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Carroll, Lewis
"How doth the little crocodile"

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale !

How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in,
With gently smiling jaws !
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In winter, when the fields are white,
I sing this song for your delight -

In spring when woods are getting green,
I'll try and tell you what I mean :
In summer when the days are long,
Perhaps you'll understand the song :

In autumn when the leaves are brown,
Take pen and ink and write it down.

I sent a message to the fish :
I told them "This is what I wish."

The little fishes of the sea,
They sent an answer back to me.

The little fishes' answer was
"We cannot do it, Sir, because -"

I sent to them again to say
"It will be better to obey."

The fishes answered with a grin,
"Why, what temper are you in !"
I told them once, I told them twice :
They would not listen to advice.

I took a kettle large and new,
Fit for the deed I had to do.

My heart went hop, my heart went thump :
I filled the kettle at the pump.

Then some one came to me and said
"The little fishes are in bed."

I said to him, I said it plain,
"Then you must wake them up again."

I said it very loud and clear :
I went and shouted in his ear.

But he was very stiff and proud :
He said "You needn't shout so loud !"

And he was very proud and stiff :
He said "I'd go and wake them, if -"

I took a corkscrew from the shelf :
I went to wake them up myself.

And when I found the door was locked,
I pushed and pulled and kicked and knocked.
I whent I found the door was shut,
I tried to turn the handle, but -

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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 maxome foe he sought-
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood a while in thought.
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.
"Has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Calloh! 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.


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  Poeta Fit, Non Nascitur


"How shall I be a poet?
How shall I write in rhyme?
You told me once 'the very wish
Partook of the sublime.'
The tell me how! Don't put me off
With your 'another time'!"
The old man smiled to see him,
To hear his sudden sally;
He liked the lad to speak his mind
Enthusiastically;
And thought "There's no hum-drum in him,
Nor any shilly-shally."

"And would you be a poet
Before you've been to school?
Ah, well! I hardly thought you
So absolute a fool.
First learn to be spasmodic --
A very simple rule.

"For first you write a sentence,
And then you chop it small;
Then mix the bits, and sort them out
Just as they chance to fall:
The order of the phrases makes
No difference at all.

'Then, if you'd be impressive,
Remember what I say,
That abstract qualities begin
With capitals alway:
The True, the Good, the Beautiful --
Those are the things that pay!
"Next, when we are describing
A shape, or sound, or tint;
Don't state the matter plainly,
But put it in a hint;
And learn to look at all things
With a sort of mental squint."

"For instance, if I wished, Sir,
Of mutton-pies to tell,
Should I say 'dreams of fleecy flocks
Pent in a wheaten cell'?"
"Why, yes," the old man said: "that phrase
Would answer very well.

"Then fourthly, there are epithets
That suit with any word --
As well as Harvey's Reading Sauce
With fish, or flesh, or bird --
Of these, 'wild,' 'lonely,' 'weary,' 'strange,'
Are much to be preferred."

"And will it do, O will it do
To take them in a lump --
As 'the wild man went his weary way
To a strange and lonely pump'?"
"Nay, nay! You must not hastily
To such conclusions jump.

"Such epithets, like pepper,
Give zest to what you write;
And, if you strew them sparely,
They whet the appetite:
But if you lay them on too thick,
You spoil the matter quite!

"Last, as to the arrangement:
Your reader, you should show him,
Must take what information he
Can get, and look for no im
mature disclosure of the drift
And purpose of your poem.

"Therefore to test his patience --
How much he can endure --
Mention no places, names, or dates,
And evermore be sure
Throughout the poem to be found
Consistently obscure.

"First fix upon the limit
To which it shall extend:
Then fill it up with 'Padding'
(Beg some of any friend)
Your great SENSATION-STANZA
You place towards the end."
"And what is a Sensation,
Grandfather, tell me, pray?
I think I never heard the word
So used before to-day:
Be kind enough to mention one
'Exempli gratiâ'"

And the old man, looking sadly
Across the garden-lawn,
Where here and there a dew-drop
Yet glittered in the dawn,
Said "Go to the Adelphi,
And see the 'Colleen Bawn.'

"The word is due to Boucicault --
The theory is his,
Where Life becomes a Spasm,
And History a Whiz:
If that is not Sensation,
I don't know what it is,

"Now try your hand, ere Fancy
Have lost its present glow --"
"And then," his grandson added,
"We'll publish it, you know:
Green cloth -- gold-lettered at the back --
In duodecimo!"

Then proudly smiled that old man
To see the eager lad
Rush madly for his pen and ink
And for his blotting-pad --
But, when he thought of publishing,
His face grew stern and sad.

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The Sea


There are certain things -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 one 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 a 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 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'm 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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Little Birds

Little Birds are dining
Warily and well,
Hid in mossy cell:
Hid, I say, by waiters
Gorgeous in their gaiters -
I've a Tale to tell.
Little Birds are feeding
Justices with jam,
Rich in frizzled ham:
Rich, I say, in oysters
Haunting shady cloisters -
That is what I am.

Little Birds are teaching
Tigresses to smile,
Innocent of guile:
Smile, I say, not smirkle -
Mouth a semicircle,
That's the proper style!

Little Birds are sleeping
All among the pins,
Where the loser wins:
Where, I say, he sneezes
When and how he pleases -
So the Tale begins.

Little Birds are writing
Interesting books,
To be read by cooks:
Read, I say, not roasted -
Letterpress, when toasted,
Loses its good looks.
Little Birds are playing
Bagpipes on the shore,
Where the tourists snore:
"Thanks!" they cry. "'Tis thrilling!
Take, oh take this shilling!
Let us have no more!"

Little Birds are bathing
Crocodiles in cream,
Like a happy dream:
Like, but not so lasting -
Crocodiles, when fasting,
Are not all they seem!

Little Birds are choking
Baronets with bun,
Taught to fire a gun:
Taught, I say, to splinter
Salmon in the winter -
Merely for the fun.

Little Birds are hiding
Crimes in carpet-bags,
Blessed by happy stags:
Blessed, I say, though beaten -
Since our friends are eaten
When the memory flags.

Little Birds are tasting
Gratitude and gold,
Pale with sudden cold:
Pale, I say, and wrinkled -
When the bells have tinkled,
And the Tale is told.