Sunday, July 4, 2010

Long Has Paled That Sunny Sky

A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July--
Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear--
Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream--
Lingering in the golden dream--
Life, what is it but a dream!
--Lewis Carroll, 1832-1898
On July 4, 1862--a date, as W. H. Auden declared, is "as memorable a day in the history of literature as it is in American history"--Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known by his pen name of Lewis Carroll) and his friend the Reverend Robinson Duckworth took the three Liddell sisters (daughters of a University friend) on a three-mile rowing trip up the Thames. The middle daughter, Alice Pleasance Liddell, who was ten, along with her sisters demanded a fairy tale to fill in the duller stretches of the journey. Dodgson begin spinning the story of Wonderland, using Alice herself as the main character. The facility and felicity with which he told the tale made Duckworth ask him if he really was making it up extempore. Some months later (again at Alice's insistence) he wrote the tale down, adding his own illustrations, and some time later published Alice's Adventures In Wonderland. This was followed by the sequel Through The Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. At the end of that book, this haunting acrostic poem appears, the first letter in each line spelling out the full name of Alice Pleasance Liddell. The above photograph of the real Alice was taken by Dodgson himself; as you can see she had straight dark hair, not the wavy golden curls that the illustrator John Tenniel gave the literary Alice.


Brer said...

Once again Blogger has bunched up my post without the proper spacing.

Babel said...

That is a beautifully haunting little poem. Makes me want to read the Alice books! happy 4th!