The Hunting of the Snark
An Agony in Eight Fits
With nine illustrations by Henry Holiday
2009-01-20, G. Kluge added:
Carroll's dedication to Gertrude Chataway,
This is a mirrored and modified web edition
of a file which originally has been published by eBooks@Adelaide.
Rendered into HTML by Steve
Last updated Sat Jan 13 17:38:15 2007.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence
(available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/au/).
You are free: to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work,
and to make derivative works under the following conditions: you
must attribute the work in the manner specified by the licensor;
you may not use this work for commercial purposes; if you alter,
transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the
resulting work only under a license identical to this one. For any
reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license
terms of this work. Any of these conditions can be waived if you
get permission from the licensor. Your fair use and other rights
are in no way affected by the above.
This modified work is available at
Carroll's dedication to Gertrude Chataway
and Easter Greeting added.)
For offline reading, the original complete set of pages is available from
The original complete work is also available as a single file, at
A MARC21 Catalogue record for the original edition can be downloaded
Source of original file:
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
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,
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.
Ruse 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
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
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
“Under which king, Bezonian? Speak or
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
Fit the First
001 “Just the place for a Snark!” the Bellman cried,
As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
By a finger entwined in his hair.
005 “Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.”
009 The crew was complete: it included a Boots—
A maker of Bonnets and Hoods—
A Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes—
And a Broker, to value their goods.
013 A Billiard-marker, whose skill was immense,
Might perhaps have won more than his share—
But a Banker, engaged at enormous expense,
Had the whole of their cash in his care.
017 There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck,
Or would sit making lace in the bow:
And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck,
Though none of the sailors knew how.
021 There was one who was famed for the number of things
He forgot when he entered the ship:
His umbrella, his watch, all his jewels and rings,
And the clothes he had bought for the trip.
025 He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
With his name painted clearly on each:
But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
They were all left behind on the beach.
029 The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because
He had seven coats on when he came,
With three pairs of boots—but the worst of it was,
He had wholly forgotten his name.
033 He would answer to “Hi!” or to any loud cry,
Such as “Fry me!” or “Fritter my wig!”
To “What-you-may-call-um!” or “What-was-his-name!”
But especially “Thing-um-a-jig!”
037 While, for those who preferred a more forcible word,
He had different names from these:
His intimate friends called him “Candle-ends,”
And his enemies “Toasted-cheese.”
041 “His form is ungainly—his intellect small—”
(So the Bellman would often remark)
“But his courage is perfect! And that, after all,
Is the thing that one needs with a Snark.”
045 He would joke with hyenas, returning their stare
With an impudent wag of the head:
And he once went a walk, paw-in-paw, with a bear,
“Just to keep up its spirits,” he said.
049 He came as a Baker: but owned, when too late—
And it drove the poor Bellman half-mad—
He could only bake Bridecake—for which, I may state,
No materials were to be had.
053 The last of the crew needs especial remark,
Though he looked an incredible dunce:
He had just one idea—but, that one being “Snark,”
The good Bellman engaged him at once.
057 He came as a Butcher: but gravely declared,
When the ship had been sailing a week,
He could only kill Beavers. The Bellman looked scared,
And was almost too frightened to speak:
061 But at length he explained, in a tremulous tone,
There was only one Beaver on board;
And that was a tame one he had of his own,
Whose death would be deeply deplored.
065 The Beaver, who happened to hear the remark,
Protested, with tears in its eyes,
That not even the rapture of hunting the Snark
Could atone for that dismal surprise!
069 It strongly advised that the Butcher should be
Conveyed in a separate ship:
But the Bellman declared that would never agree
With the plans he had made for the trip:
073 Navigation was always a difficult art,
Though with only one ship and one bell:
And he feared he must really decline, for his part,
Undertaking another as well.
077 The Beaver’s best course was, no doubt, to procure
A second-hand dagger-proof coat—
So the Baker advised it— and next, to insure
Its life in some Office of note:
081 This the Banker suggested, and offered for hire
(On moderate terms), or for sale,
Two excellent Policies, one Against Fire,
And one Against Damage From Hail.
085 Yet still, ever after that sorrowful day,
Whenever the Butcher was by,
The Beaver kept looking the opposite way,
And appeared unaccountably shy.
Fit the Second
THE BELLMAN’S SPEECH
089 The Bellman himself they all praised to the skies—
Such a carriage, such ease and such grace!
Such solemnity, too! One could see he was wise,
The moment one looked in his face!
093 He had bought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.
097 “What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?”
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
“They are merely conventional signs!
101 “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!”
105 This was charming, no doubt; but they shortly found out
That the Captain they trusted so well
Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
And that was to tingle his bell.
109 He was thoughtful and grave—but the orders he gave
Were enough to bewilder a crew.
When he cried “Steer to starboard, but keep her headlarboard!”
What on earth was the helmsman to do?
113 Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes:
A thing, as the Bellman remarked,
That frequently happens in tropical climes,
When a vessel is, so to speak, “snarked.”
117 But the principal failing occurred in the sailing,
And the Bellman, perplexed and distressed,
Said he had hoped, at least, when the wind blew due East,
That the ship would not travel due West!
121 But the danger was past—they had landed at last,
With their boxes, portmanteaus, and bags:
Yet at first sight the crew were not pleased with the view,
Which consisted of chasms and crags.
125 The Bellman perceived that their spirits were low,
And repeated in musical tone
Some jokes he had kept for a season of woe—
But the crew would do nothing but groan.
129 He served out some grog with a liberal hand,
And bade them sit down on the beach:
And they could not but own that their Captain looked grand,
As he stood and delivered his speech.
133 “Friends, Romans, and countrymen, lend me your ears!”
(They were all of them fond of quotations:
So they drank to his health, and they gave him three cheers,
While he served out additional rations).
137 “We have sailed many months, we have sailed many weeks,
(Four weeks to the month you may mark),
But never as yet (’tis your Captain who speaks)
Have we caught the least glimpse of a Snark!
141 “We have sailed many weeks, we have sailed many days,
(Seven days to the week I allow),
But a Snark, on the which we might lovingly gaze,
We have never beheld till now!
145 “Come, listen, my men, while I tell you again
The five unmistakable marks
By which you may know, wheresoever you go,
The warranted genuine Snarks.
149 “Let us take them in order. The first is the taste,
Which is meagre and hollow, but crisp:
Like a coat that is rather too tight in the waist,
With a flavour of Will-o’-the-wisp.
153 “Its habit of getting up late you’ll agree
That it carries too far, when I say
That it frequently breakfasts at five-o’clock tea,
And dines on the following day.
157 “The third is its slowness in taking a jest.
Should you happen to venture on one,
It will sigh like a thing that is deeply distressed:
And it always looks grave at a pun.
161 “The fourth is its fondness for bathing-machines,
Which is constantly carries about,
And believes that they add to the beauty of scenes—
A sentiment open to doubt.
165 “The fifth is ambition. It next will be right
To describe each particular batch:
Distinguishing those that have feathers, and bite,
And those that have whiskers, and scratch.
169 “For, although common Snarks do no manner of harm,
Yet, I feel it my duty to say,
Some are Boojums—” The Bellman broke off in alarm,
For the Baker had fainted away.
Fit the Third
THE BAKER’S TALE
173 They roused him with muffins—they roused him with ice—
They roused him with mustard and cress—
They roused him with jam and judicious advice—
They set him conundrums to guess.
177 When at length he sat up and was able to speak,
His sad story he offered to tell;
And the Bellman cried “Silence! Not even a shriek!”
And excitedly tingled his bell.
181 There was silence supreme! Not a shriek, not a scream,
Scarcely even a howl or a groan,
As the man they called “Ho!” told his story of woe
In an antediluvian tone.
185 “My father and mother were honest, though poor—”
“Skip all that!” cried the Bellman in haste.
“If it once becomes dark, there’s no chance of a Snark—
We have hardly a minute to waste!”
189 “I skip forty years,” said the Baker, in tears,
“And proceed without further remark
To the day when you took me aboard of your ship
To help you in hunting the Snark.
193 “A dear uncle of mine (after whom I was named)
Remarked, when I bade him farewell—”
“Oh, skip your dear uncle!” the Bellman exclaimed,
As he angrily tingled his bell.
197 “He remarked to me then,” said that mildest of men,
“ ‘If your Snark be a Snark, that is right:
Fetch it home by all means—you may serve it with greens,
And it’s handy for striking a light.
201 “ ‘You may seek it with thimbles—and seek it with care;
You may hunt it with forks and hope;
You may threaten its life with a railway-share;
You may charm it with smiles and soap—’ ”
205 (“That’s exactly the method,” the Bellman bold
In a hasty parenthesis cried,
“That’s exactly the way I have always been told
That the capture of Snarks should be tried!”)
209 “ ‘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!’
213 “It is this, it is this that oppresses my soul,
When I think of my uncle’s last words:
And my heart is like nothing so much as a bowl
Brimming over with quivering curds!
217 “It is this, it is this—” “We have had that before!”
The Bellman indignantly said.
And the Baker replied “Let me say it once more.
It is this, it is this that I dread!
221 “I engage with the Snark—every night after dark—
In a dreamy delirious fight:
I serve it with greens in those shadowy scenes,
And I use it for striking a light:
225 “But if ever I meet with a Boojum, that day,
In a moment (of this I am sure),
I shall softly and suddenly vanish away—
And the notion I cannot endure!”
Fit the fourth
229 The Bellman looked uffish, and wrinkled his brow.
“If only you’d spoken before!
It’s excessively awkward to mention it now,
With the Snark, so to speak, at the door!
233 “We should all of us grieve, as you well may believe,
If you never were met with again—
But surely, my man, when the voyage began,
You might have suggested it then?
237 “It’s excessively awkward to mention it now—
As I think I’ve already remarked.”
And the man they called “Hi!” replied, with a sigh,
“I informed you the day we embarked.
241 “You may charge me with murder—or want of sense—
(We are all of us weak at times):
But the slightest approach to a false pretence
Was never among my crimes!
245 “I said it in Hebrew—I said it in Dutch—
I said it in German and Greek:
But I wholly forgot (and it vexes me much)
That English is what you speak!”
249 “’Tis a pitiful tale,” said the Bellman, whose face
Had grown longer at every word:
“But, now that you’ve stated the whole of your case,
More debate would be simply absurd.
253 “The rest of my speech” (he explained to his men)
“You shall hear when I’ve leisure to speak it.
But the Snark is at hand, let me tell you again!
’Tis your glorious duty to seek it!
257 “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!
261 “For the Snark’s a peculiar creature, that won’t
Be caught in a commonplace way.
Do all that you know, and try all that you don’t:
Not a chance must be wasted to-day!
265 “For England expects—I forbear to proceed:
’Tis a maxim tremendous, but trite:
And you’d best be unpacking the things that you need
To rig yourselves out for the fight.”
269 Then the Banker endorsed a blank cheque (which he crossed),
And changed his loose silver for notes.
The Baker with care combed his whiskers and hair,
And shook the dust out of his coats.
273 The Boots and the Broker were sharpening a spade—
Each working the grindstone in turn:
But the Beaver went on making lace, and displayed
No interest in the concern:
277 Though the Barrister tried to appeal to its pride,
And vainly proceeded to cite
A number of cases, in which making laces
Had been proved an infringement of right.
281 The maker of Bonnets ferociously planned
A novel arrangement of bows:
While the Billiard-marker with quivering hand
Was chalking the tip of his nose.
285 But the Butcher turned nervous, and dressed himself fine,
With yellow kid gloves and a ruff—
Said he felt it exactly like going to dine,
Which the Bellman declared was all “stuff.”
289 “Introduce me, now there’s a good fellow,” he said,
“If we happen to meet it together!”
And the Bellman, sagaciously nodding his head,
Said “That must depend on the weather.”
293 The Beaver went simply galumphing about,
At seeing the Butcher so shy:
And even the Baker, though stupid and stout,
Made an effort to wink with one eye.
297 “Be a man!” said the Bellman in wrath, as he heard
The Butcher beginning to sob.
“Should we meet with a Jubjub, that desperate bird,
We shall need all our strength for the job!”
Fit the Fifth
THE BEAVER’S LESSON
301 They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway-share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.
305 Then the Butcher contrived an ingenious plan
For making a separate sally;
And had fixed on a spot unfrequented by man,
A dismal and desolate valley.
309 But the very same plan to the Beaver occurred:
It had chosen the very same place:
Yet neither betrayed, by a sign or a word,
The disgust that appeared in his face.
313 Each thought he was thinking of nothing but “Snark”
And the glorious work of the day;
And each tried to pretend that he did not remark
That the other was going that way.
317 But the valley grew narrow and narrower still,
And the evening got darker and colder,
Till (merely from nervousness, not from goodwill)
They marched along shoulder to shoulder.
321 Then a scream, shrill and high, rent the shuddering sky,
And they knew that some danger was near:
The Beaver turned pale to the tip of its tail,
And even the Butcher felt queer.
325 He thought of his childhood, left far far behind—
That blissful and innocent state—
The sound so exactly recalled to his mind
A pencil that squeaks on a slate!
329 “’Tis the voice of the Jubjub!” he suddenly cried.
(This man, that they used to call “Dunce.”)
“As the Bellman would tell you,” he added with pride,
“I have uttered that sentiment once.
333 “’Tis the note of the Jubjub! Keep count, I entreat;
You will find I have told it you twice.
’Tis the song of the Jubjub! The proof is complete,
If only I’ve stated it thrice.”
337 The Beaver had counted with scrupulous care,
Attending to every word:
But it fairly lost heart, and outgrabe in despair,
When the third repetition occurred.
341 It felt that, in spite of all possible pains,
It had somehow contrived to lose count,
And the only thing now was to rack its poor brains
By reckoning up the amount.
345 “Two added to one—if that could but be done,”
It said, “with one’s fingers and thumbs!”
Recollecting with tears how, in earlier years,
It had taken no pains with its sums.
349 “The thing can be done,” said the Butcher, “I think.
The thing must be done, I am sure.
The thing shall be done! Bring me paper and ink,
The best there is time to procure.”
353 The Beaver brought paper,portfolio, pens,
And ink in unfailing supplies:
While strange creepy creatures came out of their dens,
And watched them with wondering eyes.
357 So engrossed was the Butcher, he heeded them not,
As he wrote with a pen in each hand,
And explained all the while in a popular style
Which the Beaver could well understand.
361 “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.
365 “The result we proceed to divide, as you see,
By Nine Hundred and Ninety Two:
Then subtract Seventeen, and the answer must be
Exactly and perfectly true.
369 “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.
373 “In one moment I’ve seen what has hitherto been
Enveloped in absolute mystery,
And without extra charge I will give you at large
A Lesson in Natural History.”
377 In his genial way he proceeded to say
(Forgetting all laws of propriety,
And that giving instruction, without introduction,
Would have caused quite a thrill in Society),
381 “As to temper the Jubjub’s a desperate bird,
Since it lives in perpetual passion:
Its taste in costume is entirely absurd—
It is ages ahead of the fashion:
385 “But it knows any friend it has met once before:
It never will look at a bribe:
And in charity-meetings it stands at the door,
And collects—though it does not subscribe.
389 “ Its flavour when cooked is more exquisite far
Than mutton, or oysters, or eggs:
(Some think it keeps best in an ivory jar,
And some, in mahogany kegs:)
393 “You boil it in sawdust: you salt it in glue:
You condense it with locusts and tape:
Still keeping one principal object in view—
To preserve its symmetrical shape.”
397 The Butcher would gladly have talked till next day,
But he felt that the lesson must end,
And he wept with delight in attempting to say
He considered the Beaver his friend.
401 While the Beaver confessed, with affectionate looks
More eloquent even than tears,
It had learned in ten minutes far more than all books
Would have taught it in seventy years.
405 They returned hand-in-hand, and the Bellman, unmanned
(For a moment) with noble emotion,
Said “This amply repays all the wearisome days
We have spent on the billowy ocean!”
409 Such friends, as the Beaver and Butcher became,
Have seldom if ever been known;
In winter or summer, ’twas always the same—
You could never meet either alone.
413 And when quarrels arose—as one frequently finds
Quarrels will, spite of every endeavour—
The song of the Jubjub recurred to their minds,
And cemented their friendship for ever!
Fit the Seventh
THE BANKER’S FATE
489 They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway-share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.
493 And the Banker, inspired with a courage so new
It was matter for general remark,
Rushed madly ahead and was lost to their view
In his zeal to discover the Snark
497 But while he was seeking with thimbles and care,
A Bandersnatch swiftly drew nigh
And grabbed at the Banker, who shrieked in despair,
For he knew it was useless to fly.
501 He offered large discount—he offered a cheque
(Drawn “to bearer”) for seven-pounds-ten:
But the Bandersnatch merely extended its neck
And grabbed at the Banker again.
505 Without rest or pause—while those frumious jaws
Went savagely snapping around-
He skipped and he hopped, and he floundered and flopped,
Till fainting he fell to the ground.
509 The Bandersnatch fled as the others appeared
Led on by that fear-stricken yell:
And the Bellman remarked “It is just as I feared!”
And solemnly tolled on his bell.
513 He was black in the face, and they scarcely could trace
The least likeness to what he had been:
While so great was his fright that his waistcoat turned white-
A wonderful thing to be seen!
517 To the horror of all who were present that day.
He uprose in full evening dress,
And with senseless grimaces endeavoured to say
What his tongue could no longer express.
521 Down he sank in a chair—ran his hands through his hair—
And chanted in mimsiest tones
Words whose utter inanity proved his insanity,
While he rattled a couple of bones.
525 “Leave him here to his fate—it is getting so late!”
The Bellman exclaimed in a fright.
“We have lost half the day. Any further delay,
And we sha’nt catch a Snark before night!”
Fit the Eighth
529 They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
They pursued it with forks and hope;
They threatened its life with a railway-share;
They charmed it with smiles and soap.
533 They shuddered to think that the chase might fail,
And the Beaver, excited at last,
Went bounding along on the tip of its tail,
For the daylight was nearly past.
537 “There is Thingumbob shouting!” the Bellman said,
“He is shouting like mad, only hark!
He is waving his hands, he is wagging his head,
He has certainly found a Snark!”
541 They gazed in delight, while the Butcher exclaimed
“He was always a desperate wag!”
They beheld him—their Baker—their hero unnamed—
On the top of a neighbouring crag.
545 Erect and sublime, for one moment of time.
In the next, that wild figure they saw
(As if stung by a spasm) plunge into a chasm,
While they waited and listened in awe.
549 “It’s a Snark!” was the sound that first came to their ears,
And seemed almost too good to be true.
Then followed a torrent of laughter and cheers:
Then the ominous words “It’s a Boo-”
553 Then, silence. Some fancied they heard in the air
A weary and wandering sigh
That sounded like “-jum!” but the others declare
It was only a breeze that went by.
557 They hunted till darkness came on, but they found
Not a button, or feather, or mark,
By which they could tell that they stood on the ground
Where the Baker had met with the Snark.
561 In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away—
For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.
"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 devined 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 undeluted 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
"We others, who depend on society, have to be be developed and be directed by it, yes, rather are allowed to do something that it finds revolting than what would be irksome to it; and in the world there is nothing more irksome to it than to ask it to think something through and to ask it for considerations."
J. W. Goethe, Unterhaltungen deutscher Ausgewanderten, 1795
(Statement from a fictitious character in that novel.
Listen to the warning, but don't follow the recommendation.)
"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
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
2010-07-04, G. Kluge:
Carroll's dedication to Gertrude Chataway, Easter Greeting,
line counter and "Snark food" added
2013-06-01: Illustrations from my Ipernity account