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"I do not understand you."

"Then we are on very unequal terms, for I understand you perfectly well."

"Me? -- yes; I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible."

"Bravo! -- an excellent satire on modern language."

"But pray tell me what you mean."

Given the picture in today's icon, you might assume this dialogue is from Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass, but it is, in fact, lines penned by Jane Austen in Chapter 16 of Northanger Abbey. You can read more about this particular chapter of Northanger Abbey in a previous blog post.

I adore this entire scene in Northanger Abbey, where poor Catherine Morland finds herself well over her head in conversation with the witty (and older) Henry Tilney. And I love today's chosen line in particular, which is (of course) why I picked it.

It put me in mind of some of the conversations Lewis Carroll's Alice has with various characters throughout both of his books, and the word "unintelligible" seemed to beg for one of the best-known and best-loved poems included in the Alice books (from Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There). You can read more about today's poem (it's origin and meaning and whatnot) in a post I wrote in 2010.

by Lewis Carroll

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Here's hoping you have a frabjous day!

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( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 5th, 2012 01:59 pm (UTC)
I'm rather fond of this poem and the fact that it's mostly nonsense jibberish words. It's a fascinating study in imagination and the human brain's capacity to grasp meaning through context.
Apr. 9th, 2012 10:46 pm (UTC)
I love this poem, too. So glad it's popular with so many folks.
Apr. 5th, 2012 02:27 pm (UTC)

Love that poem. It'll be dancing in my head all day now. Thanks!
Apr. 9th, 2012 10:55 pm (UTC)
Apr. 5th, 2012 11:04 pm (UTC)
I love this line so much, and yes, I did think it was an Alice thing to say.

I really love what you're doing for Poetry Month! Finding a great poem each AND tying it into another literary quote: wow!
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 9th, 2012 10:56 pm (UTC)
Yat-Yee Chong
Apr. 9th, 2012 04:48 pm (UTC)
love that line
I though I had left a comment but apparently I hadn't. So here it is again: "I do not speak well enough to be unintelligible" is an absolutely delicious and fabulous line.

Also? Love what you're doing with the poetry month challenge.

Yat Yee
Apr. 9th, 2012 10:55 pm (UTC)
Re: love that line
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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