Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Walrus and The Carpenter by Lewis Carroll

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!"

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.

Lewis Carroll

I love narrative poetry such as this - and yet although this is thought to be for children and perhaps simplistic, or not as sophisticated as more literary works and yet it manages to hold a number of truths that are just as relevant today as back then - and yet still hold warmth, humour, meter and rhyme.  A lovely piece of fun with a dark side -- so very Lewis Carroll :)


A.J. Ponder 

 A.J. Ponder's work is available through Rona Gallery, Amazon, and good Wellington bookstores


  1. Oh, Alicia, this was my favourite poem when I was small - I learnt it off by heart! My favourite lines - the classic, '"The time has come", the walrus said, "to talk of many things..."' Thanks so much for posting - made my evening :)

    1. Thanks for dropping by - it's amazing how you can fall in love with a poem all over again.

      And that line, in fact anything the walrus says has to be in this deep rumbly snooty voice - it's just so fun :)

  2. This is still one of my favourite poems - I used to be able to recite all of it by heart, now I only remember a few of the funniest stanzas. Thank you for posting it - as you say, There's another landscape behind the simple, humorous front.

  3. Cheers, and well done on your memory - there are some seriously funny stanzas - well worth remembering :)

  4. Good choice, Alicia -- Carroll as always is 'evergreen.'

    1. Cheers Helen, and yes strange - it seems evergreen in both senses - always fresh and inspiring - but I see an almost "greenie" sentiment in it - but perhaps that's just me reading something that isn't really intended.

  5. A masterpiece--a total delight. I first read the poem when I was twelve and it was love at first read. It's always fresh and surprising for me.

    1. Yup, totally. Cheers for dropping by,

  6. I always ended up in tears when I read this as a child, because of the oysters. God I was a wimp. (Sniff.) Nice to read it again now I'm cynical and tough. (Sniff.) Thanks for posting.

  7. I agree - the ending was so tragic and unexpected - you mean what?... let me check ... seriously? they ATE the oysters!!!! How could they?