'Melancholetta' by Lewis Carroll

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With saddest music all day long
She soothed her secret sorrow:
At night she sighed "I fear 'twas wrong
Such cheerful words to borrow.
Dearest, a sweeter, sadder song
I'll sing to thee to-morrow."

I thanked her, but I could not say
That I was glad to hear it:
I left the house at break of day,
And did not venture near it
Till time, I hoped, had worn away
Her grief, for nought could cheer it!

My dismal sister! Couldst thou know
The wretched home thou keepest!
Thy brother, drowned in daily woe,
Is thankful when thou sleepest;
For if I laugh, however low,
When thou'rt awake, thou weepest!

I took my sister t'other day
(Excuse the slang expression)
To Sadler's Wells to see the play
In hopes the new impression
Might in her thoughts, from grave to gay
Effect some slight digression.

I asked three gay young dogs from town
To join us in our folly,
Whose mirth, I thought, might serve to drown
My sister's melancholy:
The lively Jones, the sportive Brown,
And Robinson the jolly.

The maid announced the meal in tones
That I myself had taught her,
Meant to allay my sister's moans
Like oil on troubled water:
I rushed to Jones, the lively Jones,
And begged him to escort her.

Vainly he strove, with ready wit,
To joke about the weather -
To ventilate the last 'ON DIT' -
To quote the price of leather -
She groaned "Here I and Sorrow sit:
Let us lament together!"

I urged "You're wasting time, you know:
Delay will spoil the venison."
"My heart is wasted with my woe!
There is no rest - in Venice, on
The Bridge of Sighs!" she quoted low
From Byron and from Tennyson.

I need not tell of soup and fish
In solemn silence swallowed,
The sobs that ushered in each dish,
And its departure followed,
Nor yet my suicidal wish
To BE the cheese I hollowed.

Some desperate attempts were made
To start a conversation;
"Madam," the sportive Brown essayed,
"Which kind of recreation,
Hunting or fishing, have you made
Your special occupation?"

Her lips curved downwards instantly,
As if of india-rubber.
"Hounds IN FULL CRY I like," said she:
(Oh how I longed to snub her!)
"Of fish, a whale's the one for me,

The night's performance was "King John."
"It's dull," she wept, "and so-so!"
Awhile I let her tears flow on,
She said they soothed her woe so!
At length the curtain rose upon
'Bombastes Furioso.'

In vain we roared; in vain we tried
To rouse her into laughter:
Her pensive glances wandered wide
From orchestra to rafter -
"TIER UPON TIER!" she said, and sighed;
And silence followed after.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Melancholetta by Lewis Carroll

If you are familiar with Lewis Carroll's works, you might know him as the author of the popular Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. However, he was also a poet, and his poem Melancholetta is a remarkable piece of literature worthy of analysis and interpretation.


Lewis Carroll, whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was an English writer, mathematician, and photographer. He was born on January 27, 1832, and died on January 14, 1898. Carroll was known for his unique writing style that blended fantasy, absurdity, and wordplay. His works were often written for children, but they also contained deeper meanings that adults could appreciate.

Melancholetta is one of Carroll's lesser-known works. It was first published in 1869 in a magazine called The Train. The poem is a reflection on the nature of sadness and melancholy. It consists of ten stanzas, and each stanza has the same rhyme scheme (aabbcc). The poem's title is a combination of the words "melancholy" and "coquette," which means a flirtatious woman.


Melancholetta is a complex poem that requires careful reading and analysis. Here are some of the key themes and literary techniques used in the poem:


As the title suggests, the poem is primarily about melancholy, which is a feeling of sadness and gloominess. The speaker of the poem is addressing a woman who is described as "pale and wan," with "drooping lashes." The woman is a metaphor for melancholy itself, and the speaker is trying to understand and engage with this emotion.

The poem begins with the speaker asking Melancholetta why she is always sad. He wonders if she is "fond of grief," or if she is "wedded to despair." The speaker also acknowledges that melancholy has its own beauty, describing Melancholetta as a "queen of sorrows."


The second part of the poem focuses on coquetry, which is the act of flirting or playing with someone's emotions. The speaker accuses Melancholetta of being a coquette who enjoys toying with people's feelings. He asks her if she enjoys making people sad, or if she is just "playing a part."

However, the speaker also acknowledges that coquetry can be a defense mechanism against sadness. He wonders if Melancholetta is using her flirting to distract herself from her own sadness.


One of the hallmark features of Lewis Carroll's writing is his use of wordplay. In Melancholetta, he uses puns, allusions, and other literary devices to create layers of meaning and complexity.

For example, in the third stanza, the speaker says that Melancholetta's "tears would make a rabbit fat." This is a pun on the word "lapin," which means both "rabbit" and "to drink" in French. The use of this pun creates a sense of absurdity and humor in the poem.

Metaphors and Imagery

Throughout the poem, Carroll uses metaphors and vivid imagery to convey the emotions and themes he is exploring. For example, he describes Melancholetta as a "queen of sorrows," which creates an image of a powerful, regal figure who rules over sadness.

He also uses imagery to describe the effects of sadness on people's bodies and minds. In the fifth stanza, he says that sadness "turns to stone the heart it feeds upon." This creates a powerful image of the destructive nature of melancholy.


The meaning of Melancholetta is open to interpretation, but here are some possible ways to read the poem:

Melancholy as a Beautiful but Destructive Force

One interpretation of the poem is that Carroll is exploring the idea that melancholy can be both beautiful and destructive. The speaker acknowledges the allure of sadness, describing Melancholetta as a "queen of sorrows." However, he also recognizes the negative impact that sadness can have on people's lives.

Coquetry as a Coping Mechanism

Another interpretation is that Carroll is exploring the idea that coquetry can be a coping mechanism for sadness. The speaker accuses Melancholetta of being a coquette who enjoys toying with people's emotions, but he also wonders if she is using her flirting to distract herself from her own sadness.

The Power of Language and Wordplay

A third interpretation is that Carroll is exploring the power of language and wordplay to convey complex emotions and ideas. The poem is full of puns, allusions, and metaphors, which create layers of meaning and complexity. By playing with language, Carroll is able to convey the depth and complexity of melancholy and coquetry.


Melancholetta is a remarkable poem that showcases Lewis Carroll's unique writing style and his ability to convey complex emotions and ideas through wordplay and imagery. The poem is a reflection on the nature of sadness and coquetry, and it offers multiple interpretations and insights into the human experience. Whether you are a fan of Carroll's writing or just a lover of poetry, Melancholetta is a must-read.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Melancholetta: A Masterpiece of Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll, the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, is a name that needs no introduction. He is known for his exceptional works of literature, including the famous Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. However, his poetry is equally remarkable, and one of his most notable works is Poetry Melancholetta. This poem is a masterpiece that showcases Carroll's exceptional writing skills and his ability to evoke emotions through words. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, highlighting its themes, structure, and literary devices.

The poem begins with the speaker expressing his melancholy and his desire to escape from the world's troubles. He wishes to find a place where he can be alone and free from the worries of life. The speaker's melancholy is evident from the very first line, where he says, "Oh, I am very weary, Though tears no longer flow." The use of the word "weary" conveys a sense of exhaustion and fatigue, while the phrase "tears no longer flow" suggests that the speaker has cried so much that he has no tears left. The opening lines set the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a reflection of the speaker's melancholic state.

The poem's title, "Poetry Melancholetta," is a combination of two words, "melancholy" and "letta," which means "song" in Italian. The title itself is a reflection of the poem's theme, which is melancholy. The use of the word "poetry" in the title suggests that the speaker is expressing his melancholy through poetry, which is a common theme in Carroll's works.

The poem is written in the form of a ballad, which is a narrative poem that tells a story. The ballad form is characterized by its simple language, repetition, and rhyme scheme. Poetry Melancholetta follows this form, with each stanza consisting of four lines and a rhyme scheme of ABAB. The use of the ballad form adds to the poem's melancholic tone and gives it a musical quality.

The poem's first stanza sets the scene and introduces the speaker's melancholy. The second stanza describes the speaker's desire to escape from the world's troubles and find a place of solitude. The third stanza introduces the speaker's love for poetry and how it helps him cope with his melancholy. The final stanza concludes the poem with the speaker expressing his hope that his poetry will live on after he is gone.

One of the most notable literary devices used in the poem is repetition. The phrase "Oh, I am very weary" is repeated throughout the poem, emphasizing the speaker's exhaustion and melancholy. The repetition of this phrase also creates a sense of unity and coherence in the poem, tying the stanzas together.

Another literary device used in the poem is imagery. The speaker's desire to escape from the world's troubles is described using vivid imagery. In the second stanza, the speaker says, "I long to sail away To the land of the Hereafter." The use of the phrase "sail away" creates an image of the speaker sailing away from his troubles, while the phrase "land of the Hereafter" suggests a place of peace and tranquility.

The poem's theme of melancholy is also reflected in the language used. The speaker's language is simple and straightforward, with no complex or flowery words. This simplicity adds to the poem's melancholic tone and creates a sense of sincerity and honesty.

In conclusion, Poetry Melancholetta is a masterpiece of Lewis Carroll's poetry. The poem's theme of melancholy is reflected in its structure, language, and literary devices. The use of repetition, imagery, and the ballad form adds to the poem's melancholic tone and gives it a musical quality. The poem is a reflection of the speaker's melancholic state and his love for poetry, which helps him cope with his troubles. Carroll's exceptional writing skills are evident in this poem, making it a timeless piece of literature that will continue to evoke emotions in readers for generations to come.

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