... no matter how many times I read this, it still makes me smile...
(Poem #265) The Mad Gardener's Song
He thought he saw an Elephant, That practised on a fife: He looked again, and found it was A letter from his wife. 'At length I realise,' he said, The bitterness of Life!' He thought he saw a Buffalo Upon the chimney-piece: He looked again, and found it was His Sister's Husband's Niece. 'Unless you leave this house,' he said, "I'll send for the Police!' He thought he saw a Rattlesnake That questioned him in Greek: He looked again, and found it was The Middle of Next Week. 'The one thing I regret,' he said, 'Is that it cannot speak!' He thought he saw a Banker's Clerk Descending from the bus: He looked again, and found it was A Hippopotamus. 'If this should stay to dine,' he said, 'There won't be much for us!' He thought he saw a Kangaroo That worked a coffee-mill: He looked again, and found it was A Vegetable-Pill. 'Were I to swallow this,' he said, 'I should be very ill!' He thought he saw a Coach-and-Four That stood beside his bed: He looked again, and found it was A Bear without a Head. 'Poor thing,' he said, 'poor silly thing! It's waiting to be fed!' He thought he saw an Albatross That fluttered round the lamp: He looked again, and found it was A Penny-Postage Stamp. 'You'd best be getting home,' he said: 'The nights are very damp!' He thought he saw a Garden-Door That opened with a key: He looked again, and found it was A Double Rule of Three: 'And all its mystery,' he said, 'Is clear as day to me!' He thought he saw a Argument That proved he was the Pope: He looked again, and found it was A Bar of Mottled Soap. 'A fact so dread,' he faintly said, 'Extinguishes all hope!'
Incongruity of this order is a high art. Indeed, it's astonishingly difficult to pull off - there's more to it than just stringing random words together, as any aspiring nonsense-poet will tell you. And today's poem is one of the very best - whimsical, unexpected, even bizarre at times, yet consistently matter-of-fact and deadpan - it's the tone of voice that does the trick, as much as the incocngruity of the images. As with the poems of Edward Lear (surely his only rival for the title of High Priest of the Absurd), notice how simple Carroll's versification is - regular iambic heptameters, simple masculine end-rhymes, and a well-defined template for each stanza - the idea being to focus attention on the 'action' (such as it is), not distract the reader with elaborate metaphors and complex metrical schemes. That it works as it does is a tribute to Carroll's imagination. Pope Thomas the First. (Oops, that's Thomas the Freshly-Washed-In-Mottled-Soap, actually :-)) [Minstrels Links] The canonical examples of nonsense poetry are Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky, at poem #52 and Edward Lear's The Owl and the Pussy-Cat, at poem #165. [Biography] Lewis Carroll is the pseudonym of the English writer and mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, b. Jan. 27, 1832, d. Jan. 14, 1898, known especially for ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND (1865) and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (1872), children's books that are also distinguished as satire and as examples of verbal wit. Carroll invented his pen name by translating his first two names into the Latin "Carolus Lodovicus" and then anglicizing it into "Lewis Carroll." The son of a clergyman and the firstborn of 11 children, Carroll began at an early age to entertain himself and his family with magic tricks, marionette shows, and poems written for homemade newspapers. From 1846 to 1850 he attended Rugby School; he graduated from Christ Church College, Oxford, in 1854. Carroll remained there, lecturing on mathematics and writing treatises and guides for students. Although he took deacon's orders in 1861, Carroll was never ordained a priest, partly because he was afflicted with a stammer that made preaching difficult and partly, perhaps, because he had discovered other interests. Among Carroll's avocations was photography, at which he became proficient. He excelled especially at photographing children. Alice Liddell, one of the three daughters of Henry George Liddell, the dean of Christ Church, was one of his photographic subjects and the model for the fictional Alice. Carroll's comic and children's works also include The Hunting of the Snark (1876), two collections of humorous verse, and the two parts of Sylvie and Bruno (1889, 1893), unsuccessful attempts to re-create the Alice fantasies. As a mathematician, Carroll was conservative and derivative. As a logician, he was more interested in logic as a game than as an instrument for testing reason. In his diversions as a photographer and author of comic fantasy, he is most memorable and original--the man who, for example, contributed, in "Jabberwocky," the word chortle, a portmanteau word that combines "snort" and "chuckle," to the English language. -- Donald Gray, http://www.insite.com.br/rodrigo/text/lewis_carroll.html A more comprehensive bio can be found at [broken link] http://www.anova.org/carroll.html