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Sunday, 8 March 2009

Problems of Thought


Often has it been remarked that no one ever did something and regretted it later without also having to admit there had been a point of return, perceptible had only one been paying attention. Responsive as a small dog loyal to any passing whimsical attraction, however, one was too busy to take any notice. One could have stopped. Thought could have been summoned. Rescue could have been effected. But such are the powers of distraction in this world that though one might easily have turned back in time to save oneself from disaster, this never happened. Thus things came to be as they stand at present.

The last of the crew needs especial remark,
Though he looked an incredible dunce:
He had just one idea -- but, that one being "Snark,"
The good Bellman engaged him at once.

He came as a BUTCHER: but gravely declared,
When the ship had been sailing a week,
He could only kill beavers. The Bellman looked scared,
And was almost too frightened to speak:

But at length he explained, in a tremulous tone,
There was only one beaver on board;
And that was a tame one he had of his own,
Whose death would be deeply deplored.

The beaver, who happened to hear the remark,
Protested, with tears in its eyes,
That not even the rapture of hunting the Snark
Could atone for that dismal surprise!

It strongly advised that the BUTCHER should be
Conveyed in a separate ship:
But the Bellman declared that would never agree
With the plans he had made for the trip:

Navigation was always a difficult art,
Though with only one ship and one bell:
And he feared he must really decline, for his part,
Undertaking another as well.

The beaver's best course was, no doubt, to procure
A second-hand dagger-proof coat --
So the Baker advised it -- and next, to insure
Its life in some Office of note:

This the Banker suggested, and offered for hire
(On moderate terms), or for sale,
Two excellent Policies, one Against Fire,
And one Against Damage From Hail.

Yet still, ever after that sorrowful day,
Whenever the BUTCHER was by,
The beaver kept looking the opposite way,
And appeared unaccountably shy.

(Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the Snark; illustration
by Henry Holiday)



Zephirine said...

Having moved house several times in recent years, I've discovered that the problem with a house is never the thing one noticed and worried about before moving in, nor is it something that one never knew about until one got there - it's the thing that was casually mentioned in advance and one thought would be quite tolerable. "Sometimes the drains back up" "there can be a bit of traffic noise" "the neighbours can be quite lively" Oh, I can cope with that, you think..

So, yes, similarly, turning points happen while one chooses not to see them as such..

One of my favourite bits from the Snark, this, I particularly like the second-hand dagger-proof coat and the insurance:

Two excellent Policies, one against Fire,
And one Against Damage From Hail.

Thank you for this, Tom, thought-provoking as always.

goetzkluge said...

In this case there is a happy end at least for the Beaver and the Butcher. In The Hunting of the Snark, the Beaver and the Butcher became best friends. As for thinking: Why is the Beaver's lace making "an infringement of right"?

Best regards from Munich,