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4.10 Fun With Grammar

Jabberwocky

Here is Lewis Carroll's famous nonsense-poem, "Jabberwocky," written in 1855. Read it out loud, just for fun the first time.

We have some specific questions about the first stanza:
1. In the first two lines, after the words "T'was brillig," what is the subject?
2. What two verbs are compounded in these first two lines?
3. What prepositional phrase modifies the verbs?
4. In the fourth line, there are two possible subject/verb combinations. Find both. Which do you like better and why?
5. What are the two completers in lines 7 and 8?
6. Pick out the subject, verb, and completer in line 9.
7. What are the three modifiers in line 9? (One is a prepositional phrase.)

When you've finished analyzing these first lines, go through the rest of the poem and tease out the rest of this nonsense. What makes you think that a word functions as you say it does?

You can click here to see answers to the above questions.
Try writing your own short nonsense-poem and share it with your classmates. See what kind of meanings they attach to your words.

Jabberwocky

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogroves,
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 he rested by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
And 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 borogroves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

This is Sir John Tenniel's illustration of "gyre and gimble in the wabe." You can find a host of Tenniel's illustrations for Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, at a web-site maintained by England's Sussex University. (Click anywhere on the illustration for quick trip to England.)

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