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20 July 2015

One of my favourite charities is "Poems in the Waiting Room", which distributes poems to doctors' surgeries throughout the UK. The aim is to offer something better and more inspiring than just sitting in the waiting room, and each issue offers a variety of poems to reflect upon - some of them inspiring, some amusing, or reassuring, thought provoking or nostalgic. I felt confident that we'd find something to suit them from Carroll's poetry.

That is, until I tried. Then I realised that what so many people say is true - that much of Carroll's humour has a sharp or disturbing after-echo. And that is not what you'd want to read in a waiting room. Some of his poetry is sad, or nostalgic, or far too sentimental for present tastes. And some of it, like "You are Old, Father William" was just too long for the 22 line length limit.

So I was glad that "Queen Alice" ticked all the boxes. Carroll liked his poems to be sung to the traditional tunes, so I thought I'd investigate, and I found that the tune for this poem was "Bonny Dundee." You can see a few reciprocal echoes in the words if you compare them

From "Bonny Dundee"

To the Lairds i' convention t'was Claverhouse spoke
Ere the Kings crown go down, there are crowns to be broke
Then each cavalier who loves honour and me
Let him follow the bonnet o' bonnie Dundee.

Come fill up my cup, come fill up my can
Come saddle my horses and call out my men
Unhook the west port and let us go free,
For it's up with the bonnets o' bonnie Dundee!

From "Through the Looking Glass"

To the Looking-Glass world it was Alice that said
"I've a sceptre in hand, I've a crown on my head.
Let the Looking-Glass creatures, whatever they be
Come and dine with the Red Queen, the White Queen, and me!"'

'Then fill up the glasses as quick as you can,
And sprinkle the table with buttons and bran:
Put cats in the coffee, and mice in the tea—
And welcome Queen Alice with thirty-times-three!'

I love the way that Carroll has echoed but not slavishly copied the original words

"There are brave Duinnewassels, three thousand times three
Will cry "Hey!" for the bonnets o' bonnie Dundee."

compared with

"Mix sand with the cider, and wool with the wine—
And welcome Queen Alice with ninety-times-nine!'"

Here's a rather ancient 1980 clip of the Corries folk group singing the tune

And here's the Graham of Montrose Tartan - Claverhouse's tartan.

12 July 2015

Every year Vanessa Valencia holds a virtual Mad Tea Party on her blog, Her photos are always beautiful - see above. A few years ago I was Guest of Honour at the party. Here's a link to the post I wrote then - I hope you like it too.

07 July 2015

Went to the Royal Academy Summer Show the other day and came across a piece of art called The London Map of Days, by the distinguished North London printmaker Mychael Barratt.

As the name suggests, the art work marks notable events for each day of the year, and I was glued to it for quite a while, studying the multitude of things that have happened in London.

Right up at the top of the print I noticed 4 July 1865, and a picture of Alice.

At first I was surprised - I associate the publication of Alice in Wonderland so closely with Oxford - but of course Macmillans was based in London and that is where the book was published. I'm glad Alice made it into the Royal Academy in her anniversary year.