jabberwocky (1872)


Jabberwocky is one of his most famous nonsensical poems taken 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.

Il lanciavicchio – Translation by Gianni Celati

Era la brilla e i fanghilosi tavi
Ghiravano e ghimblavano nel biava.
Mensi e procervi erano i borogavi
E il momico rattio superava.
Alma dell’alma, fuggì il lanciavicchio
E la zannante zanna, e l’arpionante
Arpione, fuggì il giubbio picchio
E il frumido Banderiscone.
In mano prese la spada volpale:
A lungo il mastinio nemico cercò.
Ripiegò stanco sull’albero tuntunnio:
Riguardò, contemplò, meditò.
E mentre ristava in uffoso pensiero,
Il lanciavicchio, con occhi di fuoco,
Vifflando scese dal tulgido maniero
Boforinchiando con il fiato roco.
E uno e due: a fondo e a fondo
La lama volpale snicchiò e snacchiò
Ucciso il mostro, con il tronco capo
Galoppando all’ostello tornò.
Te benedetto, uccisti il lanciavicchio!
Ah, che ti abbracci, brimante spadiero!
Giorno di fraggia e di calleia è questo!
Gaudiosamente gorgottò il messero.
Era la brilla e i fanghilosi tavi
Ghiravano e ghimblavano nel biava.
Mensi e procervi erano i borogavi
E il momico rattio superava.
(da Lewis Carroll, Alice through the looking-glass)
In Zibaldoni e altre meraviglie

Glossary

bandersnatch: fantastic creature
borogove – a lonf and thin bird with many feathers, like a living sweeper.
bryllyg’ o brillig – 4 o’ clock in the afternoon, it comes from  bryl and  broil, the time when dinner is going to be prepared.
burbled – to burble: comes from the union of  bleat, murmur e warble and means  mumble
frumious – it comes from the mixture of  fuming (smoky ) and  furious
gimble o gymble – to gimble, from gimlet  which means succhiello (it. fare buchi con un succhiello)
gyre’ – to gyre to go round like a gyroscope .
Jabberwocky –  adjective form of Jabberwock
jubjub –  sound of the Snark, a desperate bird who is always in pain.
mimsy –  a mixture of flimsy (in anguish) e miserable.
mome’ – two interpretations: contraction for home and/or solemn.
outgrabe – to outgribe, sounds of creatures called  Rath; something between a whistle and a cry with a sneeze .
rath – fantastic creature like a green pig
slithy o slythy – combination of lithe (agile) e slimy (slippery, greasy)
tove – fantastic creature, a misture of a  un tasso e un cavatappi
uffish –when the voice is  gruffish, the manners are roughish and the mood  huffish.
wabe – grassy area around a meridian. Wabe because it goes “a long way before it (meridian)”, “a long way behind it” e “a long way beyond it” (ovvero, va da molto prima (della meridiana) a “molto dietro” e “molto oltre”)

Probably the source of the poem was an old German ballad The Shepherd of the Giant Mountains in which a young shepherd defeats a monstrous Griffon and it was translated into English by
Menella Bute Smedley (one of Carroll’s relatives)in  1846

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