Unintentional Haiku in the works of Lewis Carroll


The other day I decided to run Haiku Detector over the works of Lewis Carroll, as found on Project Gutenberg. This is what I found. It’s a bit of a mixed bag in terms of how well they work as haiku, to the extent that I can still measure that after reading so many (I will have to try out linguistic tagging and work out some heuristic based on parts of speech beginning and ending lines), but simply as bite-sized samples they give a nice sense of the work. I can’t tell whether they’re made more or less whimsical by being stripped of their context.

From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

‘But it’s no use now,’
thought poor Alice, ‘to pretend
to be two people!

But if I’m not the
same, the next question is, Who
in the world am I?

They all sat down at
once, in a large ring, with the
Mouse in the middle.

But I’d better take
him his fan and gloves—that is,
if I can find them.’

‘I haven’t the least
idea what you’re talking
about,’ said Alice.

You see the earth takes
twenty-four hours to turn
round on its axis—’

‘Oh, don’t bother ME,’
said the Duchess; ‘I never
could abide figures!’

‘Really, now you ask
me,’ said Alice, very much
confused, ‘I don’t think—’

Could this gardening count as a seasonal theme?

and the three gardeners
instantly threw themselves flat
upon their faces.

She said it to the
Knave of Hearts, who only bowed
and smiled in reply.

‘Well, I can’t show it
you myself,’ the Mock Turtle
said: ‘I’m too stiff.’

‘Ten hours the first
day,’ said the Mock Turtle: ‘nine
the next, and so on.’

‘Why,’ said the Gryphon, ‘
you first form into a line
along the sea-shore—’

‘I mean what I say,’
the Mock Turtle replied in
an offended tone.

‘A nice muddle their
slates’ll be in before
the trial’s over!’

‘You MUST remember,’
remarked the King, ‘or I’ll have
you executed.’

‘If that’s all you know
about it, you may stand down,’
continued the King.

Some of the jury
wrote it down ‘important,’ and
some ‘unimportant.’

‘If you didn’t sign
it,’ said the King, ‘that only
makes the matter worse.’

‘Then the words don’t FIT
you,’ said the King, looking round
the court with a smile.

From Through the Looking-Glass:

Number one: you squeaked
twice while Dinah was washing
your face this morning.

But this is taking
us away from Alice’s
speech to the kitten.

Let’s pretend there’s a
way of getting through into
it, somehow, Kitty.

Let’s pretend the glass
has got all soft like gauze, so
that we can get through.

She puzzled over
this for some time, but at last
a bright thought struck her.

‘I only wanted
to see what the garden was
like, your Majesty—’

‘I—I didn’t know
I had to make one—just then,’
Alice faltered out.

After this, Alice
was silent for a minute
or two, pondering.

Tweedledum cried out
briskly, and shut his mouth up
again with a snap.

‘And if he left off
dreaming about you, where do
you suppose you’d be?’

‘That accounts for the
bleeding, you see,’ she said to
Alice with a smile.

Alice could not help
laughing at this, even in
the midst of her tears.

‘When I was your age,
I always did it for half-
an-hour a day.’

‘If I only knew,’
she thought to herself, ‘which was
neck and which was waist!’

‘The question is,’ said
Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to
be master—that’s all.’

‘Well, a “RATH” is a
sort of green pig: but “MOME” I’m
not certain about.

Just look along the
road, and tell me if you can
see either of them.’

‘I only wish I
had such eyes,’ the King remarked
in a fretful tone.

Alice asked, very
much surprised at his taking
it so quietly.

‘You don’t know how to
manage Looking-glass cakes,’ the
Unicorn remarked.

Just like a whole set
of fire-irons falling
into the fender!

‘In hopes some bees may
make a nest in it—then I
should get the honey.’

‘Have you invented
a plan for keeping the hair
from being blown off?’

‘Because people don’t
fall off quite so often, when
they’ve had much practice.’

You’ll wait and wave your
handkerchief when I get to
that turn in the road?

‘Always speak the truth—
think before you speak—and write
it down afterwards.’

‘I suppose—’ Alice
was beginning, but the Red
Queen answered for her.

Now, as it happened,
there wasn’t such a thing in
the house, that morning.’

The White Queen gave a
deep sigh, and laid her head on
Alice’s shoulder.

‘Smooth her hair—lend her
your nightcap—and sing her a
soothing lullaby.’

He was part of my
dream, of course—but then I was
part of his dream, too!

Symbolic Logic:

This Adjunct is said
to be ‘peculiar’ to the
smaller Class so formed.

“All | men who know what
they’re about | are | men who can
detect a sharper”.

The verb “have been” may
be replaced by the phrase “are
persons who have been”.

The verb “has read” may
be replaced by the phrase “are
persons who have read”.

The verb “run well” may
be replaced by the phrase “are
creatures that run well”.

Conclusion wrong: right
one is “Some epicures are
not uncles of mine.”

Does this leave us free
to make what supposition
we choose as to E?

“All boys in the First
(the highest) Class are to do
French, Greek, and Latin.”

I see no force in
this plea: and the facts often
go the other way.

There are a lot of numbered predicates as well, where the numbers count toward the first five syllables. They sort of read like rules for life, or house/shop rules, so feel free to renumber them and hang them on your toilet door.

(1) that some Members
of its Subject are Members
of its Predicate;

(2) A man who is
a good hand at a bargain
always makes money;

(1) No goods in this
shop, that have been bought and paid
for, are still on sale;

(4) It is only
what is sold in the street that
is really rubbish.

(1) No books sold here
have gilt edges, except what
are in the front shop;

(1) Remedies for
bleeding, which fail to check it,
are a mockery;

Okay, I concede that Haiku Detector can’t stir the hearts of men yet. But when it grows up it wants to be a control system for a pacemaker:

(2) No one is a
true poet unless he can
stir the hearts of men;

(1) I call no day
“unlucky,” when Robinson
is civil to me;

(5) Everybody
takes his umbrella with him
when it is raining;

(6) No footman of
mine is ignorant of what
true happiness is.

(5) All of them, that
are not on that file, are marked “
not negotiable”;

(6) No animals
ever take to me, except
what are in this house;

(1) When the day is
fine, I tell Froggy “You’re quite
the dandy, old chap!”

(10) A woman, who
benefits the public, is
always popular;

Only one from The Hunting of the Snark, since the metre precludes any seventeen-syllable sentences outside the introduction:

I have heard people
try to give it the sound of
the “o” in “worry”.

From The Game of Logic:

Would it not tell us
that there are SOME of them in
the x y-compartment?

They are merely two
different ways of expressing
the very same truth.

Altogether, a
most unsatisfactory
Pair of Premisses!

No cooked meat is sold
by butchers; No uncooked meat
is served at dinner.

And I’m sure there are
some shops, further down the street,
that are not crowded.

“Why, don’t you see that
it’s absurd to call him a
miserly merchant?

But what’s the good of
proving anything to YOU,
I should like to know?”

From A Tangled Tale. These are intriguingly varied:

But the Captain put
aside the suggestion with
a wave of the hand.

The accident has
happened on board My ship, and
under My orders.

The old man muttered
under his breath “If only
my sister were here!”

“The old one is sad,”
the Governor remarked with
some anxiety.

“The Commander has
been transferring them in vain
for four months,” he said.

“And he needn’t have
begun whistling the very
moment he left us!”

“If it’s alive, and
slimy, and with legs, I don’t
care to,” said Lambert.

L., Putney Walker,
Rose, Sea Breeze, Simple Susan,
and Money Spinner.

Vendredi gets (1)
right, but in (2) makes the same
mistake as Bo-Peep.

H., in (2), makes the
travellers count “one” after they
met, not when they met.

Why, oh why, did you
assume that the 4th and 5th
bags weighed 4 lbs. each?

How can this be true
of a small bucket floating
in a larger one?

Thus the sum total
of the coils comes right though the
working is all wrong.

It is right, but too
lengthy to be worth as much
as a Quadratic.

Bar 3 – The first note
should be a dotted eighth, not
a dotted quarter.

From Sylvie and Bruno:

There’s another class
of readers, who are yet more
deeply interested—”

It is, in fact, a
very simple problem in
Hydrodynamics.

“Well, yes, a little
bruised; but having had his plunge-
bath: that’s the great thing.”

And I haven’t got
no money left, to buy oo
a birthday-present!

“You see it was all
covered up, except the place
for signing the names—”

“Even so,” I mused,
“will Sylvie look and speak, in
another ten years.”

Sylvie and Bruno
waited patiently till the
end of the first verse.

“Let’s follow it,” said
Sylvie: and this also turned
out a happy thought.

My Lady’s eyes flashed
with all a Conspirator’s
enthusiasm.

But it was only
the Gardener, singing under
the open window.

He’s sure to fetch the
Professor, and we couldn’t
take him in, you know!”

“When a man’s tipsy
(that’s one extreme, you know), he
sees one thing as two.

The Professor put
his hands over his ears, with
a look of dismay.

“It does very well
on a diagram,” said the
Other Professor.

“I could show it you
in a minute, only the
chalk’s a little blunt.”

The children returned,
slowly and thoughtfully, to
report his answer.

The Professor put
the request, very humbly
and courteously.

Bruno looked at me
inquisitively, but he
said nothing this time.

“I’ll tell you what I’ll
do,” Bruno said in a half-
whisper, as we worked.

“But the grandest thing
of all was, I fetched the King
a glass of cider!”

“That shows oo’re a
good judge of music,” Bruno
said, with a pleased look.

But he was far too
much excited to think of
what he was doing.

Bruno drew in a
long breath, and made up his mouth
for a great effort.

“Why, did you ever
know a conceited man dare
to praise a picture?”

“A little more, or
a little less, and all would
be utterly spoiled!”

“Not quite: and yet it
is a kind of ‘ever to
thee faithful I’ll be!'”

“It must have been while
you were dining, my Lady,”
said the housekeeper.

“We’ll have a third race
of men, five inches high; a
fourth race, an inch high—”

“What could a cow, an
inch high, do with grass that waved
far above its head?”

Bruno was standing
with his hands over his face,
crying bitterly.

“Well, in some countries
men have to kill them, to save
their own lives, you know.”

“No, she never does,
I’m sure—but this is too sad
a sight for you, dear.”

“Some day I may be
able to enlighten her:
but just at present—”

I tell her it’s a
grand opportunity for
practising patience.

“Why, I can enjoy
seven operas, while you are
listening; to one!”

I asked eagerly,
with a half-notion that I
was dreaming again.

“It was done by a
little musical-box,” he
quietly replied.

“Yes,” said Sylvie: “but
we’ll be children again some
day—if you’ll let us.”

“Put oor ear welly
low down,” said Bruno, “and I’ll
tell oo a secret!”

“There generally
is a Moral, only he
puts it in too soon.”

And the Crocodile
got along after it—for
to bite it, oo know.

“But what became of
the Man who said ‘You may wait
here till I come back’?”

“He sold his house, and
he packed up his things, while the
Lion were coming.”

“Why, that all Nature
goes by fixed, regular laws—
Science has proved that.”

All that is good, and
living, and hopeful, rising
with the dawn of Day!

I’ve made a category for posts featuring haiku found using Haiku Detector, so you can easily find them. They don’t really fit into the few other categories on my blog. I should really mine the last three issues of New Scientist for haiku, if I’m going to call myself their unofficial contributing troubadour. Maybe tomorrow.

In other news, mp<3 will be on The FuMP Sideshow on May 30 [Edit: It went up on May 29], because if I can’t make a complete fool out of myself on my almost-birthday, what’s the point of living? I’m excited to see whether the less-than symbol (being the symbol used to open HTML tags) will break anything. I asked if it was likely to cause problems, and they don’t know. It didn’t play well with WordPress’s automatic sharing to Twitter.

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  1. learning a NEW poetry style: Haiku | Explore Newness

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