Poetry for Young People: Lewis Carroll

The Poetry for Young People series provides classic poets in a slim illustrated volume, complete with vocabulary glosses or background information as needed.

I enjoyed how the Poetry for Young People: Lewis Carroll (edited by Edward Mendelson and illustrated by Eric Copeland) volume included background information about each poem so I knew who and what Carroll was mocking (often, it was Isaac Watts, whose moralistic children’s poems scared me silly a few months ago). Because I was not familiar with some of the contemporary poets and styles that Carroll mocked, I was disappointed that the poems weren’t as ridiculous as they could have been.

And yet, the nonsense of poems like “Jabberwocky” and “Father William” are still fun for children today. I enjoyed rereading Lewis Carroll’s poetry, and the illustrations in this particular volume were bright and appropriately fantastic. Many of the poems are from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, which I also enjoy.

Lewis Carroll’s best-known poem is probably “Jabberwocky,” which is full of nonsense words. Here it is in full, thanks to Project Gutenberg. (Of course, in Through the Looking-Glass, it is written backwards, since it is a mirror reflection.)

JABBERWOCKY

‘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 hast 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.

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. Lezlie, that’s what I’ve decided to do! Approach it as if I were a kid, just learning, and then build out. It’s still real poetry after all!

    Except Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness has been talking about Billy Collins a lot and it’s so accessible that I’m going to read some of that too…

  2. Jabberwocky was one of my favourites as a child. As are all his poems in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I remember feeling strange the first time I read those books, but over time I came to love them.

  3. claire, yes: the strange makes themfun!

    Ladytink, I think knowing Watts helps to make sense of the satire of Lewis Carroll, but definitely not required.

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