Tuesday, 6 October 2015

English as She is Spoke

One of my young pupils has some trouble with pronunciation of English; her father tells me her pronunciation of Greek is also not much cop. I got her to listen to Sir Ralph Richardson reading Keats’s ‘Ode to Autumn’, telling her not to pay too much attention to the meaning, but to concentrate on the sound. Keats of course is a little advanced for a twelve-year-old Greek girl, so it occurred to me that since we were interested in sound, not meaning, she might find a nonsense-poem more entertaining. I shall try her on this well-known piece by Lewis Carroll:


Lewis Carroll

(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

`Twas brillig, 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, has 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.
This of course is Sir John Tenniel's well-known picture of the Jabberwock. (I don't think there was ever more than one Jabberwock.) Such were the delicate sensibilities of the bourgeoisie of the period that it was thought better not to include this picture in some editions of the Alice books; they thought it might be too disturbing for children. How little they knew of what children really like.
Oh, and by the way, the word, as you see here, is 'borogoves'. Many later printings of the poem make it 'borogroves'.



No comments:

Post a Comment