.

The Bellman's Ocean Chart, 1876

097  “What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,
098   Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?”
099  So 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!”

105  This was charming, no doubt; but they shortly found out
106   That the Captain they trusted so well
107  Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
108   And that was to tingle his bell.

109  He was thoughtful and grave —but the orders he gave
110   Were enough to bewilder a crew.
111  When he cried “Steer to starboard, but keep her head larboard!”
112   What on earth was the helmsman to do?

113  Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes:
114   A thing, as the Bellman remarked,
115  That frequently happens in tropical climes,
116   When a vessel is, so to speak, “snarked.”

117  But the principal failing occurred in the sailing,
118   And the Bellman, perplexed and distressed,
119  Said he had hoped, at least, when the wind blew due East,
120   That the ship would not travel due West!

121  But the danger was past —they had landed at last,
122   With their boxes, portmanteaus, and bags:
123  Yet at first sight the crew were not pleased with the view,
124   Which consisted of chasms and crags.

125  The Bellman perceived that their spirits were low,
126   And repeated in musical tone
127  Some jokes he had kept for a season of woe —
128   But the crew would do nothing but groan.

129  He served out some grog with a liberal hand,
130   And bade them sit down on the beach:
131  And 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:
135  So 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),
139  But 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),
143  But 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
147  By 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:
151  Like 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
155  That 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,
159  It 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 it constantly carries about,
163  And 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:
167  Distinguishing those that have feathers, and bite,
168   And 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,
171  Some are Boojums —” The Bellman broke off in alarm,
172   For the Baker had fainted away.

Fit the Third


173  They roused him with muffins —they roused him with ice —
174   They roused him with mustard and cress —
175  They roused him with jam and judicious advice —
176   They set him conundrums to guess.

177  When at length he sat up and was able to speak,
178   His sad story he offered to tell;
179  And the Bellman cried “Silence! Not even a shriek!”
180   And excitedly tingled his bell.

181  There was silence supreme! Not a shriek, not a scream,
182   Scarcely even a howl or a groan,
183  As 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
191  To 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:
199  Fetch 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;
203  You 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
211  You will softly and suddenly vanish away,
212   And never be met with again!’

But oh, beamish nephew, beware of the day

213  “It is this, it is this that oppresses my soul,
214   When I think of my uncle’s last words:
215  And 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.
219  And 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:
223  I 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),
227  I shall softly and suddenly vanish away —
228   And the notion I cannot endure!”

Fit the fourth


229  The Bellman looked uffish, and wrinkled his brow.
230   “If only you’d spoken before!
231  It’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 —
235  But 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.”
239  And 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):
243  But 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:
247  But 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.
255  But 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;
259  To 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.
263  Do 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:
267  And you’d best be unpacking the things that you need
268   To rig yourselves out for the fight.”

To pursue it with forks and hope

269  Then the Banker endorsed a blank cheque (which he crossed),
270   And changed his loose silver for notes.
271  The Baker with care combed his whiskers and hair,
272   And shook the dust out of his coats.

273  The Boots and the Broker were sharpening a spade —
274   Each working the grindstone in turn:
275  But the Beaver went on making lace, and displayed
276   No interest in the concern:

277  Though the Barrister tried to appeal to its pride,
278   And vainly proceeded to cite
279  A number of cases, in which making laces
280   Had been proved an infringement of right.

281  The maker of Bonnets ferociously planned
282   A novel arrangement of bows:
283  While the Billiard-marker with quivering hand
284   Was chalking the tip of his nose.

285  But the Butcher turned nervous, and dressed himself fine,
286   With yellow kid gloves and a ruff
287  Said 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!”
291  And the Bellman, sagaciously nodding his head,
292   Said “That must depend on the weather.”

293  The Beaver went simply galumphing about,
294   At seeing the Butcher so shy:
295  And 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


301  They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
302   They pursued it with forks and hope;
303  They threatened its life with a railway-share;
304   They charmed it with smiles and soap.

305  Then the Butcher contrived an ingenious plan
306   For making a separate sally;
307  And had fixed on a spot unfrequented by man,
308   A dismal and desolate valley.

309  But the very same plan to the Beaver occurred:
310   It had chosen the very same place:
311  Yet neither betrayed, by a sign or a word,
312   The disgust that appeared in his face.

313  Each thought he was thinking of nothing but “Snark”
314   And the glorious work of the day;
315  And each tried to pretend that he did not remark
316   That the other was going that way.

317  But the valley grew narrow and narrower still,
318   And the evening got darker and colder,
319  Till (merely from nervousness, not from goodwill)
320   They marched along shoulder to shoulder.

321  Then a scream, shrill and high, rent the shuddering sky,
322   And they knew that some danger was near:
323  The Beaver turned pale to the tip of its tail,
324   And even the Butcher felt queer.

325  He thought of his childhood, left far far behind —
326   That blissful and innocent state —
327  The 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.
335  ’Tis the song of the Jubjub! The proof is complete,
336   If only I’ve stated it thrice.”

337  The Beaver had counted with scrupulous care,
338   Attending to every word:
339  But it fairly lost heart, and outgrabe in despair,
340   When the third repetition occurred.

341  It felt that, in spite of all possible pains,
342   It had somehow contrived to lose count,
343  And 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!”
347  Recollecting 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.
351  The thing shall be done! Bring me paper and ink,
352   The best there is time to procure.”

353  The Beaver brought paper,portfolio, pens,
354   And ink in unfailing supplies:
355  While strange creepy creatures came out of their dens,
356   And watched them with wondering eyes.

The Beaver brought paper, portfolio, pens

357  So engrossed was the Butcher, he heeded them not,
358   As he wrote with a pen in each hand,
359  And 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 —
363  We 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 Two:
367  Then 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,
371  If 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,
375  And without extra charge I will give you at large
376   A Lesson in Natural History.”

377  In his genial way he proceeded to say
378   (Forgetting all laws of propriety,
379  And 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:
383  Its 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:
387  And 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:
395  Still keeping one principal object in view —
396   To preserve its symmetrical shape.”

397  The Butcher would gladly have talked till next day,
398   But he felt that the lesson must end,
399  And he wept with delight in attempting to say
400   He considered the Beaver his friend.

401  While the Beaver confessed, with affectionate looks
402   More eloquent even than tears,
403  It had learned in ten minutes far more than all books
404   Would have taught it in seventy years.

405  They returned hand-in-hand, and the Bellman, unmanned
406   (For a moment) with noble emotion,
407  Said “This amply repays all the wearisome days
408   We have spent on the billowy ocean!”

409  Such friends, as the Beaver and Butcher became,
410   Have seldom if ever been known;
411  In winter or summer, ’twas always the same —
412   You could never meet either alone.

413  And when quarrels arose —as one frequently finds
414   Quarrels will, spite of every endeavour —
415  The song of the Jubjub recurred to their minds,
416   And cemented their friendship for ever!

Fit the Sixth


417  They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
418   They pursued it with forks and hope;
419  They threatened its life with a railway-share;
420   They charmed it with smiles and soap.

421  But the Barrister, weary of proving in vain
422   That the Beaver’s lace-making was wrong,
423  Fell asleep, and in dreams saw the creature quite plain
424   That his fancy had dwelt on so long.

425  He dreamed that he stood in a shadowy Court,
426   Where the Snark, with a glass in its eye,
427  Dressed in gown, bands, and wig, was defending a pig
428   On the charge of deserting its sty.

429  The Witnesses proved, without error or flaw,
430   That the sty was deserted when found:
431  And the Judge kept explaining the state of the law
432   In a soft under-current of sound.

433  The indictment had never been clearly expressed,
434   And it seemed that the Snark had begun,
435  And had spoken three hours, before any one guessed
436   What the pig was supposed to have done.

437  The Jury had each formed a different view
438   (Long before the indictment was read),
439  And 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!
443  Let me tell you, my friends, the whole question depends
444   On an ancient manorial right.

'You must know ----' said the Judge: but the Snark exclaimed 'Fudge!'

445  “In the matter of Treason the pig would appear
446   To have aided, but scarcely abetted:
447  While 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 related 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,
455  And directed the Judge to refer to his notes
456   And briefly to sum up the case.

457  But the Judge said he never had summed up before;
458   So the Snark undertook it instead,
459  And summed it so well that it came to far more
460   Than the Witnesses ever had said!

461  When the verdict was called for, the Jury declined,
462   As the word was so puzzling to spell;
463  But they ventured to hope that the Snark wouldn’t mind
464   Undertaking that duty as well.

465  So the Snark found the verdict, although, as it owned,
466   It was spent with the toils of the day:
467  When it said the word “GUILTY!” the Jury all groaned,
468   And some of them fainted away.

469  Then the Snark pronounced sentence, the Judge being quite
470   Too nervous to utter a word:
471  When 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.”
475  The Jury all cheered, though the Judge said he feared
476   That the phrase was not legally sound.

477  But their wild exultation was suddenly checked
478   When the jailer informed them, with tears,
479  Such a sentence would have not the slightest effect,
480   As the pig had been dead for some years.

481  The Judge left the Court, looking deeply disgusted:
482   But the Snark, though a little aghast,
483  As the lawyer to whom the defense was entrusted,
484   Went bellowing on to the last.

485  Thus the Barrister dreamed, while the bellowing seemed
486   To grow every moment more clear:
487  Till he woke to the knell of a furious bell,
488   Which the Bellman rang close at his ear.

Fit the Seventh


489  They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
490   They pursued it with forks and hope;
491  They threatened its life with a railway-share;
492   They charmed it with smiles and soap.

493  And the Banker, inspired with a courage so new
494   It was matter for general remark,
495  Rushed madly ahead and was lost to their view
496   In his zeal to discover the Snark

497  But while he was seeking with thimbles and care,
498   A Bandersnatch swiftly drew nigh
499  And grabbed at the Banker, who shrieked in despair,
500   For he knew it was useless to fly.

501  He offered large discount —he offered a cheque
502   (Drawn “to bearer”) for seven-pounds-ten:
503  But the Bandersnatch merely extended its neck
504   And grabbed at the Banker again.

505  Without rest or pause —while those frumious jaws
506   Went savagely snapping around-
507  He skipped and he hopped, and he floundered and flopped,
508   Till fainting he fell to the ground.

509  The Bandersnatch fled as the others appeared
510   Led on by that fear-stricken yell:
511  And the Bellman remarked “It is just as I feared!”
512   And solemnly tolled on his bell.

513  He was black in the face, and they scarcely could trace
514   The least likeness to what he had been:
515  While so great was his fright that his waistcoat turned white
516   A wonderful thing to be seen!

So great was his fright that his waistcoat turned white

517  To the horror of all who were present that day.
518   He uprose in full evening dress,
519  And with senseless grimaces endeavoured to say
520   What his tongue could no longer express.

521  Down he sank in a chair —ran his hands through his hair —
522   And chanted in mimsiest tones
523  Words 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


529  They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
530   They pursued it with forks and hope;
531  They threatened its life with a railway-share;
532   They charmed it with smiles and soap.

533  They shuddered to think that the chase might fail,
534   And the Beaver, excited at last,
535  Went 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!
539  He is waving his hands, he is wagging his head,
540   He has certainly found a Snark!”

541  They gazed in delight, while the Butcher exclaimed
542   “He was always a desperate wag!”
543  They beheld him —their Baker —their hero unnamed —
544   On the top of a neighbouring crag.

545  Erect 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.
551  Then followed a torrent of laughter and cheers:
552   Then the ominous words “It’s a Boo-”

553  Then, silence. Some fancied they heard in the air
554   A weary and wandering sigh
555  That sounded like “-jum!” but the others declare
556   It was only a breeze that went by.

557  They hunted till darkness came on, but they found
558   Not a button, or feather, or mark,
559  By which they could tell that they stood on the ground
560   Where the Baker had met with the Snark.

561  In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
562   In the midst of his laughter and glee,
563  He had softly and suddenly vanished away —
564   For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

Then, silence




"All art is infested by other art."
Leo Steinberg in Art about Art, 1979

"It is possible that the author was half-consciously laying a trap, so readily did he take to the inventing of puzzles and things enigmatic; but to those who knew the man, or who have divined him correctly through his writings, the explanation is fairly simple."
Henry Holiday, 1898-01-29, on Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark

"We have neglected the gift of comprehending things through our senses. Concept is divorced from percept, and thought moves among abstractions. Our eyes have been reduced to instruments with which to identify and to measure; hence we suffer a paucity of ideas that can be expressed in images and in an incapacity to discover meaning in what we see. Naturally we feel lost in the presence of objects that make sense only to undiluted vision, and we seek refuge in the more familiar medium of words. ... The inborn capacity to understand through the eyes has been put to sleep and must be reawakened."
Rudolf Arnheim: Art and Visual Perception, 1974, p. 1

"Only those questions that are in principle undecidable, we can decide."
Heinz von Foerster: Ethics and Second-Order Cybernetics,
Système et thérapie familiale, Paris, 1990-10-04

"L.C. has forgotten that 'the Snark' is a tragedy"
Henry Holiday (his handwritten note to a letter from L. Carroll), 1876

The original verson of this web edition is based on
The Hunting of the Snark : An Agony, in eight Fits / by Lewis Carroll;
with nine illustrations by Henry Holiday. London : Macmillan, 1876,
published on-line by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005