“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–”
-Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and the Carpenter”
There’s a sound to words, but there’s also a rhythm, a feel, and a taste. Carroll’s lines are simply a delight to say. Go ahead, say them. Purr them. Feel them dance in your fingers. If these words were in a language I didn’t know, I’d think, while I listened, that they were some charm being cast. And there are so many things to talk about.
It reminds me of a story: an art critic is taking a train through Europe. When he gets to his seat, he realizes he’s beside a famous painter. The painter’s next to the window. He seems entranced: outside, some power lines run along the tracks, and beyond them are rolling hills, a river slipping in and out of view, and little villages.
The critic has always admired this painter: his work shows a clear eye for what’s there, for light and shadow, movement and stillness. The critic wants to say something–he’ll never get a chance like this again! He looks out the window, too, trying to find something to comment on. Eventually he goes with the obvious:
‘It’s beautiful, isn’t it?’ He says
‘Yes,’ says the painter. ‘The way a powerline go on and on, mile after mile, a single sweeping stroke…’
There are so many different things to see. When I was eight or so, I was getting into the car with my dad for a seven hour drive. “I don’t even have a toy to play with,” I said. He looked around, and picked up a piece of dried tar from the road–at least, I think that’s what it was. It was black, and it had been liquidy once, though now it was hard to the touch.
“How about this?” he asked.
I didn’t play with it at all during the drive–I tried to, and didn’t see how. I was a stubborn kid. Perhaps part of me didn’t want this thing to be a toy, because I’d wanted some other toy. Then again, looking back, I’ve thought about that piece of tar as much as some of my favorite childhood toys. Perhaps I knew, even then, there was a mystery inside it, a mystery I was missing.
At my grandpa’s funeral, one of his friends stood up to say something. I don’t know the man’s name, but he started with: “‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said…”
‘Me and Jack,’ he went on, ‘We never knew which one of us was the Walrus, and which one wasn’t. I don’t know who wrote those lines, but we decided a long time ago they were at least a bit about us. We talked about a lot.’ Later that day, I told him who’d written the lines. He told me something better. Apparently, if an old man’s to be trusted, talking to a walrus (or being one) is quite enough to make a life.
2 thoughts on “34: “The Walrus Said” (Lewis Carroll)”
What a joy to read your words and your wisdom. I have been meaning to connect for months, so I will have a lot to catch up on.
So happy that we will be seeing you soon (all time is relative, right?) at Breitenbush. Can hardly wait to see you with the first crop of young adults and know that (relatively) soon Colin will be able to join you.
Thank you for your kind words, and I’m looking forward to our community in the Oregon mountains. See you soon, and give my best to Colin!