Friday, 27 January 2012

The Hunting of the Snark

Lewis Carroll
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born 180 years ago today. As Lewis Carroll, Dodgson gave the world Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass and many classics of nonsense verse. Test Match Quality.

Alice Liddell age 7
The books originated in stories he told to the children of the Dean of Christ Church Oxford and the central character, the little girl who fell down the rabbit hole, was in tribute to Alice Liddell the Dean’s second daughter.

Cricketers will find it of interest that some time after the publication of these books, Alice Liddell married a cricketer Reginald Hargreaves – at Westminster Abbey, no less, in 1880. Whether her adventures down the rabbit hole had anything to do with this is not clear.
Alice Liddell as an adult

Hargreaves played 25 First Class matches for Hampshire, and also for the MCC and Gentlemen of England, and when he died in 1926 was still Vice President of Hampshire. His bowling style is described in the records as underarm. Alice’s sister Edith was also due to marry a cricketer but she died of measles before the wedding. Alice died in 1934 at the age of 82.

However Dodgson was not a cricketer, and, on the whole whatever other merits Alice’s adventures have, there is a disappointing lack of cricketing reference in his work. However FB now suspects that that this was due to self-censorship of some kind. His famous poem The Hunting of the Snark describes 'the impossible voyage of an improbable crew lead by the Bellman to find an inconceivable creature'.  The published edition, contains 8 parts (Carroll calls it an Agony in Eight Fits). But FB has discovered an early draft of an additional ninth section that seems to have been discarded for some reason. FB unselfishly shares this literary treasure with his readers. Even to FB’s untutored eye it seems to reveal a heightened sense of the psychology of cricketers as well as being uncannily prescient of recent events in Abu Dhabi.  Could the Bellman be a cipher for an English batsman?

They shuddered when the bowler said to the Press
I’ve a new ball for Bellman and friend
Forget the doosra, the teesra is dead
It’s the SNARK which they’ll have to defend

It’s a SNARK when it spins and a SNARK when it don’t
When it floats when it bounces or flips
It’s a SNARK if your middle stump is knocked down
It’s a SNARK when the edge finds the slips

So they hunted the SNARK in each over bowled
They studied each ball carefully
Was that the SNARK when the arm wasn’t high
Wasn’t that just like Murali? 

It’s a SNARK when it comes from the front of the hand
It’s a SNARK when the wrist flicks it out
It’s a SNARK if it pitches on off or leg stump
It’s a SNARK how can there be doubt

They batted till darkness came on and they found
Not a signal, or evident mark
By which they could tell if the ball that they faced
Was that demon deliv’ry the SNARK

Standing alone at the end of the day
In the midst of applause mixed with glee
It all softly and suddenly vanished away
For the SNARK was a BOOJUM you see

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