“The Duke and Duchess!” said the White Rabbit nervously, as it went scurrying past; “they may be here at any moment, and I haven’t got it yet.”
“Hasn’t got what?” wondered Alice.
“A rhyme for Cornwall,” said the Rabbit, as if in answer to her thought; “borne well, yawn well” — and he pattered away into the distance, dropping in his hurry a folded paper that he had been carrying.
“What have you got there?” asked the Cheshire Cat as Alice picked up the paper and opened it.
“It seems to be a kind of poetry,” said Alice doubtfully; “at least,” she added, “some of the words rhyme and none of them appear to have any particular meaning.”
“What is it about?” asked the Cat.
“Well, some one seems to be coming somewhere from everywhere else, and to get a mixed reception:
. . . Your Father smiles.
Your Mother weeps ^
“I’ve heard something like that before,” said the Cat; “it went on, if I remember, ‘Your aunt has the pen of the gardener.'”
“There’s nothing about that here,” said Alice; “supposing she didn’t weep when the time came?”
“She would if she had to read all that stuff,” said the Cat.
“And then it goes on—
You went as came the swallow”
“That doesn’t help us unless we know how the swallow came,” observed the Cat. “If he went as the swallow usually travels he would have won the Deutsch Prize.”
“. . . homeward draw
Now it hath winged its way to winters green.
“There seems to have been some urgent reason for avoiding the swallow,” continued Alice. “Then all sorts of things happened to the Almanac:
Twice a hundred dawns, a hundred noons, a hundred eves.
“You see there were two dawns to every noon and evening— it must have been dreadfully confusing.”
“It would be at first, of course,” agreed the Cat.
“I think it must have been that extra dawn that
Never swallow or wandering sea-bird saw or else it was the Flag.”
“Well, the flag that some one found, Scouring the field or furrowing the sea.”
“Would you mind explaining,” said the Cat, “which was doing the scouring and furrowing.?”
“The flag,” said Alice, “or the some one. It isn’t exactly clear, and it doesn’t make sense either way. Anyhow, wherever the flag was unfurled it floated o’er the Free.”
“Come, that tells us something. Whoever it was must have avoided Dartmoor and St. Helena.”
“You wandering, saw.
Young Commonwealths you founds.”
“There’s a great deal of wandering in the poem,” observed the Cat.
“You sailed from us to them, from them to us,” continued Alice.
“That isn’t new, either. It should go on: ‘You all returned from him to them, though they were mine before.'”
“It doesn’t go on quite like that,” said Alice; “it ends up with a lot of words that I suppose were left over and couldn’t be fitted in anywhere else:
Therefore rejoicing mightier hath been made Imperial Power.”
“That,” said the Cat, “is the cleverest thing in the whole poem. People see that at the end, and then they read it through to see what on earth it’s about.”
“I’d give sixpence to any one who can explain it,” said Alice.