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The Snark

I’ve been looking into conviction by repetition for another project, and landed on a long-time favorite of mine, The Hunting of the Snark. Re-reading it now gave me an uncanny sense of double vision. The bit that did it follows the First Fit of the poem, in which the other crew members are described.

The crew was complete: it included a Boots–
A maker of Bonnets and Hoods–
A Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes–
And a Broker, to value their goods.

A Billiard-maker, whose skill was immense,
Might perhaps have won more than his share–
But a Banker, engaged at enormous expense,
Had the whole of their cash in his care.

Then he gets to the Bellman.

The Bellman himself they all praised to the skies–
Such a carriage, such ease and such grace!
Such solemnity, too! One could see he was wise,
The moment one looked in his face!

He had bought a large map representing the sea,
Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
A map they could all understand.

“What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,
Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?”
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
“They are merely conventional signs!

“Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank:
(So the crew would protest) “that he’s bought us the best–
A perfect and absolute blank!”

This was charming, no doubt; but they shortly found out
That the Captain they trusted so well
Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
And that was to tingle his bell.

He was thoughtful and grave–but the orders he gave
Were enough to bewilder a crew.
When he cried “Steer to starboard, but keep her head larboard!”
What on earth was the helmsman to do?

Then the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes:
A thing, as the Bellman remarked,
That frequently happens in tropical climes,
When a vessel is, so to speak, “snarked.”

But the principal failing occurred in the sailing,
And the Bellman, perplexed and distressed,
Said he had hoped, at least, when the wind blew due East,
That the ship would not travel due West!

You see what I mean? Eerie. Lewis Carroll didn’t even know any of our politicians.

25 Responses

  1. All good poets understand. Obama and his ilk are nothing new. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias comes to mind.

    I met a traveller from an antique land
    Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
    And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    `My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
    Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
    The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

  2. Oh yes. Cue Twilight Zone music. Don’t forget the Caucus Race! Methinks Charles Dodgson must have met Dr. Who and taken a ride on the TARDIS at some point.

    • The TARDIS! Of course! As a Whovian for several incarnations now, I should have thought of that. It’s the only possibility.

  3. I dunno. I alway found this to be very apt:

    O wretched countrymen! What fury reigns?
    What more than madness has possess’d your brains?
    Think you the Grecians from your coasts are gone?
    And are Ulysses’ arts no better known?
    This hollow fabric either must inclose,
    Within its blind recess, our secret foes;
    Or ‘t is an engine rais’d above the town,
    T’ o’erlook the walls, and then to batter down.
    Somewhat is sure design’ d, by fraud or force:
    Trust not their presents, nor admit the horse.’

  4. All good choices – I love poetry
    However, this drama reminds me of the Iliad – as it’s narrative poetry, I can’t give you a stanza per se.
    Obama would be Paris, the United States would be Helen, Hillary would be Cassandra.
    Quick summary, Paris (Obama) lusts after Helen (the United States) and steal her away from her people and takes her to Troy. Cassandra, who has been cursed by the Gods to always speak her prophesies, but no one will believe them, tries to tell the people that doom is on the way unless they take action. Of course, she has that curse, so no one pays attention. Short ending to a very long (vivid, fascinating narrative) poem, Troy is destroyed, Cassandra is enslaved, and Helen is doomed. P.S. this is the battle where Achilles found his doom – an arrow in the achilles tendon, the only place where he was vulnerable. I wonder.
    Anyway, I’d post stanzas, but the total poem is over 100 pages long.

    • It works. Who’s Achilles?

      • Still working on that one. Achilles was supposedly a hero (poet’s perogative I suppose), yet he did some dastardly stuff in his zeal to shore up his side yet he never questioned the rationale for the war, nor the cost – lives, infrastructure etc. All he appeared to care about was being the son of a god, and the biggest, fiercest and best, and opposing those darned Trojans. Who would best fit that picture? Rahm?

        • He could represent the Democratic Party as a whole, I guess. They’re completely invulnerable except for that one unforeseen weak spot Messes up the Trojan/Greek part of the analogy, I suppose, but…..

        • He’d be a good Obama (the pride and arrogance) but the comparison ends there. Achilles actually won most of the battles he set out to win. And he didn’t speak vagueities beforehand.

      • Don’t know – however the whole scenario is not over. Who is the Republican attack dog this week? Back in the Clinton administration, Newt would have been the analogy. Today, who is the pit bull who attacks the government without mercy?

        • Well there’s the one pitbull who wears lipstick. She does attack Obama relentlessly. Don’t think she fits the bill of Achilles though.

    • Casandra = Conf Pumas

  5. Here’s some poetry with lesser words and an image
    (I think it went over the head of those who created it)

  6. Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
    It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
    It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
    For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

    There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
    There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
    And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
    No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

    Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
    Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
    Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
    Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

    And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
    And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
    Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
    “That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said.

    From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
    Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
    “Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
    And it’s likely they’d a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

    With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
    He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
    He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
    But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

    “Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
    But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
    They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
    And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

    The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
    He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
    And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
    And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

    Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
    The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
    And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
    But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.

  7. I hope we don’t have some visitor come by and freak out “I don’t see any snark font!”

  8. What better than Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and its conspiracy of Senators (Democrats) against Caesar (Clinton Dynasty?).

    Marcus Brutus is Caesar’s close friend and a Roman praetor. Brutus allows himself to be cajoled into joining a group of conspiring senators because of a growing suspicion—implanted by Caius Cassius—that Caesar intends to turn republican Rome into a monarchy under his own rule.

    This is Mark Anthony’s reply to Brutus defense that he was acting for the good of the Republic:

    Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
    I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
    The evil that men do lives after them;
    The good is oft interred with their bones:
    So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
    Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
    If it were so, it was a grievous fault;
    And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
    Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest,—
    For Brutus is an honourable man;
    So are they all, all honorable men,—
    Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
    He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
    But Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And Brutus is an honourable man.
    He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
    Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
    Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
    When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
    Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
    Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And Brutus is an honourable man.
    You all did see that on the Lupercal
    I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
    Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
    Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And, sure, he is an honourable man.
    I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
    But here I am to speak what I do know.
    You all did love him once,—not without cause:
    What cause withholds you, then, to mourn for him?—
    O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
    And men have lost their reason!—Bear with me;
    My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
    And I must pause till it come back to me.

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