Five of the best pieces of Carrollian nonsense
Lewis Carroll (1832-98) is probably best-remembered for his two novels for children, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. The latter of these two books contained the classic nonsense poem, ‘Jabberwocky’, and Carroll’s poetry can easily match that of his fellow Victorian nonsense-maker, Edward Lear for sheer fun and zaniness. Below we’ve picked what we think are Lewis Carroll’s five best poems, complete with some information about them.
‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’. This poem is recited by the fat twins, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, to Alice in Through the Looking-Glass (1871). Some commentators have interpreted the predatory walrus and carpenter – who feed on the oysters they find on a beach – as representing Buddha (because the walrus is large) and Jesus (the carpenter being the trade Jesus was raised in). Read the rest of this entry
Ten of the best poems for children
What are the best children’s poems in all of English literature? Every reader will have their own firm favourites that bring back fond memories of those carefree and innocent days, but we’ve tried to select ten of the very finest classic poems for children for this post. For classic nursery rhymes, check out our pick of the best children’s nursery rhymes in a separate post.
Lewis Carroll, ‘Jabberwocky’. Often mistakenly called ‘The Jabberwocky’ (the Jabberwock is the monster, so the poem is ‘Jabberwocky’), this poem first appeared in Lewis Carroll’s 1871 follow-up book to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking-Glass. Focusing on the slaying of a fearsome monster, the titular Jabberwock, the poem is renowned for the inventiveness of its language: it gave us almost literally dozens of new words, including some now in common use: the words ‘chortle’ and ‘galumph’. Read the rest of this entry
A summary and analysis of a fine Stevenson poem
‘From a Railway Carriage’ belongs to a considerable poetic tradition: that of conveying the experience of a railway journey through the rhythm of verse. The poem was published in Robert Louis Stevenson‘s 1885 volume of poetry for children, A Child’s Garden of Verses, a couple of years after he’d had a runaway bestseller with Treasure Island. ‘From a Railway Carriage’ is a masterly piece of versification, using its sprightly rhythm to evoke the movement of a train. Here is the poem, followed by a few words by way of analysis of its meaning and its effects.
Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by. Read the rest of this entry