Saturday, December 25, 2010

Year of the Book #42 LEWIS CARROLL

imageSometimes, a writer or a poet looms so large on the literary landscape, that to attempt to say something meaningful about him/her in anything less than a full blown thesis would be foolishness. (Wikipedia not withstanding.)

Lewis Carroll is one of them. Or if we are to go by his real name - Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. So, today, I focus on some of his non-literary achievements

Mathematician & Logician  – Working in geometry, algebra, logic (including symbolic logic) and what we today call psephology, Lewis Carroll wrote at least a dozen books on the subjects, under his real name

Inventor – Among Carroll’s inventions is the nyctograph, a device by which you can write in the dark, without having to switch the light on. This is my favourite because I’ve lost count of all the poems and the ideas that I thought I had neatly stored away in my about-to-fall-asleep brain and couldn’t remember a word of the next morning!

Photographer – His mastery of this art also brought him some notoriety. The many photographs of nude or semi-nude little girls led to many researchers speculating that Carroll was a paedophile


End I must with Lewis Carroll the Poet. In fact, his first piece to be published under the name of “Lewis Carroll” was a poem titled Solitude!

Many like Jabberwocky, The Walrus and the Carpenter, You are old, Father William are part of the Alice books, but many like Phantasmagoria and this whimsical poem are not…


A Sea Dirge by Lewis Carroll

There are certain things--as, a spider, a ghost,
The income-tax, gout, an umbrella for three--
That I hate, but the thing that I hate the most
Is a thing they call the Sea.

Pour some salt water over the floor--
Ugly I'm sure you'll allow it to be:
Suppose it extended a mile or more,
That's very like the Sea.

Beat a dog till it howls outright--
Cruel, but all very well for a spree:
Suppose that he did so day and night,
That would be like the Sea.

I had a vision of nursery-maids;
Tens of thousands passed by me--
All leading children with wooden spades,
And this was by the Sea.

Who invented those spades of wood?
Who was it cut them out of the tree?
None, I think, but an idiot could--
Or one that loved the Sea.

It is pleasant and dreamy, no doubt, to float
With "thoughts as boundless, and souls as free":
But, suppose you are very unwell in the boat,
How do you like the Sea?

There is an insect that people avoid
(Whence is derived the verb "to flee").
Where have you been by it most annoyed?
In lodgings by the Sea.

If you like your coffee with sand for dregs,
A decided hint of salt in your tea,
And a fishy taste in the very eggs--
By all means choose the Sea.

And if, with these dainties to drink and eat,
You prefer not a vestige of grass or tree,
And a chronic state of wet in your feet,
Then--I recommend the Sea.

For I have friends who dwell by the coast--
Pleasant friends they are to me!
It is when I am with them I wonder most
That anyone likes the Sea.

They take me a walk: though tired and stiff,
To climb the heights I madly agree;
And, after a tumble or so from the cliff,
They kindly suggest the Sea.

I try the rocks, and I think it cool
That they laugh with such an excess of glee,
As I heavily slip into every pool
That skirts the cold cold Sea.

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