Humpty Dumpty (cont. again)
(for audio, see previous page)
(for audio, see previous page)
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'
Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. 'They've a temper, some of them — particularly verbs, they're the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'
'Would you tell me, please,' said Alice 'what that means?'
'Now you talk like a reasonable child,' said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. 'I meant by "impenetrability" that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life.'
'That's a great deal to make one word mean,' Alice said in a thoughtful tone.
'When I make a word do a lot of work like that,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'I always pay it extra.'
'Oh!' said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.
'Ah, you should see 'em come round me of a Saturday night,' Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side: 'for to get their wages, you know.'
(Alice didn't venture to ask what he paid them with; and so you see, I can't tell YOU.)
'You seem very clever at explaining words, Sir,' said Alice. 'Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem called "Jabberwocky"?'
'Let's hear it,' said Humpty Dumpty. 'I can explain all the poems that were ever invented — and a good many that haven't been invented just yet.'
This sounded very hopeful, so Alice repeated the first verse:
'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
'That's enough to begin with,' Humpty Dumpty interrupted: 'there are plenty of hard words there. "BRILLIG" means four o'clock in the afternoon — the time when you begin BROILING things for dinner.'
'That'll do very well,' said Alice: 'and "SLITHY"?'
'Well, "SLITHY" means "lithe and slimy." "Lithe" is the same as "active." You see it's like a portmanteau — there are two meanings packed up into one word.'
'I see it now,' Alice remarked thoughtfully: 'and what are "TOVES"?'
'Well, "TOVES" are something like badgers — they're something like lizards — and they're something like corkscrews.'
'They must be very curious-looking creatures.'
'They are that,' said Humpty Dumpty: 'also they make their nests under sun-dials — also they live on cheese.'
'And what's the "GYRE" and to "GIMBLE"?'
'To "GYRE" is to go round and round like a gyroscope. To "GIMBLE" is to make holes like a gimlet.'
'And "THE WABE" is the grass-plot round a sun-dial, I suppose?' said Alice, surprised at her own ingenuity.
'Of course it is. It's called "WABE," you know, because it goes a long way before it, and a long way behind it — '
'And a long way beyond it on each side,' Alice added.
'Exactly so. Well, then, "MIMSY" is "flimsy and miserable" (there's another portmanteau for you). And a "BOROGOVE" is a thin shabby-looking bird with its feathers sticking out all round — something like a live mop.'
'And then "MOME RATHS"?' said Alice. 'I'm afraid I'm giving you a great deal of trouble.'
'Well, a "RATH" is a sort of green pig: but "MOME" I'm not certain about. I think it's short for "from home" — meaning that they'd lost their way, you know.'
'And what does "OUTGRABE" mean?'
'Well, "OUTGRABING" is something between bellowing and whistling, with a kind of sneeze in the middle: however, you'll hear it done, maybe — down in the wood yonder — and when you've once heard it you'll be QUITE content. Who's been repeating all that hard stuff to you?'
'I read it in a book,' said Alice. 'But I had some poetry repeated to me, much easier than that, by — Tweedledee, I think it was.'
'As to poetry, you know,' said Humpty Dumpty, stretching out one of his great hands, 'I can repeat poetry as well as other folk, if it comes to that — '
'Oh, it needn't come to that!' Alice hastily said, hoping to keep him from beginning.
'The piece I'm going to repeat,' he went on without noticing her remark, 'was written entirely for your amusement.'
Alice felt that in that case she really OUGHT to listen to it, so she sat down and said 'Thank you' rather sadly.
Next: Humpty Dumpty (end)