Lewis Carroll’s “Lays of Mystery, Imagination, and Humour”


I DREAMT I dwelt in marble halls,
And each damp thing that creeps and crawls
Went wobble-wobble on the walls.
Faint odours of departed cheese,
Blown on the dank, unwholesome breeze,
Awoke the never-ending sneeze.
Strange pictures decked the arras drear,
Strange characters of woe and fear,
The humbugs of the social sphere.
One showed a vain and noisy prig,
That shouted empty words and big
At him that nodded in a wig.
And one, a dotard grim and gray,
Who wasteth childhood’s happy day
In work more profitless than play.
Whose icy breast no pity warms,
Whose little victims sit in swarms,
And slowly sob on lower forms.
And one, a green thyme-honoured Bank,
Where flowers are growing wild and rank,
Like weeds that fringe a poisoned tank.
All birds of evil omen there
Flood with rich Notes the tainted air,
The witless wanderer to snare.
The fatal Notes neglected fall,
No creature heeds the treacherous call,
For all those goodly Strawn Baits Pall.
The wandering phantom broke and fled,
Straightway I saw within my head
A vision of a ghostly bed,
Where lay two worn decrepit 2 men,
The fictions of a lawyer’s pen,
Who never more might breathe again.
The serving-man of Richard Roe
Wept, inarticulate with woe:
She wept, that waited on John Doe.
“Oh rouse”, I urged, “the waning sense
With tales of tangled evidence,
Of suit, demurrer, and defence.”
“Vain”, she replied, “such mockeries:
For morbid fancies, such as these,
No suits can suit, no plea can please.”
And bending o’er that man of straw,
She cried in grief and sudden awe,
Not inappropriately, “Law!”
The well-remembered voice he knew,
He smiled, he faintly muttered “Sue!”
(Her very name was legal too.)
The night was fled, the dawn was nigh:
A hurricane went raving by,
And swept the Vision from mine eye.
Vanished that dim and ghostly bed,
(The hangings, tape; the tape was red:)
‘Tis o’er, and Doe and Roe are dead!
Oh, yet my spirit inly crawls,
What time it shudderingly recalls
That horrid dream of marble halls!
Oxford, 1855.
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Lewis Carroll’s “Photography Extraordinary”

The Milk and Water School
ALAS! she would not hear my prayer!
Yet it were rash to tear my hair;
Disfigured, I should be less fair.
She was unwise, I may say blind;
Once she was lovingly inclined;
Some circumstance has changed her mind.
The Strong Minded or Matter of Fact School
Well! so my offer was no go!
She might do worse, I told her so;
She was a fool to answer “No”.
However, things are as they stood;
Nor would I have her if I could,
For there are plenty more as good.
The Spasmodic or German School
Firebrands and daggers! hope hath fled!
To atoms dash the doubly dead!
My brain is fire–my heart is lead!
Her soul is flint, and what am I?
Scorch’d by her fierce, relentless eye,
Nothingness is my destiny!
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Lewis Carroll’s “She’s All My Fancy Painted Him”

She’s all my fancy painted him
(I make no idle boast);
If he or you had lost a limb,
Which would have suffered most?
They told me you had been to her,
And mentioned me to him:
She gave me a good character,
But said I could not swim.
He sent them word I had not gone
(We know it to be true):
If she should push the matter on,
What would become of you?
I gave her one, they gave him two,
You gave us three or more;
They all returned from him to you,
Though they were mine before.
If I or she should chance to be
Involved in this affair,
He trusts to you to set them free,
Exactly as we were.
My notion was that you had been
(Before she had this fit)
An obstacle that came between
Him, and ourselves, and it.
Don’t let him know she liked them best,
For this must ever be
A secret, kept from all the rest,
Between yourself and me.
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Lewis Carroll’s “Coronach”

She is gone by the Hilda,
She is lost unto Whitby,
And her name is Matilda,
Which my heart it was smit by;
Tho’ I take the Goliah,
I learn to my sorrow
That ‘it wo’n’t’, said the crier,
‘Be off till tomorrow.
“She called me her ‘Neddy’,
(Tho’ there mayn’t be much in it,)
And I should have been ready,
If she’d waited a minute;
I was following behind her
When, if you recollect, I
Merely ran back to find a
Gold pin for my neck-tie.
“Rich dresser of suet!
Prime hand at a sausage!
I have lost thee, I rue it,
And my fare for the passage!
Perhaps she thinks it funny,
Aboard of the Hilda,
But I’ve lost purse and money,
And thee, oh, my ‘Tilda!”
His pin of gold the youth undid
And in his waistcoat-pocket hid,
Then gently folded hand in hand,
And dropped asleep upon the sand.
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Lewis Carroll’s “The Lady of the Ladle”

The Youth at Eve had drunk his fill,
Where stands the “Royal” on the Hill,
And long his mid-day stroll had made,
On the so-called “Marine Parade”–
(Meant, I presume, for Seamen brave,
Whose “march is on the Mountain wave”
‘Twere just the bathing-place for him
Who stays on land till he can swim)
And he had strayed into the Town,
And paced each alley up and down,
Where still, so narrow grew the way,
The very houses seemed to say,
Nodding to friends across the Street,
“One struggle more and we shall meet.”
And he had scaled that wondrous stair
That soars from earth to upper air,
Where rich and poor alike must climb,
And walk the treadmill for a time.
That morning he had dressed with care,
And put Pomatum on his hair;
He was, the loungers all agreed,
A very heavy swell indeed:
Men thought him, as he swaggered by,
Some scion of nobility,
And never dreamed, so cold his look,
That he had loved–and loved a Cook.
Upon the beach he stood and sighed
Unheedful of the treacherous tide;
Thus sang he to the listening main,
And soothed his sorrow with the strain!
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Lewis Carroll’s “The Two Brothers”

THERE were two brothers at Twyford school,
And when they had left the place,
It was, “Will ye learn Greek and Latin?
Or will ye run me a race?
Or will ye go up to yonder bridge,
And there we will angle for dace?”
“I’m too stupid for Greek and for Latin,
I’m too lazy by half for a race,
So I’ll even go up to yonder bridge,
And there we will angle for dace.”
He has fitted together two joints of his rod,
And to them he has added another,
And then a great hook he took from his book,
And ran it right into his brother.
Oh much is the noise that is made among boys
When playfully pelting a pig,
But a far greater pother was made by his brother
When flung from the top of the brigg.
The fish hurried up by the dozens,
All ready and eager to bite,
For the lad that he flung was so tender and young,
It quite gave them an appetite.
Said he, “Thus shall he wallop about
And the fish take him quite at their ease,
For me to annoy it was ever his joy,
Now I’ll teach him the meaning of ‘Tees’!”
The wind to his ear brought a voice,
“My brother, you didn’t had ought ter!
And what have I done that you think it such fun
To indulge in the pleasure of slaughter?
“A good nibble or bite is my chiefest delight,
When I’m merely expected to see,
But a bite from a fish is not quite what I wish,
When I get it performed upon me;
And just now here’s a swarm of dace at my arm,
And a perch has got hold of my knee.
“For water my thirst was not great at the first,
And of fish I have quite sufficien-“
“Oh fear not!” he cried, “for whatever betide,
We are both in the selfsame condition!
“I am sure that our state’s very nearly alike
(Not considering the question of slaughter),
For I have my perch on the top of the bridge,
And you have your perch in the water.
“I stick to my perch and your perch sticks to you,
We are really extremely alike;
I’ve a turn-pike up here, and I very much fear
You may soon have a turn with a pike.”
“Oh, grant but one wish! If I’m took by a fish
(For your bait is your brother, good man!)
Pull him up if you like, but I hope you will strike
As gently as ever you can.”
“If the fish be a trout, I’m afraid there’s no doubt
I must strike him like lightning that’s greased;
If the fish be a pike, I’ll engage not, to strike,
Till I’ve waited ten minutes at least.”
“But in those ten minutes to desolate Fate
Your brother a victim may fall!”
“I’ll reduce it to five, so perhaps you’ll survive,
But the chance is exceedingly small.”
“Oh hard is your heart for to act such a part;
Is it iron, or granite, or steel?”
“Why, I really can’t say- it is many a day
Since my heart was accustomed to feel.
“’Twas my heart-cherished wish for to slay many fish
Each day did my malice grow worse,
For my heart didn’t soften with doing it so often
But rather, I should say, the reverse.”
“Oh would I were back at Twyford school,
Learning lessons in fear of the birch!”
“Nay, brother!” he cried, “for whatever betide,
You are better off here with your perch!
“I am sure you’ll allow you are happier now,
With nothing to do but to play;
And this single line here, it is perfectly clear,
Is much better than thirty a day!
“And as to the rod hanging over your head,
And apparently ready to fall,
That, you know, was the case, when you lived in that place,
So it need not be reckoned at all.
“Do you see that old trout with a turn-up-nose snout?
(Just to speak on a pleasanter theme),
Observe, my dear brother, our love for each other
He’s the one I like best in the stream.
“To-morrow I mean to invite him to dine
(We shall all of us think it a treat);
If the day should be fine, I’ll just drop him a line,
And we’ll settle what time we’re to meet.
“He hasn’t been into society yet,
And his manners are not of the best,
So I think it quite fair that it should be my care,
To see that he’s properly dressed.”
Many words brought the wind of “cruel” and “kind”,
And that “man suffers more than the brute”:
Each several word with patience he heard,
And answered with wisdom to boot.
“What? prettier swimming in the stream,
Than lying all snugly and flat?
Do but look at that dish filled with glittering fish,
Has Nature a picture like that?
“What? a higher delight to be drawn from the sight
Of fish full of life and of glee?
What a noodle you are! ‘tis delight fuller far
To kill them than let them go free!
“I know there are people who prate by the hour
Of the beauty of earth, sky, and ocean;
Of the birds as they fly, of the fish darting by,
Rejoicing in Life and in Motion.
“As to any delight to be got from the sight,
It is all very well for a flat,
But I think it all gammon, for hooking a salmon
Is better than twenty of that!
“They say that a man of a right-thinking mind
Will love the dumb creatures he sees
What’s the use of his mind, if he’s never inclined
To pull a fish out of the Tees?
“Take my friends and my home- as an outcast I’ll roam:
Take the money I have in the Bank;
It is just what I wish, but deprive me of fish,
And my life would indeed be a blank!”
Forth from the house his sister came,
Her brothers for to see,
But when she saw that sight of awe,
The tear stood in her e’e.
“Oh what bait’s that upon your hook,
My brother, tell to me?”
“It is but the fantailed pigeon,
He would not sing for me.”
“Whoe’er would expect a pigeon to sing,
A simpleton he must be!
But a pigeon-cote is a different thing
To the coat that there I see!”
“Oh what bait’s that upon your hook,
Dear brother, tell to me?”
“It is my younger brother,” he cried,
“Oh woe and dole is me!
“I’s mighty wicked, that I is!
Or how could such things be?
Farewell, farewell, sweet sister,
I’m going o’er the sea.”
“And when will you come back again,
My brother, tell to me?”
“When chub is good for human food,
And that will never be!”
She turned herself right round about,
And her heart brake into three,
Said, “One of the two will be wet through and through,
And t’other’ll be late for his tea!”
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Lewis Carroll’s “Lays of Sorrow No. 1”

The day was wet, the rain fell souse
Like jars of strawberry jam,
sound was heard in the old henhouse,
A beating of a hammer.
Of stalwart form, and visage warm,
Two youths were seen within it,
Splitting up an old tree into perches for their poultry
At a hundred strokes a minute.
The work is done, the hen has taken
Possession of her nest and eggs,
Without a thought of eggs and bacon,
(Or I am very much mistaken)
She turns over each shell,
To be sure that all’s well,
Looks into the straw
To see there’s no flaw,
Goes once round the house,
Half afraid of a mouse,
Then sinks calmly to rest
On the top of her nest,
First doubling up each of her legs.
Time rolled away, and so did every shell,
“Small by degrees and beautifully less,”
As the large mother with a powerful spell
Forced each in turn its contents to express,
But ah! “imperfect is expression,”
Some poet said, I don’t care who,
If you want to know you must go elsewhere,
One fact I can tell, if you’re willing to hear,
He never attended a Parliament Session,
For I’m certain that if he had ever been there,
Full quickly would he have changed his ideas,
With the hissings, the hootings, the groans and the cheers.
And as to his name it is pretty clear
That it wasn’t me and it wasn’t you!
And so it fell upon a day,
(That is, it never rose again)
A chick was found upon the hay,
Its little life had ebbed away.
No longer frolicsome and gay,
No longer could it run or play.
“And must we, chicken, must we part?”
Its master cried with bursting heart,
And voice of agony and pain.
So one, whose ticket’s marked “Return”,
When to the lonely roadside station
He flies in fear and perturbation,
Thinks of his home–the hissing urn–
Then runs with flying hat and hair,
And, entering, finds to his despair
He’s missed the very last train.
Too long it were to tell of each conjecture
Of chicken suicide, and poultry victim,
The deadly frown, the stern anddreary lecture,
The timid guess, “perhaps some needle pricked him!”
The din of voice, the words both loud and many,
The sob, the tear, the sigh that none could smother,
Till all agreed “a shilling to a penny
It killed itself, and we acquit the mother!”
Scarce was the verdict spoken,
When that still calm was broken,
A childish form hath burst into the throng;
With tears and looks of sadness,
That bring no news of gladness,
But tell too surely something hath gone wrong!
“The sight I have come upon
The stoutest heart would sicken,
That nasty hen has been and gone
And killed another chicken!”
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Lewis Carroll’s “Ye Falltale Cheyse”

Ytte wes a mirke an dreiry cave,
Weet scroggis owr ytte creepe.
Grugles withyn ye flowan wave
Throw channel draid an deep
Never withyn that dreir recesse
Wes sene ye lyghte of daye,
Quhat bode azont yts mirkinesse
Nane kend an nane mote saye.
Ye monarche rade owr brake an brae
An drave ye yellynge packe,
Hiz meany au’ richte cadgily
Are wendynge yn hiz tracke.
Wi’ eager iye, wi’ yalpe an cry
Ye hondes yode down ye rocks,
Ahead of au’ their companye
Renneth ye panky foxe.
Ye foxe hes soughte that cave of awe
Forewearied wi’ hiz rin.
Quha nou ys he sae bauld an braw
To dare to enter yn?
Wi’ eager bounde hes ilka honde
Gane till that caverne dreir,
Fou many a yowl ys hearde arounde,
Fou many a screech of feir.
Like ane wi’ thirstie appetite
Quha swalloweth orange pulp,
Wes hearde a huggle an a bite,
A swallow an a gulp.
Ye kynge hes lap frae aff hiz steid,
Outbrayde hiz trenchant brande;
“Quha on my packe of hondes doth feed,
Maun deye benead thilke hande.”
Sae sed, sae dune: ye stonderes hearde
Fou many a mickle stroke,
Sowns lyke ye flappynge of a birde,
A struggle an a choke.
Owte of ye cave scarce fette they ytte,
Wi pow an push an hau’–
Whereof Y’ve drawne a littel bytte,
Bot durst not draw ytte au.
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Happy Birthday Lewis Carroll!


I know this is irregular of me to be posting on a Tuesday, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to pay tribute to an inspiring children’s author on his birthday! That’s right, folks, 183 years ago today, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (more famously known as Lewis Carroll) was born. So, I did a bit of digging around the internet and found a few things that I didn’t know about Mr. Carroll. Hopefully you find these little known facts as interesting as I did!

  1. Carroll taught mathematics at Oxford University. Whoever thought math and literature could mesh so well together, huh?
  2. He had ten siblings (seven sisters and three brothers) and they all played literary games together when they were children. I’m so jealous–I can’t even get my sister to play Words with Friends with me!
  3. He invented the Carroll diagram (AKA the Lewis Carroll Square)—a method of grouping data that is still taught to this day.
  4. Carroll suffered from quite a few physical and mental ailments including: a stammer, epilepsy, deafness in one ear, and ADHD—I’m never complaining about having to wear glasses again.
  5. He gave the manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground (the first version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) to Alice Liddell (12 at the time), in November of 1864.
  6. Queen Victoria loved Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland so much that she asked if Carroll would dedicate his next book to her. So, in 1867, Carroll sent his ‘next book’, An Elementary Treatise on Determinants to the queen. I bet Queen Victoria found it just as light-hearted and whimsical as Alice! *SARCASM*
  7. Lewis Carroll’s epitaph says: “Where I am, there shall also my servant be.”
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Lewis Carroll’s “As It Fell Upon a Day”

As I was sitting on the hearth
(And O, but a hog is fat!)
A man came hurrying up the path,
(And what care I for that?)
When he came the house unto,
His breath both quick and short he drew.
When he came before the door,
His face grew paler than before.
When he turned the handle round,
The man fell fainting to the ground.
When he crossed the lofty hall,
Once and again I heard him fall.
When he came up to the turret stair,
He shrieked and tore his raven hair.
When he came my chamber in,
(And O, but a hog is fat!)
I ran him through with a golden pin,
(And what care I for that?)
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