Friday, August 14, 2009

Discovering the world of Lewis Carroll

Over the last few days I've been reading Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. I had seen a couple of movie versions and read and abridged version of each, but this is the first time I've read the original, non-abridged books.

In a word - they are delicious! Nice and short, easy to get through in a day or two. Packed full of puns, parodies, nonsense rhymes, and all the crazy creatures of Carroll's imagination. Not to mention the illustrations by Tenniel - which are half the fun of the books.

I thought I'd share one of my favourite poems from Alice in Wonderland. It is a parody of the following verse by Robert Southey (make sure you read this - it makes Carroll's rendition all the funnier!).


The Old Man's Comforts and how he gained them, by Robert Southey

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
The few locks which are left you are grey;
You are hale, Father William, a hearty old man,
Now tell me the reason I pray.

In the days of my youth, Father William replied,
I remember'd that youth would fly fast,
And abused not my health and my vigour at first
That I never might need them at last.

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
And pleasures with youth pass away,
And yet you lament not the days that are gone,
Now tell me the reason I pray.

In the days of my youth, Father William replied,
I remember'd that youth could not last;
I thought of the future whatever I did,
That I never might grieve for the past.

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
And life must be hastening away;
You are chearful, and love to converse upon death!
Now tell me the reason I pray.

I am chearful, young man, Father William replied,
Let the cause thy attention engage;
In the days of my youth I remember'd my God!
And He hath not forgotten my age.
And now here's Lewis Carroll's parody. I particularly love the sixth stanza. :-D

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 downstairs!'

Current Mood: Amused


the W. family said...

Oh dear - that is too funny! What an imagination he had!

Theresa said...

Have you seen the trailer for the movie [coming out in March next year] I just watched it today with my *Alice in wonderland fanatic* sister. I have to read the book before we go to see it... haha.

Enbrethiliel said...


Queen Victoria liked the first Alice so much that she personally asked Carroll to send her a copy of his next book. The cheeky man took her at her word and sent her . . . a copy of an abstract mathematical volume! =P

I chuckle to think that Queen Victoria expected another Alice and instead got "a book without pictures or conversations." ;)

Do you suppose she ever contacted him to say the classic, "We are not amused"?

The Editrix said...

Alyssa - he certainly did have an amazing imagination!

Theresa - I've seen the trailer, and read the synopsis, and it looks like it's going to be nothing like the books. That is to say - it will borrow all of the most famous characters from the books, but Tim Burton has made up his own storyline for the movie.

BTW, that's actually the reason why I've been reading the books - in readiness for the movie! ;-)

Embrethiliel - that is so funny!! :-D

Elisabeth said...

I've always loved that poem...but until now I didn't realize it was a parody! I guess that's what Alice meant when she kept saying it was all wrong.

The Editrix said...

I know, I didn't find out that it was a parody until very recently!