Poem Hunter
(27 January 1832 – 14 January 1898 / Cheshire)


Poem By Lewis Carroll

Lady Clara Vere de Vere
Was eight years old, she said:
Every ringlet, lightly shaken, ran itself in golden thread.

She took her little porringer:
Of me she shall not win renown:
For the baseness of its nature shall have strength to drag her

"Sisters and brothers, little Maid?
There stands the Inspector at thy door:
Like a dog, he hunts for boys who know not two and two are four."

"Kind words are more than coronets,"
She said, and wondering looked at me:
"It is the dead unhappy night, and I must hurry home to tea."

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Comments (17)

Much as I admire Lewis Carroll and his genius, I wish he hadn't called this poem Echoes. Or perhaps, as he got here first, I should have renamed my poem Memories of Different Past or something. Sometimes we are blinded by the name and overlook or forgive them when they drop their standards a little.
Pedidihelea it could be confused with here...iip
Lewis is all about echoes.. from echoes reboundin in mind born he paints us a picture that is just a memory of clara vere de clara who wears a necklase too big for her that it should have dragged her down..she goes ahead to imitate the elder or maybe herself she is the elder sibling..then she looks at me wonderin(maybe she remembers something she is supposed to do, or maybe she keeps up the play) ..the real question is who was lady clara vere de vere to the author, such that that memory comes to him like echos to the ears
One born of common blood becomes a Lady. Truly loved by her Lord Husband to be. And Carroll knew it all along. Sounds like the Lady, took the time to help the poor, even as a small child. Thanks for connecting the dots between Tennyson and Carroll, seems they both knew it and were ready to spill the beans until Tennyson found out the Lord truly loved her.
The poem is called Echoes, and one of the thing it echoes is Tennyson's poem Lady Vere de Vere, in which the titular lady is portrayed as a snobby bitch and a cocktease, for making eyes at the lyrical I without any intention on following through. We are told that the lady has already pulled the same shit on another poor guy, young Laurence, who ended up hanging himself after having his wholesome heart changed to gall by the cruel lady, which I always found somewhat melodramatic - I mean, it's not as if the Lady could have left him pregnant and defiled in the eyes of no longer potential marriage prospect; in the times of unreliable and/or inaccesible birth control, women have always had a harder time externalising the costs of their dalliances. Then the lyrical I declares his own refusal to become the Lady's next conquest, since he blames her entirely for Laurence fatal mental health crisis (the guilt of blood is at your door) and adominishes her to find more fruitful pursuits for her leisure time (eg. teaching orphan children to read and to sew) then playing with the affections of a foolish yoeman. Tennyson's poem is pervaded by a profound sense of sexual frustration and victimisation. This might explain how some people could read Caroll's poem as an almost Lolita-esque temptation parable. Tennyson's Lady Vere de Vere might have the most beguiling smile but she is not sexually available to the lyrical I because of class barriers, just as Caroll's Lady Vere de Vere might have the most lovely golden curls but is not sexually available to the lyrical I because she's a freaking child, for Christ's sake. Of course, the moment you have the heartless femme fatale be an 8 year old child, the sense of victimization becomes profoundly ridiculous, which, in my reading, is the main point of Caroll's poem, so clearly designed to mock something or other, considering its embrace of nonsensical lunacy. And if not the lamentations of a jilted lover, now getting all judgey about the moral failings of his unobtainable beloved, what else could be the object of this parody? I think it's utterly hilarious that some people here actually read the line but the baseness of its nature shall have strength to drag her down as Carroll evoking some kind of higher authority, advising the youth to beware of baseness, although of course I can't accuse such readers of taking this line too literally, when in fact, they are not taking it literally enough. The baseness of its nature refers the porringer, not the Lady. It's a physical attribute of a container, not a moral attribute of a person. The sense of moral condemnation present in the original poem is evoked too of course, but only to be mocked. Caroll's poem then takes a turn for the sinister (as resentiments caused by asymmetrical affections and sexual frustration often do) - the inspector hunting for little boys like a dog and the little girl still out and about in the dead unhappy night heighten the predatory vibes. Using the language of folk tales and nursery rhymes only contributes to that effect, because those genres also often deal with sexual transgressions and children coming to bad ends. The line Kind hearts are more than coronets in Tennyson's poem uttered by the lyrical I, as a lesson for his Lady Vere de Vere to be less shallow and value good morals over noble birth, is here given to the little Lady de Vere herself, while she wonders whether to trust the lyrical I, in a bit of a troubling context, considering that too much trust in the kindness of other people can make you rather vulnerable to predators. If Caroll was, as (never conclusively substantiated) rumour would have it, indeed a bit of a pedo himself, he was at least self-ironical about it.