After the chilling Lay of the Jabbereck, which set out Scottish Labour's electoral strategy for May's Holyrood election, it occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to try to commune with the forces that lie behind the veil that cleaves our earthly world from the realm immaterial. As the gaunt waifs and wights of our ancestors and departed contemporaries wander its muted gardens, so it is said, they often hear tell secrets of things yet to come. Having uttered the relevant incantations, offered propitiatory libation (piously poured down my own throat), the shimmering, gossamer form of Lewis Carroll erupted from the floor and handed me the following, scratched out in green ink on ghostly vellum. Although clearly open to different interpretations, as all such divinations are, it appears to furnish some further insight into the character of the Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet and their schemes...
The Punting of the Snark
An electoral agony in eight fits
Fit the First
“Just the place for a Snark!” bold John Park cried,
As they huddled in Charlotte Square;
Designing how best their mate Iain to guide
Up the FM’s Bute House Georgian stair.
“Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.”
Gray’s crew was complete: it included a Foulkes —
One Whitton, a Peacock includes —
With Wendy brought along to provoke their disputes —
And a Lamont, to lament her moods.
Forget not McNulty, whose thrill was immense,
Though he seemed without guile or flair –
Or their man Kerr who at a time before hence,
Held the whole of your cash in his care.
There was also a Baillie, who with spittle to fleck,
To the Sturgeon-Bird never kow-tows:
And had often (Gray said) saved their bacon from Eck,
Though none of the others knew how.
At his elbow, asked Park, "Why the Snark?"
With boozle-scratch baffling his napper.
"Add one part snarl to one part nark..."
So reasoned their Chieftain Eck trapper.
Curiosity dulled, the crew set to its work
A'-spreading the Snark's frabjous fame
Their task, they conceded, had this desperate quirk:
Most had wholly forgotten his name...
For fame and for fortune Gray gave not a fig,
And got not a fig for his pains.
From "What-was-his-face!" to "Thing-um-a-jig!"
His anonymity knew many names.
For those who preferred a more forcible word,
He had sprightlier titles than these:
His intimate foes called him "Giggity,"
And his enemies "LOLIT-SP."
"His form is ungainly—his intellect small—"
(So the pressmen would often remark)
"But his dryness is perfect! And that, after all,
Is the thing that one needs with a Snark."
He could drone with conviction, returning Eck's hoots
With an impudent wag of the head:
And he once went a walk, paw-in-paw, with a Broon,
"Just to keep up his spirits," he said.
The Snark, who was famed for a number of things
Forgot, when he uttered these quips:
That badinage, banter, aren't the gifts that he brings
As one of life's spanking wagwits.
The last of the crew needs especial remark,
Though he looked an incredible dunce:
He had just one idea— but, that one being "Snark,"
Our Gray man engaged him at once.
His name was R. Baker and gravely he dared,
Off the cuff, the guff-ready impeach.
For all seasons, he had a big cream puff prepared,
And never refrained he from speech.
Most strongly advised that the Baker should be
Conveyed in a separate ship:
But brave Snark he declared that would never agree
With the plans he had made for the trip.
But at length Gray explained, in tremulous tones,
That all Nat-work he deeply deplored.
From toad chorus required a host of gub-lines
By which Salmond would surely be floored.
Oor Baker's best course was, of course, to procure
A second-hand dagger-proof vote —
So that Baker advised it—and next, to ensure
They all got some Office of Note:
"Have scoff-flop students pay through the nose,
Their degrees to purchase and buy..."
But the Snark kept looking the opposite way,
And appeared unaccountably shy.
Mindful of Stevenson's winter tableau,
The man Kerr said, "Summer prevails!
Let's have two excellent Policies, one Against Snow,
And another against damage from hail!"
They had twenty-odd policies, carefully packed,
With Gray painted boldly on each:
And John Park's big wheeze was, in fact,
To leave them all out of his speech.
The Baker, who happened to hear Park's remark,
Protested, with tears in its eyes,
That not even the rapture of punting the Snark
Could atone for that dismal surprise!