“A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky”
A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July –
Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear –
Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream –
Lingering in the golden gleam –
Life, what is it but a dream?
Lewis Carroll, or Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was an English writer, mathematician, logician, and photographer. He was most famous for his books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass. He is noted for his word play, logic, and fantasy. There are societies around the world aimed at investigating and learning about his life, because while we know the basics, the intricacies are unknown.
Acrostic: An acrostic is a poem or other form of writing in which the first letter, syllable or word of each line, paragraph or other recurring feature in the text spells out a word or a message.
In this poem, the first letters of each line spell out the name “Alice Pleasance Liddell,” which is the revealing of the real name of this specific character. Obviously this name is longer, so the poem itself is 21 lines.
This poem tells the story of children on a boat under a “sunny sky” begging the narrator to tell a story. The narrator begins telling this story, and time passes. These children are still, after an extended amount of time, dreaming of hearing more and more stories. “Dreaming as the summers die” implies that even more time has passed by, and these children are still stuck in a fantasy world. They yearn so long to hear these stories of dreams and extravagance that they cannot come back down into their actual lives. However, the last line, “Life, what is it but a dream?” can argue that that mentality is preferable to anything else.
The deeper meaning of this poem can be many things. One of the most applicable in today’s society is the idea of people being so stuck in their fantasies that they lose sight of the world around them. Today, things like social media, music, and television shows make it so easy for people to escape from the horrors of life. They provide a distraction from responsibility and desire. Perhaps, that is what is most needed in times like today. There are wars and murders and struggles that some cannot even comprehend. A constant state of dreaming can provide aid when most needed. Life is, more or less, a dream. The fact that we even exist is incomprehensible to some, so the idea of constantly having to worry about the petty things is quite undesirable. Given that, why is it so important for people to constantly have responsibilities and power? It has to do with human nature, really. Humans are constantly looking to sort things and put them in piles, and the things that we cannot fathom are usually put away, never to be touched again. This notion of dreaming makes a life full of monotony sound pointless. If we are lucky enough to be given life and consciousness, why should it be wasted on things that are so unimportant in the grand scheme of things? Why is it frowned upon to wish to spend a life up in the clouds, away from the reality of our inevitable oblivion? Those questions are generally both unquestionable and unanswerable, but the poem provides these questions and answers in unconditional ways. It compares this mentality of existentialism to a child like dream, and further argues that it is not necessarily the worst thing in the world to fantasize about.
This is a small comic from the popular series Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin is known for his ability to be existential, which is strange for a young kid. His blatant honesty and curiosity captures the mindset of the children in the poem. They want to stay in their dream world, away from life, because dreams are apt to be more enjoyable than life. Calvin here brings up a similar argument- if we end up dying, what’s the point of living? Can we not just remain in a false persona, so that the inevitability of death is less prominent? It’s a question I often find myself drawn to.