The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll

A convenient number to state —

We add Seven, and Ten, and then multiply out

By One Thousand diminished by Eight.

“The result we proceed to divide, as you see,

By Nine Hundred and Ninety Two:

Then subtract Seventeen, and the answer must be

Exactly and perfectly true.

“The method employed I would gladly explain,

While I have it so clear in my head,

If I had but the time and you had but the brain —

But much yet remains to be said.

“In one moment I’ve seen what has hitherto been

Enveloped in absolute mystery,

And without extra charge I will give you at large

A Lesson in Natural History.”

In his genial way he proceeded to say

(Forgetting all laws of propriety,

And that giving instruction, without introduction,

Would have caused quite a thrill in Society),

“As to temper the Jubjub’s a desperate bird,

Since it lives in perpetual passion:

Its taste in costume is entirely absurd —

It is ages ahead of the fashion:

“But it knows any friend it has met once before:

It never will look at a bribe:

And in charity-meetings it stands at the door,

And collects — though it does not subscribe.

“ Its flavor when cooked is more exquisite far

Than mutton, or oysters, or eggs:

(Some think it keeps best in an ivory jar,

And some, in mahogany kegs:)

“You boil it in sawdust: you salt it in glue:

You condense it with locusts and tape:

Still keeping one principal object in view —

To preserve its symmetrical shape.”

The Butcher would gladly have talked till next day,

But he felt that the lesson must end,

And he wept with delight in attempting to say

He considered the Beaver his friend.

While the Beaver confessed, with affectionate looks

More eloquent even than tears,

It had learned in ten minutes far more than all books

Would have taught it in seventy years.

They returned hand-in-hand, and the Bellman, unmanned

(For a moment) with noble emotion,

Said “This amply repays all the wearisome days

We have spent on the billowy ocean!”

Such friends, as the Beaver and Butcher became,

Have seldom if ever been known;

In winter or summer, ‘twas always the same —

You could never meet either alone.

And when quarrels arose — as one frequently finds

Quarrels will, spite of every endeavor —

The song of the Jubjub recurred to their minds,

And cemented their friendship for ever!


They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;

They pursued it with forks and hope;

They threatened its life with a railway-share;

They charmed it with smiles and soap.

But the Barrister, weary of proving in vain

That the Beaver’s lace-making was wrong,

Fell asleep, and in dreams saw the creature quite plain

That his fancy had dwelt on so long.

He dreamed that he stood in a shadowy Court,

Where the Snark, with a glass in its eye,

Dressed in gown, bands, and wig, was defending a pig

On the charge of deserting its sty.

The Witnesses proved, without error or flaw,

That the sty was deserted when found:

And the Judge kept explaining the state of the law

In a soft under-current of sound.

The indictment had never been clearly expressed,

And it seemed that the Snark had begun,

And had spoken three hours, before any one guessed

What the pig was supposed to have done.

The Jury had each formed a different view

(Long before the indictment was read),

And they all spoke at once, so that none of them knew

One word that the others had said.

“You must know — -” said the Judge: but the Snark exclaimed “Fudge!”

That statute is obsolete quite!

Let me tell you, my friends, the whole question depends

On an ancient manorial right.

“In the matter of Treason the pig would appear

To have aided, but scarcely abetted:

While the charge of Insolvency fails, it is clear,

If you grant the plea ‘never indebted.’

“The fact of Desertion I will not dispute;

But its guilt, as I trust, is removed

(So far as related to the costs of this suit)

By the Alibi which has been proved.

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Categories: Carroll, Lewis