Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fit the Fifth, Page 32, Panel 1 … take my snark, please!

But the valley grew narrow and narrower still,
And the evening got darker and colder,
Till (merely from nervousness, not from goodwill)
They marched along shoulder to shoulder.

There are times when I find myself truly nonplussed at the thought of explicating yet another stanzel of this Hunting of the Snark. Some of you might think that the author and Eminent Victorian, Lewis Carroll, had a rough job of it, coming up with anapaest after anapaest, all of ‘em having to do with Snarkery and all of ‘em in the finest High Anglican-cum-Nonsense bon style. However, this pate-addling task of devising pictures for verse upon which one then devises prose easily beggars any of the rather picayune literary horrors that Mr. Carroll might have endured.

Perhaps you think that I have taken the elementary precaution of creating some sort of "plan", a detailed system of references and motifs aligned with the development of the entire poem, a conceptual blueprint with which I could then research, prepare and execute each and every one of these drawings. Armed with such a plan, it would be child’s play to whip up a bit of commentary for each stanzel after the fact.

Such however, is not the case. In fact, it is the exact opposite of the truth. I am utterly unprepared and thoroughly disorganized, quite honestly, I am making it all up as I go along and I can’t help myself for I have no plan nor strategy nor even a sense of direction about any of this Snark stuff.

What brings all of this inner turmoil to mind is the illustration shown above of the Beaver and Butcher lost in an immense maze. They are cold, they are hungry, they are nervous and upset with one another. And why is that?

The Beaver will tell you, very indignantly, that it is because the Butcher won’t stop and ask for directions. But how can he when I have never bothered to make any!

Yes, dear ladies, gentlemen and any other sort of readers, the masculine sense of direction is marvelously blank. There's no need to ask for directions when we know that all roads lead to Boojum!


  1. Always remain in the front rank of the regular profession. The road is wide enough to accommodate you all, without necessitating excursions into the crooked by-paths of fakery and deceit. True illustration knows no artificial bounds; it always exercises a healthy eclecticism and refuses to be hemmed in by any preconceived notions or exclusive dogmas. There are heresies in illustration as well as in religion. Do not be misled into and of the various 'pathies, no matter what their prefixes may be. There is but one true pathology, or science of line-drawing, and that is the cult which has adopted as her handmaids the principles that govern the grand circle of natural depiction, most catholic in spirit, most critical in selection.

    adapted from The Cincinnati Lancet and Clinic, 1901

  2. We have no tolerance here for heretical illustrators and I'm glad that you've pointed that out for the benefit of the young 'uns amongst us. Good draughtsmanship is a clean, wholesome, medical sort of business. I myself always sit down at my drawing board clad in a white lab coat (and nothing else) and think the purest thoughts possible in this, the best of all possible worlds. I may draw snarks but I shall never subscribe to their unwholesome doctrines!