The Walrus and the Carpenter

When I was in college studying drama, one of the assignments was to perform a poem … something long and epic. Most of my fellow students felt a need to showcase their dramatic skill by performing “How do I love thee” or one of the many Elizabethan sonnets. They did so using a variety of accents that would have caused old Will Shakespeare to run screaming from the room.

I have always felt that 19-year-olds should avoid excess dramaturgy. They look silly. Or maybe they were merely bad actors. None of them have been seen on stage or screen since. For that matter, neither have I but I never  dreamt of a life under the spotlights. I was studying drama because it was an easy major, letting me mark time until I figured out what I really wanted to do.

Ever marching to a different drummer and as an aficionado of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, my performance piece was The Walrus and the Carpenter. To this day, I can still recite the whole thing (more of less) from memory. Jabberwocky, too. I’m that good.

So happy birthday Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson:  January 27, 1832 – January 14, 1898), master of literary nonsense and political satire. I’m a few days late, but I fell down a rabbit hole and lost track of time.

The Walrus and The Carpenter

Lewis Carroll

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

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright–
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done–
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“To come and spoil the fun!”

Walrus and carpenter
The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead–
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
“If this were only cleared away,”
They said, “it would be grand!”

“If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

“O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head–
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat–
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more–
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

“But wait a bit,” the Oysters cried,
“Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
“No hurry!” said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
“Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed–
Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”

“But not on us!” the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
“After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
“The night is fine,” the Walrus said.
“Do you admire the view?
“It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf–
I’ve had to ask you twice!”

“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
“To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“The butter’s spread too thick!”

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

Categories: Arts, Books, Entertainment, Humor, Literature, Poetry

Tags: , , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. Lewis Carroll: a true master of nonsense and satire! 🙂


    • In the original, I gather all of the iillustrations were charicatures (sp?) of the pols of the day. T’was more to him than met the eye. I actually have a cop of “The Annotated Alice” I got when I worked at Doubleday in those really good old days. It explains all the references we miss now because (a) we aren’t English and (b) who remembers all that political stuff more than 100 years later?


  2. Thank you for reminding me of this 🙂


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