Module 4: Poetry

3. Lewis Carroll: “The Mouse’s Tale”

The following example is an excerpt from Lewis Carroll’s “The Mouse’s Tale,” a poem appearing in the third chapter of Alice in Wonderland. It is a concrete poem in which the lines consist of only a couple of words, laid out in such a way that they visualise the mouse’s winding tail:

Figure 1. A facsimile of “The Mouse’s Tale.”
Figure 1. A facsimile of “The Mouse’s Tale.”

For the encoder, this specific visual layout challenges the TEI’s orientation to logical structures. In the example, the visual lines are encoded as logical lines (<l>); the visual particularities (font size, indentation) are formalised as values of a @rend attribute on each line. Of course, any value system is allowed for the @rend attribute; it’s up to the processing layer to decide how to interpret these values and format them on the screen / in print.


Since version 2.0, the TEI Guidelines have added a <sourceDoc> element, that allows for a topographic transcription of the content of primary manuscripts, organised in visual units <surface>, <zone>, and <line>. See chapter 11. Representation of Primary Sources of the TEI Guidelines.

Alternatively, the lines could have been treated on a more logical level, spanning multiple physical lines. The line breaks then could have been encoded with <lb> elements, and specific visual characteristics as values for @rend attributes on <seg> elements. Since the white space is quite significant, the special-purpose TEI element <space> could have been used as well.

<lg xmlns="">
<l rend="font-size(110%) indent(-60)">"Fury said to</l>
<l rend="font-size(100%) indent(-40px)">a mouse, That</l>
<l rend="font-size(100%) indent(0px)">he met</l>
<l rend="font-size(100%) indent(10px)">in the</l>
<l rend="font-size(100%) indent(20px)">house,</l>
<l rend="font-size(100%) indent(17px)">'Let us</l>
<l rend="font-size(100%) indent(5px)">both go</l>
<l rend="font-size(100%) indent(-7px)">to law:</l>
<l rend="font-size(100%) indent(-23px)">
<hi rend="italic">I</hi>
<l rend="font-size(100%) indent(-26px)">prosecute</l>
<l rend="font-size(90%) indent(-40px)">
<hi rend="italic">you.</hi>
<l rend="font-size(90%) indent(-30px)">Come, I'll</l>
<l rend="font-size(90%) indent(-20px)">take no</l>
<l rend="font-size(90%) indent(-7px)">denial;</l>
<l rend="font-size(90%) indent(19px)">We must</l>
<l rend="font-size(90%) indent(45px)">have a</l>
<l rend="font-size(90%) indent(67px)">trial:</l>
<l rend="font-size(90%) indent(80px)">For</l>
<l rend="font-size(80%) indent(70px)">really</l>
<l rend="font-size(80%) indent(57px)">this</l>
<l rend="font-size(80%) indent(75px)">morning</l>
<l rend="font-size(80%) indent(95px)">I've</l>
<l rend="font-size(80%) indent(77px)">nothing</l>
<l rend="font-size(80%) indent(57px)">to do.'</l>
<l rend="font-size(70%) indent(38px)">Said the</l>
<l rend="font-size(70%) indent(30px)">mouse to</l>
<l rend="font-size(70%) indent(18px)">the cur,</l>
<l rend="font-size(70%) indent(22px)">'Such a</l>
<l rend="font-size(70%) indent(37px)">trial,</l>
<l rend="font-size(70%) indent(27px)">dear sir,</l>
<l rend="font-size(70%) indent(9px)">With no</l>
<l rend="font-size(70%) indent(-8px)">jury or</l>
<l rend="font-size(70%) indent(-18px)">judge,</l>
<l rend="font-size(70%) indent(-6px)">would be</l>
<l rend="font-size(70%) indent(7px)">wasting</l>
<l rend="font-size(70%) indent(25px)">our breath.'</l>
<l rend="font-size(60%) indent(30px)">'I'll be</l>
<l rend="font-size(60%) indent(24px)">judge,</l>
<l rend="font-size(60%) indent(15px)">I'll be</l>
<l rend="font-size(60%) indent(2px)">jury,'</l>
<l rend="font-size(60%) indent(-4px)">Said</l>
<l rend="font-size(60%) indent(17px)">cunning</l>
<l rend="font-size(60%) indent(29px)">old Fury;</l>
<l rend="font-size(60%) indent(37px)">'I'll try</l>
<l rend="font-size(60%) indent(51px)">the whole</l>
<l rend="font-size(60%) indent(70px)">cause,</l>
<l rend="font-size(60%) indent(65px)">and</l>
<l rend="font-size(60%) indent(60px)">condemn</l>
<l rend="font-size(60%) indent(60px)">you</l>
<l rend="font-size(60%) indent(68px)">to</l>
<l rend="font-size(60%) indent(82px)">death.' "</l>
Example 3. TBE-crafted example encoding of Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Mouse’s Tale” as it appeared in Alice in Wonderland (Carroll 1865). This encoding was based on the HTML encoding of this poem available at


  • Blake, William. 1789. Songs of Innocence and of Experience. London: W Blake. Encoded and made available by the University of Virginia Library, Text Collection at
  • Browning, Robert. 1842. Dramatic Lyrics. London: Moxon.
  • Carroll, Lewis. 1865. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. New York: D. Appleton and co. p. 37.
  • Islam, Mubina. 2004. “A Selection of Sonnets: electronic edition encoded in XML with a TEI DTD.” Unpublished Master’s Dissertation, London: University College London.
  • Shakespeare, William. 1978. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Edited by Alexander, Peter. London: Collins.
  • Swinburne, Algernon Charles. 1924. Swinburne’s Collected Poetical Works. London: William Heinemann. p. 330–31.