THE CURIOUS WORLD OF ALICE

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THE MOUSE`S TALE:

We lived beneath the mat,

Warm and snug and fat,

But one woe, and that

Was the Cat!

To our joys a clog,

In our eyes a fog,

On your hearts a log,

Was the Dog!

When the Cat`s away,

Then the mice will play,

But alas! one day,

(So they say)

Came the Dog and the Cat,

Hunting for a Rat,

Crushed the mice all flat,

Each one as he sat,

Underneath the mat,

Warm and snug and fat,

Think of that!

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The origins of most of the poems found in  Alice`s Adventures In Wonderland are as pastiches of other writers works. Carroll may have garnered the idea for the above poem from Tennyson recounting a dream he had to Carroll about faeries, beginning with long lines, until the lines shortened to be of no more than two syllables each. The poem we have here, is the original version, which is very different from the published one below………………

`Fury said to a mouse,

That he met in the house,

“Let us both go to law: I will

Prosecute YOU.

–Come, I`ll take no denial;

We must have a trial:

For really this morning I`ve nothing to do.”

Said the mouse to the cur,

“Such a trial, dear Sir,

With no jury or judge, would be wasting our breath.”

“I`ll be judge, I`ll be jury,”

Said cunning old Fury:

“I`ll try the whole cause, and condemn you to death.”`

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In the Victorian era, educated children were obliged to learn “moralizing” poems by heart in order to instil within them the essential, sturdy and righteous Victorian values needed to be an honest, upright citizen. Carroll altered and inverted many of the verses for his Alice books, although unfortunately, the original poems are mostly lost to popular memory, so depriving us of their comical parody. What remains of course, is Carroll`s unsurpassed genius with the written word.

A good example of Carroll`s wicked inversion of meaning comes with the following poem, which is a parody of a rather serious work by G.W. Langford, called, Speak Gently, which is an exhortation to be kind and gentle to little boys because they will best thrive on understanding rather than with a stern, and firm hand…………

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SPEAK ROUGHLY TO YOUR LITTLE BOY:

Speak roughly to your little boy,

And beat him when he sneezes:

He only does it to annoy,

Because he knows it teases.

Chorus( in which the cook and the baby joined) —

Wow! Wow! Wow!

I speak severely to my boy,

And beat him when he sneezes:

For he can thoroughly enjoy

The pepper when he pleases.

Chorus:

Wow! Wow! Wow!

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The original poem is a rather lengthy and boring affair stuffed with Victorian sentimentality and moral lecturing, so I`m not showing it here; but if you wish to punish yourself with a spot of intellectual self flagellation, it`s out there lurking within intent on the electric interweb.

I`ve always thought that Lewis Carroll was far too good to waste on children alone: by that, I mean children in years; we all have the child we once were still inside of us. Lewis Carroll`s anarchic writing is just the ticket to release that inner child and show that it`s okay to grow old in years disgracefully, and enjoy the shear viciousness of a fantasy world  seemingly without rules, rhyme or reason; where you could be gobbled up by slavering, carnivorous monsters, or decapitated on the whim of a sadistic, mentally infantile, sociopathic Queen; engage in philosophical banter with chilled out, opium smoking caterpillars, and talk to the animals. It`s a world where all the humans are impulsive, irrational and live for the day, because there isn`t really a firm concept of “tomorrow” in childhood, because everything is lived in the here and now.

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Lewis Carroll captures this mood perfectly, which is why his work will never grow old inside of us, even as we advance in years. I think one of my favourite little poems by him sums up the simple wonder of a child`s view on the world around them, and the enduring popularity of young Alice and her remarkable adventures……………..

THE TARTS:

The Queen of Hearts,

she made some tarts

All on a summer day:

The Knave of Hearts, he stole those

tarts,

And took them quite away!

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