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The Hunting of the Snark an Agony, in Eight Fits   By: (1832-1898)

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The Hunting of the Snark.



an Agony, in Eight Fits.


Author of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," and "Through the Looking Glass."


London: MACMILLAN AND CO. 1876.

[ The Right of Translation and Reproduction is Reserved. ]

London: R. Clay, Sons, and Taylor, Printers, Bread Street Hill.

Inscribed to a dear Child: in memory of golden summer hours and whispers of a summer sea.

Girt with a boyish garb for boyish task, Eager she wields her spade: yet loves as well Rest on a friendly knee, intent to ask The tale he loves to tell.

Rude 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. 18)

"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 helmsman 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... Continue reading book >>

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