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Walrus and the Carpenter, The Analysis

Author: Poetry of Lewis Carroll Type: Poetry Views: 1381

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The sun was shining on the sea,

Shining with all his might:

He did his very best to make

The billows smooth and bright --

And this was odd, because it was

The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,

Because she thought the sun

Had got no business to be there

After the day was done --

'It's very rude of him.' she said,

'To come and spoil the fun!'

The sea was wet as wet could be,

The sands were dry as dry.

You could not see a cloud, because

No cloud was in the sky:

No birds were flying overhead --

There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

Were walking close at hand:

They wept like anything to see

Such quantities of sand:

'If this were only cleared away,'

They said, 'it would be grand.'

'If seven maids with seven mops

Swept it for half a year,

Do you suppose,' the Walrus said,

'That they could get it clear?'

'l doubt it,' said the Carpenter,

And shed a bitter tear.

'O Oysters, come and walk with us!

The Walrus did beseech.

'A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,

Along the briny beach:

We cannot do with more than four,

To give a hand to each.'

The eldest Oyster looked at him,

But never a word he said:

The eldest Oyster winked his eye,

And shook his heavy head --

Meaning to say he did not choose

To leave the oyster-bed.

Out four young Oysters hurried up.

All eager for the treat:

Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,

Their shoes were clean and neat --

And this was odd, because, you know,

They hadn't any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,

And yet another four;

And thick and fast they came at last,

And more, and more, and more --

All hopping through the frothy waves,

And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

Walked on a mile or so,

And then they rested on a rock

Conveniently low:

And all the little Oysters stood

And waited in a row.

'The time has come,' the Walrus said,

'To talk of many things:

Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax --

Of cabbages -- and kings --

And why the sea is boiling hot --

And whether pigs have wings.'

'But wait a bit,' the Oysters cried,

'Before we have our chat;

For some of us are out of breath,

And all of us are fat!'

'No hurry!' said the Carpenter.

They thanked him much for that.

'A loaf of bread,' the Walrus said,

'Is what we chiefly need:

Pepper and vinegar besides

Are very good indeed --

Now, if you're ready, Oysters dear,

We can begin to feed.'

'But not on us!' the Oysters cried,

Turning a little blue.

'After such kindness, that would be

A dismal thing to do!'

'The night is fine,' the Walrus said,

'Do you admire the view?'

'It was so kind of you to come!

And you are very nice!'

The Carpenter said nothing but

'Cut us another slice-

I wish you were not quite so deaf-

I've had to ask you twice!'

'It seems a shame,' the Walrus said,

'To play them such a trick.

After we've brought them out so far,

And made them trot so quick!'

The Carpenter said nothing but

'The butter's spread too thick!'

'I weep for you,'the Walrus said:

'I deeply sympathize.'

With sobs and tears he sorted out

Those of the largest size,

Holding his pocket-handkerchief

Before his streaming eyes.

'O Oysters,' said the Carpenter,

'You've had a pleasant run!

Shall we be trotting home again?'

But answer came there none --

And this was scarcely odd, because

They'd eaten every one.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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The themes of this poem are encroachment, naïveté, order versus disorder, and seduction versus betrayal. The theme of encroachment is introduced in the first stanza, when the sun is shining in the middle of the night, encroaching upon the moon’s rightful time of owning the sky. The theme is intensified when the walrus and carpenter encroach upon the oysters’ habitat and invite them to walk along the beach.
The theme of naïveté is symbolized through the eagerness of the young oysters to join the walrus and carpenter in walking along the beach. The theme is increased when more oysters follow the first four that join the antagonists. They do not realize the direness of their situation until the walrus and carpenter talk about eating, and prepare butter, bread and pepper to eat along with the oysters. The theme of disorder is evident from the beginning of the poem, when the sun is shining although it is nighttime.
Disorder is built upon when the walrus and carpenter express a desire for the beach to be cleared of sand, which is obviously an illogical thought. Disorder is also exemplified through the humanization of oysters wearing clothing, and animals talking and having common language. Order is shown throughout the common theme of the poem, predator and prey. Perhaps this orderly and natural theme is what causes the poem to have some form of sense. Carroll’s ability to harness logic, theme and words are evident in this poem, as it is able to inform and entertain both young and old. Disorder may be incorporated as a protest against the political struggle going on in Britain when the poem was published. Wars and tension between countries were prominent, and Carroll may have been expressing his need for peace. The young oysters are seduced by the walrus and carpenter in the poem. They are led out of the water by the offer that only four can join them, but the “seducers” do not protest when more than four come out onto the beach. The oysters are betrayed by their “companions” when they are devoured, as was the goal all along.
Carroll may have written “The Walrus and the Carpenter” with a subliminal message in mind. The theme of child labor is inferred in the poem, as adults are consciously deciding to make children work before eventually killing them. During Carroll’s lifetime, child labor was an issue in factories and such. He may have been expressing his dislike for this act, while not outright rebelling against the idea. This is a common act of Carroll’s, and it is hypothesized that he was speaking against other social and cultural injustices in other works by using hidden meanings. Carroll’s dislike of child labor would match up with his affinity for children and young girls.

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| Posted on 2011-11-07 | by a guest

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All great writing has layers of meaning; not necessarily because the author intends it to symbolize this or that particular topic, but because the archetypes of personality, behavior, and consequences hold universally, across religion, politics, history, and anything else humans are involved in. God Bless Lewis Carroll! PS This poem appears in \"Through the Looking-Glass; and what Alice found there\", NOT \"Alice in Wonderland\" -- Lizzerd

| Posted on 2011-01-19 | by a guest

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Of course, these comments do not mention the fact that the beach of the rhyme is right next to where Alice Liddle lived (and 400metres from where I am sitting now.) The Museum in the nearby town had a Walrus as one of its first exibits and that it was a shipbuilding town full of carpenters. Tenniel\'s depiction of the carpenter shows the box shaped hat unique to the carpenters who worked in that town.
One can imagine Lewis Carrol and Alice walking along the beach and him telling the story which was then built into the book. No doubt they are deep meanings to the verse but these would have served no purpose to its original audience.
It was \"Alice in Sunderland\" before she was in Wonderland.

| Posted on 2011-01-04 | by a guest

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I believe it could mean a lot of things, many already were listed. The author\'s intention may have been to make it strange, with an indefinite meaning so that you could decipher what it means to you, by yourself and be able to relate it to your own life or feelings. Many authors do this on purpose... to get us thinking and using or imagination, and for that I appreciate Mr. Lewis Carroll.. very clever.

| Posted on 2010-12-20 | by a guest

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I have heard that the carpenter represents the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, and the walrus President Georges Clemenceau of France and the oysters represent colonies. So...my question is...what is Carroll saying if this is true?

| Posted on 2010-12-01 | by a guest

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I agree with the guest who stated that this is a satirical piece imitating in form (but not content) the moral teaching poems that children were required to memorize and to recite in Victorian times. The nonsense aspects delight children, who know that the sand doesn\'t get mopped up, that oysters don\'t have feet, etc. This is a deeper level of the overall theme that things are not always what they seem, which is the way the Alice books are loosely organized anyway. I very much doubt the religious or political interpretations.
-- Child therapist

| Posted on 2010-11-21 | by a guest

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To me it seems just as plain as day that it is a metaphor of life,the sun cannot be at night,but perhaps it was a sunset it is getting dark but that last bit of sun is trying as hard as it can to light the world up,the water is wet and sand is dry ,and there is so much sand on that beach that it would take forevor to clean up ,the seven mops go with seven maids (because one maid could not use two mops),and if there are no birds to fly there could be none in the sky,that the young make bad decisions that have bad concequences in the end,or like a kiddnaper tricking children with candy and other treats, and the elder oyster knows better because he has learned from his mistakes,the walrus and the carpenter cannot help themselves from what they want (the oysters)and when its over they feel bad for what they did but they cannot help it ,that is how they are ,and they cannot change no matter how hard they try, like a drug, or alchohol,you want to quite but it is so good,then you do it and you are upset for what you\'ve done,but it is too late:the end result is that you cannot change the world it is set in stone,but the choices you make in the world will determine your outcome.or so it seems to me

| Posted on 2010-10-06 | by a guest

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well i think that this story its based on government,stuff cauze walruz reprsents capitalism and carpenter reprecents labor force ,and oysters reprecent the capital...james jefferson
[posted on 2009-13-07]

| Posted on 2010-09-29 | by a guest

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Wish I hadn't read some of the above. Has somewhat warped my enyoyment of the poem to think of it having been written by a drug-crazed paedo! Innocently enough I saw it as an imaginative, somewhat nonsensical, story about the perils of youth and inexperience. A terrific poem to read aloud. Interested to know what my 7 year old thinks its about seen as he is the intended audience.

| Posted on 2010-07-05 | by a guest

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Any one out there like oysters?
I do.
I think the Walrus and the Carpenter had a splendid lunch upon the beach.
Wish I'd been there.
If you'd ever heard an oyster shucker speak the poem would make perfect sense. There is a certain rye humor in all of life and death.

| Posted on 2010-06-24 | by a guest

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i have analysed this poem in my year 10 english class and in my research found Lewis Carroll himself state that it was simply a childs poem with no extra meaning. You can look at it as much as you want but at the end of the day it is still a load of nonsense.

| Posted on 2010-06-07 | by a guest

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i love lewis carrol im useing peoples comments to get my ideas of how to analys the walrus and the carpenter. written by a 7th grader!!!

| Posted on 2010-05-19 | by a guest

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I think the message of this book is "Don't trust strangers, and don't fall into tricks". This poem is written for younger kids to enjoy reading. It's not based on religion or anything like that.. It;s just a fun reading activity.

| Posted on 2010-05-11 | by a guest

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The obvious opposition of phrase makes it fun and memorable, i memeorized it in the 6th grade and still remember it, kinda like that campy "ol' Susanna" song. Mostly I think that Carroll's addiction to Opium colors his writings. menat to bend the mind, meant to make you think, and it really doesnt matter what therory you come up with, they are all right. This poem has a hook, reels you in, and then leaves
you there with questions and only your mind for company. It means what you need it to mean.

| Posted on 2010-05-10 | by a guest

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I think the message of the poem is "be careful who you put your trust in." Such as a politician, someone of religious background or someone your newly aquainted with. If you we're explaining the poem to a child saying that it means don't trust strangers would suffice. If there's any hidden meaning or something crept out of Lewis Carroll's psychie we can only guess, but not confirm this.

| Posted on 2010-05-05 | by a guest

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I think that this poem, iss a combination of all the things posted before; i especially now think that it is about how the oysasters were ripped off, and betrated. Just like someone before said, as if a toy.
~ Posted by a 7th grader!(:~

| Posted on 2010-05-02 | by a guest

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The Walrus and the Carpenter are both aspects of Lewis Caroll (Charles Dodgson). Caroll: Both a man of wealth and of religious discipline. The oysters are the children whom he is alleged to have engaged in acts of pedophilia with. The poem is somewhat, an admission letter for his crimes. The Walrus represents the decadence which leads to desensitization of fetish, which is the seed of Caroll's pedophelia. The Carpenter (or Butterfly, or Baronet) represents Caroll's religious background (Carpenter = Jesus - Butterfly = Rebirth - Baronet = Royalty, after all, Jesus was apparently of the Royal line of King David, through Solomon). Caroll is struggling with his actions - a schizophrenia emerges between the latent Walrus and Carpenter Aspects of himself. We can liken the Walrus to the ID (das isch) and the Carpenter to the Super-Ego (das uber-esch) in terms of Freudian Psychoanalysis.
Remember that the Carpenter is quiet (or at least, the Walrus is somewhat deaf to the carpenter): "The Carpenter said nothing but, 'Cut us another slice- I wish you were not quite so deaf- I've had to ask you twice!’
See here the Id/Superego dichotomy in Classical Freudian Psychoanalysis? Carroll here is trying to choose between two paths - the path of morality and the path of decadence in his fetish for young children. He sees the Moral Logic (Kantian) of his actions = ‘This is wrong, I should not be looking at naked children.’ He also see the Logic devoid of Morality (Aesthetics), in which one can use Logic to justify one actions leading to decadence (see nietzsche's "Beyond Good and Evil").
Here, we must listen to what Humpty Dumpty had to say to Alice about "meaning."
'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all.'
With Humpty Dumpty, Carroll expresses a view of Truth in Aesthetics. Reality as a construct of one’s Doxastic system of beliefs. Our reality is based on mere semantics. So, if one can create a more masterfully (think about how physicists say that Einsteins E=mc2 must be true because of how beautiful it is in its simplicity) constructed narrative, then that narrative becomes truth. Further evidence of this view of truth in Aesthetics comes from the moments of shear irrationality which makes up this poem. Though there is irrational sentences abound, there is still a solid narrative, showing that ‘meaning’ does not come by way of the grammatical rules of language and each words’ place in a sentence. ‘Meaning’ comes from the Aesthetics of how these words are put together. Who doesn’t remember the completely non-sensical line:
'The time has come,' the Walrus said,
'To talk of many things:
Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax --
Of cabbages -- and kings --
And why the sea is boiling hot --
And whether pigs have wings.'
And why do we remember this stanza? Not because of its rationality, no.
This Truth in Aesthetics leads to decadence, and in a way, this leaves us in a Baudrillardian Hyper Reality, in which Reality is devoid of Meaning. If one is master of one’s own life, one can give it any meaning it wants - "it’s ok to be fat and decadent, it’s a Given Freedom."
The Moral Logic view is overcome by the view of Logic devoid of Morality. The Id (Walrus) here, wins out over the Superego x In a way, Caroll is justifying acts of this fetishlike and decadent nature. That this is the true logic of reality – “which is to be master – that’s all.”

| Posted on 2010-03-04 | by a guest

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As a child i always tuck the walrus and the carpenter to be a simple story about cruelty. The oyster are marched miles simply because the walrus are and the carpenter are thoughtlessly cruel.
I still think this is the best explanation. But I think it is also a wry poke at Victorian romantic sentimentality and pretensions. The walrus and the carpenter are talking nonsense with a veneer of high seriousness. They weep tragically as they eat and look out to sea, seascapes being a staple of Victorian paintings. Carol, may also be looking at the cruelty of nature. Big things eat small things. Natures mighty predators are mostly baby-killers. The walrus and the carpenter eat young, not grown up oysters.

| Posted on 2010-02-23 | by a guest

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It seems as though there are two schools of thought on this. Either it's a big metaphore warning of blind faith and false promise in religion and economics OR there is no meaning whatsoever and it is just a silly, albeit dark, children's poem. I believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle; a "both, and" explanation if you will. Consider the Duchess. She said: "Everything's got a moral if only you can find it". To me, this seems to imply that it is up to the individual to find their own meaning. In any situation or story if your intent is to look for a moral you're bound to find one regardless of the artisit's intentions. Or else, the moral would be clear. Perhaps the nods to multiple religions (walrus is Ganesha, etc) is merely a assertion of the idea that just as with spirituality/religion, it is up to the individual to interpret as they will. However, for children the message may be that you are free to choose how you move about the world, but do so with caution and seek wisdom when possible. Although the book may be written for children, obviously the reading level may indicate that it is a work meant to be enjoyed by parents while they read with or to their children. The big symbols may spark images for an adult while delivering more simple morals for children. Also, another symbol perhaps widly ignored is that of the oyster shell. Perhaps staying shelled in an oysterbed does not allow for learning about the world. Bottleing up a child's natural curiosity may be a dangerous thing. Not encouraging growth and exploration as the eleder oyster did led to ultimate demise. Maybe moving beyond the shell WITH the child is the best advise. Together, as with any piece of art, growth and personal leaning can be engendered though contemplation and discussion. Basically, I think the message is to move beyond one's oyster shell and to explore and be courious and add to one's understanding of the workings of the world because remaining shell'tered can lead to blind faith. Caroll may be suggesting a balance of wisdom and curiosity; together they are wonderous, but too much of either alone can be very dangerous. As I write this I am reminded of other patterns in the book referenceing the balance of curiousity, wonder, logic, and nonsense. I love this book.

| Posted on 2010-02-09 | by a guest

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After much thought, I believe I have the best interpretation.
First of all the DOGMA OR RELIGIOUS argument is wrong.
It's good for that particular movie but I don't even think Kevin Smith belives that. It's witty and good for that particular screenplay.
The Walrus represents the capitalist and the carpenter represents the labor force. The Oysters are unclear but I think they represent capitol. This makes sense because the Walrus gets a lot more oysters to eat then the carpenter.
Marx had published his Communist Manifesto in 1848 around London and Alice in Wonderland came out in the 1860's. Obviously Carroll was aware of Marx being a symbolic logic guy.
I could be wrong and it could just be a children's story, but I think this is the most plausible explanation.

| Posted on 2010-02-06 | by a guest

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The "Carpenter" could have been a "Butterfly" or a "Baronet" as the three words fit. This implies Carroll was uncertain about which of the three to use and weakens but does not remove the religious interpretation.
There are many words, I'd wager, that could fit the poem, but Carroll came up with three. The first could be a reference to Jesus, but that would have been uncomfortable. (As it isn't Jesus that we would expect Carroll to be criticizing, but those who run the Church.) A butterfly might also work, but this is a creature noted for its 'rebirth' making it again seem in some ways a religious representation of Christianity insofar as Jesus was resurrected and the religion teaches about a second life. Finally, the Baronet is a hereditary title vested by the king and could represent a general example of secular authority in the place of any even vague reference to Christianity by the author.

| Posted on 2010-01-21 | by a guest

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the famous 'religion' interpretation given by Matt Damon in Dogma, has one major flaw.... Lewis Carol, when asking john tinnel to illustrate the poem, hadn't yet finished it. He was still undecided on whether it be a carpenter, a butterfly, or barronet, and left the choice to John, as far as which was best for him to draw. As his being a 'carpenter' is circumstancial, i doubt the meaning of the poem revolves much around him being jesus. Personally, i think it's just a story of manipulation, greed, gulability, and exploitation. Or simply an example of a moral question... "who is worse? he who wants to do more harm? or he who winds up doing more harm?"

| Posted on 2009-12-23 | by a guest

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As previously stated, I believe that The Walrus and the Carpenter is based on religion. However, it's a fact that Carroll was a preacher and probably would not directly criticize his religion as to look as a hypocrite.
Instead, I believe this as a comment on the way that churches, temples, etc. are run and on organized religion.

| Posted on 2009-12-22 | by a guest

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i believe this poem is trying to display the trickery that advertisers use to get children to buy their products. the childrens parents try to warn them that they are just cheap toys, but they want them anyway. the children then go and get the toy. only to be ripped off completely.

| Posted on 2009-11-22 | by a guest

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THE MEANING IS NOT BASED OF RELIGION OR OTHER THINGS LIKE IT! This is for little kids. can;t you get that? It barley has a meaning, and the spec of meaning that it has just says "be careful of curiosity" Nothing deep and meaning full. Its a child-like song with a child-like meaning. THAT is what it truly is.

| Posted on 2009-10-17 | by a guest

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The poem is an obvious allegory to religion. The walrus, with his tusks and large body, represents Bhudda and Ganesha, and therefore Eastern religions. The carpenter, which represents Jesus, also bears a large nose and kufi, and that represents the three Abrahamic religions. These poor, unsuspecting oysters, despite the warning of the elder (possibly meaning wiser) oyster, follow the two of them without question. And what happens then? The oysters are given false promises of good times, shortly before they are betrayed and destroyed by the very thing they blindly followed in the first place.
This poem demonstrates the hazards of organized religion. It's presence in this poem is very subtle, which dissapoints me in a way, because not everyone sees it for what it is.

| Posted on 2009-05-12 | by a guest

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The Walrus and The Carpenter tells a story of trickery between predator and prey. A walrus and a carpenter are walking down a beach when they come upon some oysters. The walrus asks the oysters to walk and talk with them. After a mile or so of walking, the party stops and starts to eat bread. The Walrus then talks to the oysters but then eats them with the Carpenter. The Walrus and The Carpenter story is parallel to a government tricking and lying to its citizens. The Walrus and the Carpenter symbolize leaders and the oysters represent the citizens. Corrupt governments lie to and work its citizens until the citizens can no longer do any work, like the Walrus and the Carpenter do to the Oysters. When the citizens stop having a use, they are disposed of, much like the Oysters are. The Walrus and the Carpenter wanting to clear away the sand shows a government trying to control everything to suit itself. In having only the young Oysters leave with the Walrus and the Carpenter shows ignorance in youth. The tone of the story is humorous yet somber. The Walrus and The Carpenter is a creative and silly poem with sad undertones. One of Carroll's best.

| Posted on 2009-04-21 | by a guest

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probably because he wrote the book?....just putting that out there.

| Posted on 2009-02-20 | by a guest

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the poem shows that sympathy is a weapon in some use

| Posted on 2009-02-02 | by a guest

.: Alice in Wonderland :.

This poem is part of Alice in Wonderland when the Walrus and Carpenter go down to the beach, get the little oysters to come with them and then the Walrus tricks the Carpenter and eats them all instead of just inviting them for lunch so they could eat also.

Lewis Carrol also wrote the poem How Doth the Little Crocodile... which is also in the movie Alice in Wonderland when the big caterpillar guy is saying it to Alice and making shapes out of the smoke from his pipe to go with the poem.

I found this very interesting that both of these poems were in that same movie. I wouldn't be surprised if more of his poems were also in the movie.

| Posted on 2005-12-06 | by Approved Guest

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