Monday, February 13, 2012

Fit 8, pg. 80/1 … crouching tiger, hidden snark



The Bellman is referring to his acolyte, the Baker, who is played here by Lewis Carroll, who is himself being played by the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Both of these players were the guiding genii and prime movers of what scholars now call the Carrollian Multiverse, a multi-bibliarium transcending time and space and logic wherein many curious beasties and a few human weirdoes lived their freakish lives.

As I've pointed out before, this poem we call the Snark is the only Victorian verse epic (or epyllion) that has withstood the test of time. As such, it is a direct descendant of such literary blockbusters as the Iliad and the Odyssey and we all know what that means … for example, the famous device of the Homeric epithet — rosy-fingered Dawn or sticky-fingered Odysseus — has been handily transmogrified by the Admirable Carroll into the Carrollian epithet.

We can see two of them in the above stanzel (stanza+panel). One of them is Thingumbob, a Carrollian epithet which the Baker gladly accepts for the simple fact that he had forgotten his own name, way back in Fit the Second. (Need we mention, parenthetically of course, that this amnesia is a sly exegesis upon the Adamic Nominative Imperative that is made so much of in the Book of Genesis? I thought so.)

Another Second Fit epithet for the Baker is Candle-ends, an epithet which I'm sure all of my readers will instantly remember as being the English equivalent of the Chinese ideogram known as "xié", ie. candle-stub.


Xié : Candlestub


The "xié" ideogram has been liberally sprinkled about this stanzel to reinforce this Sino-Carrollian epithet, an epithet which curiously enough was also the nickname of one of Carroll's best friends, the charming Alexandra "Xie" Kitchin. We see her here in a photograph of Carroll's, a photo in which she plays the role of a rather diffident Chinese tea merchant.




Alexandra "Xié" Kitchin, photo by Lewis Carroll

Naturally, all this Carrollian epithetting cannot hold a candlestub to that Greek guy Homer's epithetting but on the other hand, the Carrollian Multiverse is not one of the world's top importers of Porsche sports cars and is in no need of a Eurozone bail-out. Who's talking Nonsense now, eh?

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NB. I'll be signing copies of my Snark and also participating in the Poetry and Visual Arts Roundtable, February 17, 2012, 2 - 4 p.m. at the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House, 58 West 10th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, NYC. This will provide a rare opportunity for myself to leave the house without being pelted with freezing rain, snow, ice and poutine … featured poets will also include Sommer Browning, Matthea Harvey, Mark Leidner, Bianca Stone, and Paul Tunis. More info here