Lewis Carroll’s “Lays of Mystery, Imagination, and Humour”



I DREAMT I dwelt in marble halls,

And each damp thing that creeps and crawls

Went wobble-wobble on the walls.


Faint odours of departed cheese,

Blown on the dank, unwholesome breeze,

Awoke the never-ending sneeze.


Strange pictures decked the arras drear,

Strange characters of woe and fear,

The humbugs of the social sphere.


One showed a vain and noisy prig,

That shouted empty words and big

At him that nodded in a wig.


And one, a dotard grim and gray,

Who wasteth childhood’s happy day

In work more profitless than play.


Whose icy breast no pity warms,

Whose little victims sit in swarms,

And slowly sob on lower forms.


And one, a green thyme-honoured Bank,

Where flowers are growing wild and rank,

Like weeds that fringe a poisoned tank.


All birds of evil omen there

Flood with rich Notes the tainted air,

The witless wanderer to snare.


The fatal Notes neglected fall,

No creature heeds the treacherous call,

For all those goodly Strawn Baits Pall.


The wandering phantom broke and fled,

Straightway I saw within my head

A vision of a ghostly bed,


Where lay two worn decrepit 2 men,

The fictions of a lawyer’s pen,

Who never more might breathe again.


The serving-man of Richard Roe

Wept, inarticulate with woe:

She wept, that waited on John Doe.


“Oh rouse”, I urged, “the waning sense

With tales of tangled evidence,

Of suit, demurrer, and defence.”


“Vain”, she replied, “such mockeries:

For morbid fancies, such as these,

No suits can suit, no plea can please.”


And bending o’er that man of straw,

She cried in grief and sudden awe,

Not inappropriately, “Law!”


The well-remembered voice he knew,

He smiled, he faintly muttered “Sue!”

(Her very name was legal too.)


The night was fled, the dawn was nigh:

A hurricane went raving by,

And swept the Vision from mine eye.


Vanished that dim and ghostly bed,

(The hangings, tape; the tape was red:)

‘Tis o’er, and Doe and Roe are dead!


Oh, yet my spirit inly crawls,

What time it shudderingly recalls

That horrid dream of marble halls!


Oxford, 1855.


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Lewis Carroll’s “She’s All My Fancy Painted Him”

She’s all my fancy painted him
(I make no idle boast);
If he or you had lost a limb,
Which would have suffered most?

They told me you had been to her,
And mentioned me to him:
She gave me a good character,
But said I could not swim.

He sent them word I had not gone
(We know it to be true):
If she should push the matter on,
What would become of you?

I gave her one, they gave him two,
You gave us three or more;
They all returned from him to you,
Though they were mine before.

If I or she should chance to be
Involved in this affair,
He trusts to you to set them free,
Exactly as we were.

My notion was that you had been
(Before she had this fit)
An obstacle that came between
Him, and ourselves, and it.

Don’t let him know she liked them best,
For this must ever be
A secret, kept from all the rest,
Between yourself and me.


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Lewis Carroll’s “Coronach”

She is gone by the Hilda,

She is lost unto Whitby,

And her name is Matilda,

Which my heart it was smit by;

Tho’ I take the Goliah,

I learn to my sorrow

That ‘it wo’n’t’, said the crier,

‘Be off till tomorrow.


“She called me her ‘Neddy’,

(Tho’ there mayn’t be much in it,)

And I should have been ready,

If she’d waited a minute;

I was following behind her

When, if you recollect, I

Merely ran back to find a

Gold pin for my neck-tie.


“Rich dresser of suet!

Prime hand at a sausage!

I have lost thee, I rue it,

And my fare for the passage!

Perhaps she thinks it funny,

Aboard of the Hilda,

But I’ve lost purse and money,

And thee, oh, my ‘Tilda!”


His pin of gold the youth undid

And in his waistcoat-pocket hid,

Then gently folded hand in hand,

And dropped asleep upon the sand.


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Lewis Carroll’s “The Lady of the Ladle”

The Youth at Eve had drunk his fill,

Where stands the “Royal” on the Hill,

And long his mid-day stroll had made,

On the so-called “Marine Parade”–

(Meant, I presume, for Seamen brave,

Whose “march is on the Mountain wave”

‘Twere just the bathing-place for him

Who stays on land till he can swim)

And he had strayed into the Town,

And paced each alley up and down,

Where still, so narrow grew the way,

The very houses seemed to say,

Nodding to friends across the Street,

“One struggle more and we shall meet.”

And he had scaled that wondrous stair

That soars from earth to upper air,

Where rich and poor alike must climb,

And walk the treadmill for a time.

That morning he had dressed with care,

And put Pomatum on his hair;

He was, the loungers all agreed,

A very heavy swell indeed:

Men thought him, as he swaggered by,

Some scion of nobility,

And never dreamed, so cold his look,

That he had loved–and loved a Cook.

Upon the beach he stood and sighed

Unheedful of the treacherous tide;

Thus sang he to the listening main,

And soothed his sorrow with the strain!


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Lewis Carroll’s “The Two Brothers”

THERE were two brothers at Twyford school,

And when they had left the place,

It was, “Will ye learn Greek and Latin?

Or will ye run me a race?

Or will ye go up to yonder bridge,

And there we will angle for dace?”


“I’m too stupid for Greek and for Latin,

I’m too lazy by half for a race,

So I’ll even go up to yonder bridge,

And there we will angle for dace.”


He has fitted together two joints of his rod,

And to them he has added another,

And then a great hook he took from his book,

And ran it right into his brother.


Oh much is the noise that is made among boys

When playfully pelting a pig,

But a far greater pother was made by his brother

When flung from the top of the brigg.


The fish hurried up by the dozens,

All ready and eager to bite,

For the lad that he flung was so tender and young,

It quite gave them an appetite.


Said he, “Thus shall he wallop about

And the fish take him quite at their ease,

For me to annoy it was ever his joy,

Now I’ll teach him the meaning of ‘Tees’!”


The wind to his ear brought a voice,

“My brother, you didn’t had ought ter!

And what have I done that you think it such fun

To indulge in the pleasure of slaughter?


“A good nibble or bite is my chiefest delight,

When I’m merely expected to see,

But a bite from a fish is not quite what I wish,

When I get it performed upon me;

And just now here’s a swarm of dace at my arm,

And a perch has got hold of my knee.


“For water my thirst was not great at the first,

And of fish I have quite sufficien-“

“Oh fear not!” he cried, “for whatever betide,

We are both in the selfsame condition!


“I am sure that our state’s very nearly alike

(Not considering the question of slaughter),

For I have my perch on the top of the bridge,

And you have your perch in the water.


“I stick to my perch and your perch sticks to you,

We are really extremely alike;

I’ve a turn-pike up here, and I very much fear

You may soon have a turn with a pike.”


“Oh, grant but one wish! If I’m took by a fish

(For your bait is your brother, good man!)

Pull him up if you like, but I hope you will strike

As gently as ever you can.”


“If the fish be a trout, I’m afraid there’s no doubt

I must strike him like lightning that’s greased;

If the fish be a pike, I’ll engage not, to strike,

Till I’ve waited ten minutes at least.”


“But in those ten minutes to desolate Fate

Your brother a victim may fall!”

“I’ll reduce it to five, so perhaps you’ll survive,

But the chance is exceedingly small.”


“Oh hard is your heart for to act such a part;

Is it iron, or granite, or steel?”

“Why, I really can’t say- it is many a day

Since my heart was accustomed to feel.


“’Twas my heart-cherished wish for to slay many fish

Each day did my malice grow worse,

For my heart didn’t soften with doing it so often

But rather, I should say, the reverse.”


“Oh would I were back at Twyford school,

Learning lessons in fear of the birch!”

“Nay, brother!” he cried, “for whatever betide,

You are better off here with your perch!


“I am sure you’ll allow you are happier now,

With nothing to do but to play;

And this single line here, it is perfectly clear,

Is much better than thirty a day!


“And as to the rod hanging over your head,

And apparently ready to fall,

That, you know, was the case, when you lived in that place,

So it need not be reckoned at all.


“Do you see that old trout with a turn-up-nose snout?

(Just to speak on a pleasanter theme),

Observe, my dear brother, our love for each other

He’s the one I like best in the stream.


“To-morrow I mean to invite him to dine

(We shall all of us think it a treat);

If the day should be fine, I’ll just drop him a line,

And we’ll settle what time we’re to meet.


“He hasn’t been into society yet,

And his manners are not of the best,

So I think it quite fair that it should be my care,

To see that he’s properly dressed.”


Many words brought the wind of “cruel” and “kind”,

And that “man suffers more than the brute”:

Each several word with patience he heard,

And answered with wisdom to boot.


“What? prettier swimming in the stream,

Than lying all snugly and flat?

Do but look at that dish filled with glittering fish,

Has Nature a picture like that?


“What? a higher delight to be drawn from the sight

Of fish full of life and of glee?

What a noodle you are! ‘tis delight fuller far

To kill them than let them go free!


“I know there are people who prate by the hour

Of the beauty of earth, sky, and ocean;

Of the birds as they fly, of the fish darting by,

Rejoicing in Life and in Motion.


“As to any delight to be got from the sight,

It is all very well for a flat,

But I think it all gammon, for hooking a salmon

Is better than twenty of that!


“They say that a man of a right-thinking mind

Will love the dumb creatures he sees

What’s the use of his mind, if he’s never inclined

To pull a fish out of the Tees?


“Take my friends and my home- as an outcast I’ll roam:

Take the money I have in the Bank;

It is just what I wish, but deprive me of fish,

And my life would indeed be a blank!”


Forth from the house his sister came,

Her brothers for to see,

But when she saw that sight of awe,

The tear stood in her e’e.


“Oh what bait’s that upon your hook,

My brother, tell to me?”

“It is but the fantailed pigeon,

He would not sing for me.”


“Whoe’er would expect a pigeon to sing,

A simpleton he must be!

But a pigeon-cote is a different thing

To the coat that there I see!”


“Oh what bait’s that upon your hook,

Dear brother, tell to me?”

“It is my younger brother,” he cried,

“Oh woe and dole is me!


“I’s mighty wicked, that I is!

Or how could such things be?

Farewell, farewell, sweet sister,

I’m going o’er the sea.”


“And when will you come back again,

My brother, tell to me?”

“When chub is good for human food,

And that will never be!”


She turned herself right round about,

And her heart brake into three,

Said, “One of the two will be wet through and through,

And t’other’ll be late for his tea!”


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Lewis Carroll’s “Lays of Sorrow No. 1”

The day was wet, the rain fell souse
Like jars of strawberry jam,
sound was heard in the old henhouse,
A beating of a hammer.
Of stalwart form, and visage warm,
Two youths were seen within it,
Splitting up an old tree into perches for their poultry
At a hundred strokes a minute.
The work is done, the hen has taken
Possession of her nest and eggs,
Without a thought of eggs and bacon,
(Or I am very much mistaken)
She turns over each shell,
To be sure that all’s well,
Looks into the straw
To see there’s no flaw,
Goes once round the house,
Half afraid of a mouse,
Then sinks calmly to rest
On the top of her nest,
First doubling up each of her legs.
Time rolled away, and so did every shell,
“Small by degrees and beautifully less,”
As the large mother with a powerful spell
Forced each in turn its contents to express,
But ah! “imperfect is expression,”
Some poet said, I don’t care who,
If you want to know you must go elsewhere,
One fact I can tell, if you’re willing to hear,
He never attended a Parliament Session,
For I’m certain that if he had ever been there,
Full quickly would he have changed his ideas,
With the hissings, the hootings, the groans and the cheers.
And as to his name it is pretty clear
That it wasn’t me and it wasn’t you!

And so it fell upon a day,
(That is, it never rose again)
A chick was found upon the hay,
Its little life had ebbed away.
No longer frolicsome and gay,
No longer could it run or play.
“And must we, chicken, must we part?”
Its master cried with bursting heart,
And voice of agony and pain.
So one, whose ticket’s marked “Return”,
When to the lonely roadside station
He flies in fear and perturbation,
Thinks of his home–the hissing urn–
Then runs with flying hat and hair,
And, entering, finds to his despair
He’s missed the very last train.

Too long it were to tell of each conjecture
Of chicken suicide, and poultry victim,
The deadly frown, the stern anddreary lecture,
The timid guess, “perhaps some needle pricked him!”
The din of voice, the words both loud and many,
The sob, the tear, the sigh that none could smother,
Till all agreed “a shilling to a penny
It killed itself, and we acquit the mother!”
Scarce was the verdict spoken,
When that still calm was broken,
A childish form hath burst into the throng;
With tears and looks of sadness,
That bring no news of gladness,
But tell too surely something hath gone wrong!
“The sight I have come upon
The stoutest heart would sicken,
That nasty hen has been and gone
And killed another chicken!”


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Lewis Carroll’s “As It Fell Upon a Day”


As I was sitting on the hearth

(And O, but a hog is fat!)

A man came hurrying up the path,

(And what care I for that?)

When he came the house unto,

His breath both quick and short he drew.


When he came before the door,

His face grew paler than before.

When he turned the handle round,

The man fell fainting to the ground.

When he crossed the lofty hall,

Once and again I heard him fall.

When he came up to the turret stair,

He shrieked and tore his raven hair.

When he came my chamber in,

(And O, but a hog is fat!)

I ran him through with a golden pin,

(And what care I for that?)


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Lewis Carroll’s “Misunderstandings”


If such a thing had been my thought,

I should have told you so before,

But as I didn’t, then you ought

To ask for such a thing no more,

For to teach one who has been taught

Is always thought an awful bore


Now to commence my argument.

I shall premise an observation,

On which the greatest kings have leant

When striving to subdue a nation.

And e’en the wretch who pays no rent

by it can solve a hard equation.


Its truth is such, the force of reason

Can not avail to shake its power,

Yet e’en the sun in summer season

Doth not dispel so mild a shower

As this, and he who sees it, sees on

Beyond it to a sunny bower–

No more, when ignorance is treason,

Let wisdom’s brows be cold and sour


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Lewis Carroll’s “Rules and Regulations”


A short direction
To avoid dejection,
By variations
In occupations,
And prolongation
Of relaxation,
And combinations
Of recreations,
And disputation
On the state of the nation
In adaptation
To your station,
By invitations
To friends and relations,
By evitation
Of amputation,
By permutation
In conversation,
And deep reflection
You’ll avoid dejection.

Learn well your grammar,
And never stammer,
Write well and neatly,
And sing most sweetly,
Be enterprising,
Love early rising,
Go walk of six miles,
Have ready quick smiles,
With lightsome laughter,
Soft flowing after.
Drink tea, not coffee;
Never eat toffy.
Eat bread with butter.
Once more, don’t stutter.

Don’t waste your money,
Abstain from honey.
Shut doors behind you,
(Don’t slam them, mind you.)
Drink beer, not porter.
Don’t enter the water
Till to swim you are able.
Sit close to the table.
Take care of a candle.
Shut a door by the handle,
Don’t push with your shoulder
Until you are older.
Lose not a button.
Refuse cold mutton.
Starve your canaries.
Believe in fairies.
If you are able,
Don’t have a stable
With any mangers.
Be rude to strangers.

Moral: Behave.


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Lewis Carroll’s “Facts”


WERE I to take an iron gun,

And fire it off towards the sun;

I grant ‘twould reach its mark at last,

But not till many years had passed.


But should that bullet change its force,

And to the planets take its course,

‘Twould never reach the nearest star,

Because it is so very far.


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