In honor of Fathers’ Day: You Are Old, Father William

In honor of Fathers’ Day: You Are Old, Father William

I knew the version of this poem that Alice tells to the Caterpillar, but didn’t know the original (although I knew it was a parody).

In honor of Fathers’ Day, I’m going to give you both the original, and then the version from Lewis Carroll:

The Old Man’s Comforts and How He Gained Them

by Robert Southey (originally published 1799)

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.

===

From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

by Lewis Carroll (originally published 1865)

“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 would 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!”

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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2 Responses to “In honor of Fathers’ Day: You Are Old, Father William”

  1. Andrea Says:

    Love it, both the original and the Carroll version. Thanks for sharing these gems!

  2. Joe Bowers Says:

    Very nice, as usual, Bufo. I hadn ‘t known that Carroll ‘s was a parody. Happy Father ‘s Day to all the Dad ‘s reading this.

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