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Jabberwocky (poem by Lewis Carrol from Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There) - by the Psimians of Mu

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“ “Jabberwocky”

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.“ ”

from Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1872)

Humpty Dumpty’s Explanation

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,’ it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. ‘They’ve a temper, some of them – particularly verbs: they’re the proudest – adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs – however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’

‘Would you tell me, please,’ said Alice, ‘what that means?’

‘Now you talk like a reasonable child,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. ‘I meant by “impenetrability” that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.’

‘That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

‘When I make a word do a lot of work like that,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘I always pay it extra.’

‘Oh!’ said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

‘Ah, you should see ‘em come round me of a Saturday night,’ Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side, ‘for to get their wages, you know.’

(Alice didn’t venture to ask what he paid them with; so you see I can’t tell you.)

“You seem very clever at explaining words, Sir”, said Alice. “Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem ‘Jabberwocky’?”

“Let’s hear it”, said Humpty Dumpty. “I can explain all the poems that ever were invented–and a good many that haven’t been invented just yet.”

This sounded very hopeful, so Alice repeated the first verse:

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“That’s enough to begin with”, Humpty Dumpty interrupted: “there are plenty of hard words there. ‘Brillig’ means four o’clock in the afternoon–the time when you begin broiling things for dinner.”

“That’ll do very well”, said Alice: “and ‘slithy’?”

“Well, ‘slithy’ means ‘lithe and slimy’. ‘Lithe’ is the same as ‘active’. You see it’s like a portmanteau–there are two meanings packed up into one word.”

I see it now”, Alice remarked thoughfully: “and what are ‘toves’?”

“Well, ‘toves’ are something like badgers–they’re something like lizards–and they’re something like corkscrews.”

“They must be very curious creatures.”

“They are that”, said Humpty Dumpty: “also they make their nests under sun-dials–also they live on cheese.”

“And what’s to ‘gyre’ and to ‘gimble’?”

“To ‘gyre’ is to go round and round like a gyroscope. To ‘gimble’ is to make holes like a gimlet.”

“And ‘the wabe’ is the grass plot round a sun-dial, I suppose?” said Alice, surprised at her own ingenuity.

“Of course it is. It’s called ‘wabe’, you know, because it goes a long way before it, and a long way behind it–”

“And a long way beyond it on each side”, Alice added.

“Exactly so. Well then, ‘mimsy’ is ‘flimsy and miserable’ (there’s another portmanteau for you). And a ‘borogove’ is a thin shabby-looking bird with its feathers sticking out all round–something like a live mop.”

“And then ‘mome raths’?” said Alice. “If I’m not giving you too much trouble.”

“Well a ‘rath’ is a sort of green pig, but ‘mome’ I’m not certain about. I think it’s sort for ‘from home’–meaning that they’d lost their way, you know.”

“And what does ‘outgrabe’ mean?”

“Well, ‘outgribing’ is something between bellowing an whistling, with a kind of sneeze in the middle: however, you’ll hear it done, maybe–down in the wood yonder–and when you’ve once heard it, you’ll be quite content. Who’s been repeating all that hard stuff to you?”

“I read it in a book”, said Alice.

–Through The Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

sluggthesickpuppy's avatar
sluggthesickpuppy said

i believe lewis actually wrote this in eager anticipation of the emergence of nouveau-psychedelic dub from the cultural flux: it is almost certainly what humpty dumpty really meant by "hard stuff"

fallingupart's avatar
fallingupart said

Nice nouveau-psychedelic dub, a suitable accompaniment to this strange little poem I've always loved. :)

Just Jane's avatar
Just Jane said

Most awesome :)

igor's avatar
igor said

~Who's been repeating all that hard stuff to you?~

David Toy's avatar
David Toy said

Brilliant.

thetworegs's avatar
thetworegs said

An excellent rendition.......not one for the short of tounge

Saved!