Friday, 25 January 2008

Wordsmith Carroll

Daresbury, often passed unnoticed by motorists, is aside the main road that runs between the town of Warrington and the city of Chester. It is the village where Lewis Carroll was born, 176 years ago on the 27th January.
Placed to 'capture' the passer-by who chances to stray from the main road, is the traditional village inn - the Ring O' Bells. It's much the same as it was in the days when Lewis Carroll's father, the Reverend Dodgson, rang the church bell to summon the flock to worship.
The strange and wonderful thing about Daresbury is that its secrets are hidden deep underground. Beneath Lewis Carroll's birthplace there exists today a real Alice in Wonderland world; the magical world of the very small - the Mad Hatter world of quantum physics - the world where man is vainly trying to unravel the unseen mysteries and secrets of the universe.
Not far away, in North Wales, is the village of Deganwy. It stands on the shore of the Irish Sea below a mighty rock known as the Great Orme. On, or rather inside, the Orme is found the oldest and largest bronze age mine in the world. So far as is known up to the present time the mine goes down at least 9 levels. The number of bronze age axes that could have been made from the product of this one mine runs into millions. Children were sent into the mine with bones from sharks as tools for digging. These days general public may explore part of the first two levels of the mine which has been roped-off and illuminated with electric lights. Mind your head! The ways are narrow and low.
The mine had not been discovered in the time of Lewis Carroll but could it be that he subconsciously 'picked up' some sense of it on one of his visits to Deganwy. It was in Deganwy that Carroll met the girl on whom he based his character Alice. She happened to work in the hotel where he liked to stay. They walked together on the Orme and spoke of strange and magical things.
From the top of the Orme you may just make out the place where Poet-in-Residence was born. Look along the Menai Straits, the channel between the sunny Island of Anglesey and the brooding mountains of Snowdonia. If you make out the famous Menai Bridge, its large chains gleaming white in the sunshine, you'll have found the spot.
When P-i-R was learning to speak he made-up his own words; sambeld and bumbeld, for instance! These words have to do with the quality and texture of bread.
Lewis Carroll was another who engaged in such nonsense. Words invented by Carroll are now part of our everyday language - words like chortle and burble. To mark the 176th birthday of his mother's favourite poet, Poet-in-Residence presents a fitting flittering poem from 'Through the Looking-Glass'.


'Twas brilling, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

'Beware the Jabberwock my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!'

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought -
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

'And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Lewis Carroll Jan 27th 1832 - Jan 14th 1898)

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