Wednesday, 13 June 2012
ELDER POETRY INTERLUDE – You Are Old, Father William
By Lewis Carroll
"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"
"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."
"You are old," said the youth, "As I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door—
Pray, what is the reason of that?"
"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
"I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment—one shilling the box—
Allow me to sell you a couple?"
"You are old," said the youth, "And your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak—
Pray, how did you manage to do it?"
"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life."
"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose—
What made you so awfully clever?"
"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said his father; "don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you down stairs!"
The poem is from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, of course, and a wonderful treatment of youthful beliefs about age - not to mention a quite modern and up-to-date prescription for a healthy old age.
What I didn't know until I checked around the web is that the poem is a parody of an overly pious and moralizing poem every child would have known in Carroll's time, The Old Man's Comforts and How He Gained Them. You can read it here.
Undoubtedly, most of you know the particulars of Carroll's life and work. If you need a refresher, Wikipedia has a reasonably good overview.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Bonanza – The Lost Episode (satire)