The Mouse's Tale
by Lewis Carroll
"Mine is a long and a sad tale!" said the Mouse, turning
to Alice, and sighing.
"It is a long tail, certainly," said Alice, looking
down with wonder at the Mouse's tail; "but why do you call it sad?" And
she kept on puzzling about it while the Mouse was speaking, so that her
idea of the tale was something like this:—
"Fury said to
a mouse, That
"You are not attending!" said the Mouse to Alice, severely.
"What are you thinking of?"
"I beg your pardon," said Alice very humbly, "you had got to
the fifth bend, I think?"
"I had not!" cried the Mouse sharply and very angrily.
"A knot!" said Alice, always ready to make herself useful, and
looking anxiously about her. "Oh, let me help to undo it!"
"I shall do nothing of the sort, said the Mouse, getting up and
walking away. "You insult me by talking such nonsense!"
This poem, one of the most famous English examples of emblematic verse, appears in chapter three of
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Its title bears the distinction of being a quadruple pun
Martin Gardner notes in The Annotated Alice
that it may have been inspired by Tennyson, who "once told Carroll that he
had dreamed a lengthy poem about fairies, which began with very long lines, then the lines
got shorter and shorter until the poem ended with fifty or sixty lines of two syllables
each. (Tennyson thought highly of the poem, but forgot it completely when he awoke.)"