Wednesday, 3 March 2010

You Are Old, Father William

Sometimes when choosing poems for this blog, I know well in advance what I'm going to include. On other occassions, such as today, I only know I want to post a poem and then look at books and online to find something I like and feel is suitable.

This week I found an old childhood favourite by Lewis Carroll. On one level this works as nonsense poetry. On another, however, it is about attitudes to youth and age and the attitudes of one to the other.

As luck would have it, lighting on this is neatly topical with Alice in Wonderland about to hit cinemas - who says this blog isn't bang on trend?!

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 you have grown must uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned back a somersault in at the door--
Pray, what is the reason of that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his gray locks,
"I kep all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment--one shilling a 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 eyes 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!"


This post is the latest in my Anthology strand.

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