The Annotated Snark: The Full Text of Lewis Carroll's Great Nonsense Epic The Hunting of the Snark

The Annotated Snark: The Full Text of Lewis Carroll's Great Nonsense Epic The Hunting of the Snark

The Annotated Snark: The Full Text of Lewis Carroll's Great Nonsense Epic The Hunting of the Snark

The Annotated Snark: The Full Text of Lewis Carroll's Great Nonsense Epic The Hunting of the Snark

Excerpt

Although Lewis Carroll thought of The Hunting of the Snark as a nonsense ballad for children, it is hard to imagine -- in fact one shudders to imagine -- a child of today reading and enjoying it. Victorian children may have found it amusing (there is a grim record of one little girl having recited the entire poem to Carroll during a long carriage ride), but even they, one suspects, were few in number.

"It is not children who ought to read the words of Lewis Carroll," writes Gilbert Chesterton, "they are far better employed making mud-pies." Carroll's nonsense should be read by "sages and gray-haired philosophers . . . in order to study that darkest problem of metaphysics, the borderland between reason and unreason, and the nature of the most erratic of spiritual forces, humor, which eternally dances between the two. That we do find a pleasure in certain long and elaborate stories, in certain complicated and curious forms of diction, which have no intelligible meaning whatever, is not a subject for children to play with; it is a subject for psychologists to go mad over." .

The Hunting of the Snark is a poem over which an unstable, sensitive soul might very well go mad. There is even a touch of madness in the reverse, looking-glass procedure by which it was written. The time was 1874. The Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, that shy and fastidious bachelor who taught mathematics at Christ Church . . .

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