Lewis Carroll

(27 January 1832 – 14 January 1898 / Cheshire)

A Strange Wild Song - Poem by Lewis Carroll

He thought he saw an Elephant
That practised on a fife:
He looked again, and found it was
A letter from his wife.
'At length I realize,' he said,
'The bitterness of life! '

He thought he saw a Buffalo
Upon the chimney-piece:
He looked again, and found it was
His Sister's Husband's Niece.
'Unless you leave this house,' he said,
'I'll send for the police! '

he thought he saw a Rattlesnake
That questioned him in Greek:
He looked again, and found it was
The Middle of Next Week.
'The one thing I regret,' he said,
'Is that it cannot speak! '

He thought he saw a Banker's Clerk
Descending from the bus:
He looked again, and found it was
A Hippopotamus.
'If this should stay to dine,' he said,
'There won't be much for us! '

He thought he saw a Kangaroo
That worked a Coffee-mill:
He looked again, and found it was
A Vegetable-Pill.
'Were I to swallow this,' he said,
'I should be very ill! '

He thought he saw a Coach-and-Four
That stood beside his bed:
He looked again, and found it was
A Bear without a Head.
'Poor thing,' he said, 'poor silly thing!
It's waiting to be fed! '

He thought he saw an Albatross
That fluttered round the lamp:
He looked again, and found it was
A Penny-Postag e Stamp.
'You'd best be getting home,' he said:
'The nights are very damp! '

He thought he saw a Garden-Door
That opened with a key:
He looked again, and found it was
A Double Rule of Three:
'And all its mystery,' he said,
'Is clear as day to me! '

He thought he saw a Argument
That proved he was the Pope:
He looked again, and found it was
A Bar of Mottled Soap.
'A fact so dread,' he faintly said,
'Extinguishe s all hope! '

Topic(s) of this poem: song


Comments about A Strange Wild Song by Lewis Carroll

  • Neal Beightol (11/17/2016 9:12:00 PM)


    He thought he spied anointed pasta
    upon the table placed, but realized
    it was, alas, a double-jointed Rasta.
    A joint alight in both his hands
    Could fair produce a work like this
    We all pretend to understand.
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  • Bernard F. Asuncion (11/17/2016 5:33:00 PM)


    I like this funny poem.....
    Thanks for sharing...
    (Report) Reply

  • (11/17/2016 2:48:00 PM)


    The elephant uses the trunk to feel almost everything around because it can be used for the finest touch, especially in smelling when a male wants to know if a female is sexually receptive. These trunks are also used to threaten or to throw the objects and are vital for the animals. In the poem, the trunk is compared with the fife and also with a love letter.
    In the medieval period, the Europeans used the fife for the folk music accompanying the dance.This instrument has been adopted by the slaves during the America's Colonial period. These musical traditions derived from some African music that has been transformed into the blues, for which the slaves used fifes and drums. Also, the fifes and the drums have been played during the 17th and 18th centuries for the protocols of the infantry regiments.
    The old love letters have been rolled with elegant dispensers being perfect, especially for the Valentine days. I think that the first stanza describes exactly the wife and her effort to sweeten the ''bitterness of life''.
    Then, he explains so poetically the spiritual atmosphere, which has been existent in their home.
    Having a bone shield which is named the boss, the African buffalo has never been domesticated. Because they are aggressive, their fight is violent. The verse ''Upon the chimney-piece'' suggests the end of a fight with another member of the family.
    The rattlesnake is venomous and has a rattle, which is positioned at the end of the tail to make a loud sound for deterring the predators. This snake is also named Sistrurus, which is a Latin name deriving from the Greek word meaning a tail rattler.
    The metaphorical meaning of this snake is'' weak and mentally immature'' and it is suggested in the line, 'Is that it cannot speak! '. Probably this stanza refers to his sister because this snake is called Sistrurus.
    ''The hippopotamus is a highly aggressive and unpredictable animal and is ranked among the most dangerous animals in Africa.''(Wikipedia) . In the ancient Greek, hippopotamus means horse of the river.
    The features of the characters belonging to this story poem are associated with representative animals.
    The Banker's Clerk is a hippopotamus that takes almost everything, 'There won't be much for us! '
    Kangaroo means large foot and, in the language of the natives, it means I don't understand you. This Kangaroo fighting for drinking spots and boxing becomes a machine for grinding coffee beans, although I think that the beans, here, mean ''money''.
    Anyway, he must undergo a very unpleasant experience because he says '''Were I to swallow this'. The 'Bear without a Head' waits 'to be fed'.The problem is that he has no head.He is another predator, of course, and etymologically his name means honey-eater.
    The upper mandible of the Albatross bird terminates in a large hook and he has bills. He spends 'many years practicing the elaborate breeding rituals and dances'. They return to their natal colony to breed. 'You'd best be getting home'. Here, the dance is used to suggest that they are marionettes.Then, the poet describes the garden, in which the animals live.
    The word 'soap' is used to suggest the necessity to purify everything in this garden.
    ''Spineless, short-lived and easily overlooked, poetry pamphlets are thriving against the odds, ” wrote Paul Batchelor in The Guardian.
    I enjoyed reading this wonderful pamphlet poem. Voted 10.
    (Report) Reply

  • Shweta Chopra (11/17/2016 10:23:00 AM)

    Story within
    Though on rare parts, it lacked some meanings to me but overall I found it imaginative and strongly directive. (Report) Reply

  • Indira Renganathan (11/17/2016 4:01:00 AM)


    'A fact so dread, ' he faintly said,
    'Extinguishes all hope! '....Fear it is...or a kind of paranoid...funny and interesting write- -10
    (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis (11/17/2016 1:28:00 AM)

    The bitterness of life!
    A letter from his wife. Thanks for sharing this poem with us. (Report) Reply

  • Robert Murray Smith (11/17/2016 1:22:00 AM)


    Not much of a poem. Words to fit the rhyme. (Report) Reply

    R Soos R Soos (11/17/2016 9:13:00 AM)

    I agree, but he does get political here:

    'And all its mystery, ' he said,
    'Is clear as day to me! '

    He thought he saw a Argument
    That proved he was the Pope

  • Michelle Claus (5/28/2014 12:05:00 AM)


    I'd love an academic's interpretation of this poem, in case there are layers of meaning lost to me. On a surface level, it portrays something akin to dementia or madness, but maybe that's too literal.? ? At any rate, I like it. (Report) Reply

    R Soos R Soos (11/17/2016 9:14:00 AM)

    =: -) It's just jabberwocky. Academics need not apply =: -)

  • Birgitta Abimbola Heikka (5/27/2014 9:43:00 PM)


    Excellent poem, full of humor. Loved it. (Report) Reply

  • Eze Maximus (5/27/2014 5:08:00 AM)


    very parodied. obviously nice cut
    in a frame of its own uniqueness.
    think am gonna lay my eyes on more of his poems
    (Report) Reply

  • (5/6/2014 8:50:00 PM)


    Love this poem! Very interesting and intriguing. (Report) Reply

  • (5/27/2013 12:13:00 AM)


    Mind attracting! Full of simplicity and common sense (Report) Reply

  • Pranab K Chakraborty (5/28/2012 1:01:00 AM)


    Smart and impressive. We have witnessed this animalistic transformation of human figure in the work of Chaplin. Nice way to generalize the man-named animal with other animals. Perhaps we have forgotten, Man is the two footed animal who bear the same characteristics of animals howling, growling, biting and basic intincts to provoke where and when get oppertunities. I feel not bore to read this time. Nice. (Report) Reply

  • (5/27/2010 12:46:00 PM)


    Another poem by Lewis Carroll which I taught my students is 'Father William'. It also reads like this one but it is a parody. A caterpillar smoking a hookah asks Alice to recite the poem. The children's book, Alice's adventures in wonderland' has many such funny poems. (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh T A (5/27/2010 11:14:00 AM)


    This funny poetic piece reminds me of Indian tale telling about blind persons trying to understand elephant by touching each and every portion of elephant body! (Report) Reply

  • (5/27/2010 10:31:00 AM)


    Queen Victoria was so impressed with mr. Dodgen's (Carroll) work on Alice in Wonderland that she immediatly sent for all his works.She was disappointed only in the fact that most of his work at the time was in the field of mathematics and that is what she received at court. However in the realm of children's literature Lewis Carroll stands with the elite. Any attempt to disparage his works only reflect on the critic. (Report) Reply

  • Kevin Straw (5/27/2010 5:42:00 AM)


    Pruchnicki - Every day and in every way you grow more like Yosemite Sam! (Report) Reply

  • (12/13/2009 3:17:00 PM)


    There seems to be a couple verses missing:

    He thought he saw an Albatross
    That fluttered round the Lamp;
    He looked again, and found it was
    A Penny Postage-Stamp
    'You'd best be getting home, ' he said:
    'The nights are very damp! '

    He thought he saw a Garden Door
    That opened with a key;
    He looked again, and found it was
    A Double-Rule-of-Three.
    'And all its mystery, ' he said,
    'Is clear as day to me! '

    Well, at least to him, anyway. Sigh.
    (Report) Reply

  • (5/27/2009 10:25:00 PM)


    I agree with the idea that fantasy and reality come into contact with eachother, but don't believe that they interrupt eachother. I think it is more of an expression of the necessity of a balanced life; an understanding or hope that one has to endure reality and its hardships to eventually reap any reward or 'fantasy'. My favourite function of the poem is the animal to situation comparison. Specifically the hippo and bank clerk. A hippo, in my opinion, represents greed. The massive mouth and ample belly just exude the imagery of vulgarity and sloth. In contrast is the bank clerk. A professional forced into a daily subservient role and regularily submitted to verbal (and possibly physical) abuse from obnoxious, 'hippo'-like clients. I really enjoyed the contrast and how it relates to the reality vs fantasy theme. (Report) Reply

    Mohammed Asim Nehal Mohammed Asim Nehal (11/17/2016 11:29:00 AM)

    Nice comment, I endorse it.

  • (5/27/2009 8:41:00 PM)


    It's just... great. Excellent for leisure reading. Strange+Stupid but FUN! (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: husband, sister, house, song, work



Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

Poem Edited: Wednesday, November 19, 2014


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