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: 2021-12-29.

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

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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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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.

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 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