Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Fit the Fourth, Page 28, Panel 2 … snark-drops keep falling on my head
“Introduce me, now there’s a good fellow,” he said,
“If we happen to meet it together!”
And the Bellman, sagaciously nodding his head,
Said “That must depend on the weather.”
The above stanza may be a bit unclear to some readers (particularly those possessing an iota of common sense). The Butcher, seen above as a lugubrious sort of rude mechanical’s nightmare of an Easter-Island-Pierrot, is requesting the Bellman to formally introduce him to the Snark whenever they might encounter it. The Bellman is noncommittal, stating that either the introduction* or the meeting itself (or both) is entirely contingent upon the weather.
What gives, Lewis Carroll? Are we still hunting snark or are we just marking time now? Are we waiting for Godot or even his late-Victorian progenitor, Mistuh Kurtz? Very well then, so be it! We shall once again call upon Oscar Wilde for some quick and snappy enlightenment. Being both Irish and dry-witted, he was particularly qualified to make the following pronouncement upon the English and their mildewed sense of meteorology :
"Pray don't talk to me about the weather … Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else.”
Following this trail of bread crumbs deeper into the naughty forest of edible children, we stumble over the twitching presence of the Great Cham himself, Dr. Johnson, who tossed off this trite observation with his customary gravitas:
“It is commonly observed, that when two Englishmen meet, their first talk is of the weather.”
A thing that always means something else, a thing that is always the prime topic of discussion … hmmm … we will proceed by mentally triangulating all of this with our above, freshly-minted illustration of a Bellman under the weather.
End result? A compact semioglyph of an Englishman feeling out of sorts because he is compelled by national habit to say something that always means something else, in short, to say the thing that was not! Yoicks, the game’s afoot at last! Behind the jolly good sport of our Snark Hunt, behind the labyrinthine hedgerows of English Nonsense, we have once again detected the spoor of that irascible Yahoo, Dean Swift! Oh, to say the thing that is not is all the rage these days, you add a dollop of Nonsense to it and it will cover a veritable multitude of sins, not the least of which is my penchant for the most byzantine mixing of metaphors yet known to man!
To horse, to Houyhnhnm, the Yahoos are let loose for there’s a scent of Snark in the wind and the weather’s fine!
NB. Today being the deathday of Lewis Carroll, I thought it quite serendipitous that the latest publication of the LCSNA has just arrived here, totally unexpected and very much appreciated! A volume of Carrollian criticism by Elizabeth Sewell, entitled Lewis Carroll: Voices From France, at first glance it seems highly interesting, especially from the Snarkologist's point of view. And from this Snarkologist's immediate impressions, Dr. Sewell's emphasis upon the links between high modernism, French poetry & Carrollian nonsense is utter catnip! I plan to do a longer posting upon this work after a careful reading-cum-rumination; its relevance to the strategies employed in my ever so 'umble Snark is immense!
If you are not a member of the LCSNA and if you are a regular reader of this blog, you are neglecting the opportunity to receive some very exciting publications, not to mention the regular Knight Letter, all at a very reasonable price. You won't be disappointed!
*One can imagine the grim consequences of any letter of introduction to a beast such as a Snark or even, heavens forfend, a Boojum! Pity the poor Butcher as he hands over his letter to some supercilious flunky in an icy waiting room, the contents of which letter are invisible to him but which we already have guessed to be a simple directive of utter Boojumistic malevolence — keep this Butcher running!