A Poem and a Parody

John Tenniel illustration of Father William and his son

The Old Man’s Complaints and How He Gained Them by Robert Southey (1774 - 1843)

"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 past,

And abus'd 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 hast'ning away;

You are cheerful and love to converse upon death;

Now tell me the reason, I pray."

 

"I am cheerful, 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."

 

You Are Old, Father William by Lewis Carroll (1832 - 1898)

"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 my brain;

But now I am 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 for that?"

 

"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,

"I kept all my limbs very supple

By means 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 this stuff?

Be off, or I'll kick you downstairs!"

Add new comment