Saturday

Jan. 27, 2001

The Mock Turtle's Song

by Lewis Carol

Broadcast date: SATURDAY, 27 January 2001

Poems: "The Mock Turtle's Song," by Lewis Carroll.

The Mock Turtle's Song

"Will you walk a little faster?"
    said a whiting to a snail.
"There's a porpoise close behind us,
    and he's treading on my tail.
See how eagerly the lobsters and
    the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle —
    will you come and join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will won't you,
    will you join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will won't you,
    won't you join the dance?

You can really have no notion how
    delightful it will be,
When they take us up and throw us,
    with the lobsters out to sea!"
But the snail replied "Too far, too far!"
    and gave a look askance—
Said he thanked the whiting kindly,
    but would not join the dance.
Would not, could not, would not,
    could not, would not join the dance.
Would not, could not, would not,
    could not, could not join the dance.

"What matters it how far we go?"
    his scaly friend replied.
"There is another shore, you know,
    upon the other side.
The further off from England
    the nearer is to France—
then turn not pale, beloved snail,
    but come and join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you,
    won't you, won't you join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you,
    won't you, won't you join the dance?"

It's the birthday of the man who wrote Show Boat (1927)—composer Jerome Kern, born in New York City (1885).

It's the birthday of one of the founders of the American Federation of Labor, Samuel Gompers, born in London (1850).

It's the birthday of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, born in Cheshire, England (1832). He was a painfully shy mathematician and church deacon who kept fastidious charts showing what his guests had eaten when they'd dined with him and what chair they'd sat in. He even summarized and filed all of his correspondence in a catalogue system containing 98,000 cross references. Afflicted by a stammer, he was more comfortable with children than with adults, especially with the three young daughters of his college dean. While taking them on a rowboat outing in July of 1862, he spun a tale about a girl named Alice, who fell down a rabbit-hole into an unexpected underground world. The middle daughter, whose name was Alice, begged him to write the story down for her, and so he obligingly scrawled out what became Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1863), followed several years later by a sequel called Through the Looking-Glass (1871).He thought that young children should be allowed to read picture books in church during the sermon, so that church would be a bright and happy memory, and so they wouldn't turn against religion later in life.

It's the birthday of the man who created the Periodic Table of Elements—Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, born in Tobolsk, Siberia (1834).When he was 35 years old, Mendeleev organized the chemical elements into a table in order of increasing atomic number.

It's the birthday of pianist and composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born in Salzburg, Austria (1756).His father, Leopold Mozart, was a noted composer, and so by the time Wolfgang was six he was performing on the harpsichord before the imperial court of Vienna. By the time Mozart died at the age of 35, he had written nearly 50 symphonies, 20 operas and 23 piano concertos.

On this day in 1302, Dante Alighieri was expelled from Florence for his political activities. For the next 20 years he moved from place to place—Verona, Ravenna—as political currents dictated. While in exile he wrote his masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, which established his native Tuscan dialect as the literary language of Italy.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









«

»

  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
  • “I want to live other lives. I've never quite believed that one chance is all I get. Writing is my way of making other chances.” —Anne Tyler
  • “Writing is a performance, like singing an aria or dancing a jig” —Stephen Greenblatt
  • “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • “Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” —John Edgar Wideman
  • “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” —Denise Levertov
  • “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow
  • “Let's face it, writing is hell.” —William Styron
  • “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” —Thomas Mann
  • “Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials.” —Paul Rudnick
  • “Writing is a failure. Writing is not only useless, it's spoiled paper.” —Padget Powell
  • “Writing is very hard work and knowing what you're doing the whole time.” —Shelby Foote
  • “I think all writing is a disease. You can't stop it.” —William Carlos Williams
  • “Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck.” —Iris Murdoch
  • “The less conscious one is of being ‘a writer,’ the better the writing.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is…that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.” —Pico Iyer
  • “Writing is my dharma.” —Raja Rao
  • “Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.” —Anthony Powell
  • “I think writing is, by definition, an optimistic act.” —Michael Cunningham
The Writer's Almanac on Facebook


The Writer's Almanac on Twitter

Subscribe to our daily newsletter for poems, prose and literary history every morning
An interview with Jeffrey Harrison at The Writer's Almanac Bookshelf
Current Faves - Learn more about poets featured frequently on the show
O, What a Luxury

Although he has edited several anthologies of his favorite poems, O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound forges a new path for Garrison Keillor, as a poet of light verse. Purchase O, What a Luxury »