Friday, April 23, 2010

A highly moral poem indeed.

“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!"

Oddly enough, most of Lewis Carroll’s poems in Alice are parodies of the “instructional” poems of the time.

Most of these were either revoltingly sentimental or hideously blood-curdling, whereby children who disobeyed their parents are either eaten by bears or have their thumbs cut off.

They’re all completely forgotten now of course, only surviving in the form of Carroll’s parodies.

I think there’s a moral in that for us all*.

* Although not the sort of moral where people are eaten by bears or have their thumbs cut off.

33 comments:

Puss In Boots said...

I love Carroll's poems! This is one of only maybe 3 poems on TSFKA that I have managed to read all the way through. Loved it!

I remember someone posting a link to that poem where the kid gets his thumbs cut off. I can't remember who it was now. It was an awful poem.

Perseus said...

Those were the days... when fairy-tales had kids being eaten by bears.

These days fairy-tales are all OH&S approved happy-ending crap that won't teach kids any real-life lessons.

I was brought up on Greek Myths and I turned out okay.*








(I said 'okay', not 'perfect')

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I have to say, the more gruesome the story, the more The Boy seems to like it.

Melba said...

I agree. I love all the old Grimm's fairytales with the gruesome endings. Kids love it. I've read some research papers about mothers in fairytales. The only good mother is a dead one it seems, so that the stepmother can be evil and thrillingly bad. The stepmother is really just the [normal] bad part of the mother, but you can't have a *real* mother behaving like that, so enter the stepmother.

It's one of a child's biggest fears, that their mother will die and they'll have a wicked stepmother. Stepfathers don't have nearly the same bad rap.

squib said...

I feel a bit like Alice today. All the kids at school brought flowers in, amazing flowers, shop-bought flowers, roses, a bird of paradise, you name it, for ANZAC Day. This hangover from the Howard years, will it ever end?

Puss In Boots said...

Huh? I don't get it, Squib. Did Howard mandate that kids had to bring flowers to school on Anzac Day?

squib said...

Well Puss, before Howard, I never used to cringe so much on Australia Day and Anzac Day. I find the flowers kind of sinister

Puss In Boots said...

Oh. I still don't get it. Maybe because I'm not patriotic and never pay attention to Australia Day and Anzac Day stuff. It all seems the same to me.

squib said...

No, they never had this before. Every child was asked to bring flowers along. There used to be just one wreath but now there's gonna be about 30. I can see this snowballing

Perseus said...

The older I get, the more I think ANZAC Day has more relevence that Christmas and Easter. "Jesus is born in a manger! Everyone buy crap presents for the family! Jesus is crucified! All footy cancelled! Jesus is resurrected! Add to Cadbury's profit margin!"

At least the diggers were real people that died.

And while I'm ranting, is any cultural/ethnic cuisine more over-rated than Spanish? "Oooh, paella, awesome!" Fuck off. It's a hotch-potch of scraps tossed in big pot. German food can get fucked too.

**

Melba: In modern fables (film, TV) the step-father is always the murdering rapist.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Can you pinch any of the flowers for your home, Squib?

I always liked it when Brendan "Rocker" Nelson used to say we should be more like Simpson (of the donkey fame).

He was obviously unaware that Simpson was a) a Pom and b) a mad lefty.

Puss In Boots said...

*sharp intake of breath*

Oh! You did not just insult Spanish cuisine, Pers!

Have you been to Spain? Have you tried anything other than paella? It is glorious stuff. And a good paella is a thing of beauty. It's just hard to find a good one in Australia. I haven't had one yet. I had some excellent paellas in Valencia and Barcelona though. They are far from scraps tossed in a pot. They use the best and freshest seafood imaginable. The Valencian paella uses rabbit and chicken.

Do you think the same thing of Italian risotto? Because they're very similar dishes.

squib said...

Yeh, Pers? Well a lot of real people died in wars. We're not special

Why don't people lay wreathes for all the women who have died throughout the centuries during childbirth? Surely they deserve a big fat gerbera for their troubles?

Ramon, good idea, I'm sure that would go down well

Risotto is way better than paella

Puss In Boots said...

You've obviously never had a good paella then, Squib.

Mad Cat Lady said...

and all the children are march in the parades and the schools are getting funding/permission to set up anzac memorials in the school grounds and children whose grandparents etc have died in wars get up and make little speeches

it freaks me out too

squib said...

Well thank the gods for that, MCL. Because I was looking around this morning and the parents were loving it. I was the only curmudgeon there grinding my teeth

Perseus said...

Phooey. Paella is the poor man's risotto. Almodovar is the poor man's Fellini. Penelope Cruz is the poor man's Sophia Loren. Bull fighters are the poor man's Gladiators.

Actually, now that I think of it, German food is worse than Spanish. "Would you like some lard with your fat? It comes with floppy cabbage and it's covered in a salt sauce with salt."

I give the bronze medal for over-rated cuisince to the Thais. Lemongrass is one gene left of 'noxious weed'. Tom-yum? Up-yer-bum!

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I quite like German food.

Nothing like a nice knackwurst with sauerkraut, washed down with a beer.

Followed by a nice beer for dessert

Perseus said...

The reason beer is so prevalent in German culture is because the drunker you get, the less you are awere your arteries are being eternally clogged with lard.

I too like a good Bratwurst, though. Fatty goodness. But it's not as good as, say, pizza.

squib said...

Puss, risotto is constantly stirred and that's why it absorbs the stock better. Paella on the other hand is just whacked in there and left to its own devices, which is why it's always a bit crunchy and bland

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

I had some very nice pigs' knuckles in a pub in Munich.

Melba said...

If paella is the poor man's risotto, then it's so far down the list because my in-laws (Calabrian villagers) turn THEIR noses up at risotto as being declasse and not worth eating. They can't believe that people pay money for it in posh eateries.

My vote for worst cuisine goes to Cajun I think. The spices just wreck any decent piece of seafood. I think I'm the only person in Melbourne who hates Claypots.

Puss In Boots said...

Have you guys even been to Spain? Because you wouldn't be saying that if you had. I thought paella was overrated too, until I went there. And if you have been, and only tried it in some trashy tourist restaurant, then that doesn't count. If you go to one of the local eateries, the paella is simply devine. And the crunchy bottom is one of the best parts! Seriously, if you think paella is bland, you really haven't had paella. My mouth is watering just thinking of the one I had in Barcelona.

You should also try some Chupa de Camarones from Peru. One of the best dishes I have ever eaten.

But anyway. I agree with you about German food. I hated everything about Germany except their post offices. I tried spaetzle in one restaurant, and I was horrified at how disgusting it was. I paid 12 euros for it though, so I was choking it down. I still didn't manage to eat more than an eighth of the dish though. It was awful.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Have you guys even been to Spain?

Yes.

It was rubbish.

Puss In Boots said...

When? Back when Franco was still in power? Because that doesn't count.

Melba said...

Heh. Nice one Puss.

Touche.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Blimey Puss, I'm not that old.

Pepsi said...

Puss, my hero.

Has Pers got his cranky pants on today?

The poem made me laugh, laughing was needed this morning.

Melba said...

Perseus is still picking locusts out of his pants perhaps, which would make anyone cranky.

Fad MD said...

I always liked it when Brendan "Rocker" Nelson used to say we should be more like Simpson (of the donkey fame).

He was obviously unaware that Simpson was a) a Pom and b) a mad lefty.


Maybe he meant 'dead' Ramon?

Wrst cuisine is definitely Filipino. Have you ever seen a Filipino restaurant? Its like they took the worst parts of every local food culture and combined it with the worst parts of the animal. "oh look at all that filty fillet! Lets use these nice sphincters and epydidmis instead"

Alex said...

I can't think of a single dish from any part of the world that I don't like, so long as it's been cooked by the right person. I used to know a Filipino family that would have me over for tea every so often. The food was fine, but the fact that nothing ever seemed to get refrigerated worried me a bit. I don't know if it was indicative of the culture, or if it was just that family, but I often wondered how they all manged to avoid food poisoning.

As far as ANZAC Day goes, I quite like the idea. However, I'd like to see a little less about the glory of sacrifice and a little more about the overall cost of war. Instead of just focusing on those who died bravely on the battlefield, we could maybe spare a thought for those who came home and spent ten years weeping into a bottle of whiskey before putting a gun in their mouths. I also reckon that opposition forces and civilians who were killed by Australians deserve a mention too.

Oh, and it was Patchouligirl who originally posted this link to "Struwwelpeter" that has the boy getting his thumbs cut off.

patchouligirl said...

Yes, that's right, my German Grandmother used to read us Struwwelpeter.

My mixed German/Anglo heritage leaves me in the interesting situation where I had ancestors fighting on both sides of the battle of the Somme. For me, Anzac Day is both a day to remember the men who died on both sides and of course to acknowledge the futility of war.

eat my shorts said...

Squib: I totally get what you mean about ANZAC Day in schools. Asking each kid to bring in flowers seems a bit over the top to me.

I spent most of today at the Imperial War Museum. There were three ex-servicemen who did a talk & then people got to ask questions. One guy asked how they left Dunkirk, this old dude Frank said he was stuck in 6 feet of water (and he was only 5 foot-something) for three days & just when he said to himself "Rightio, that's it mate. You're done for", he gets scruffed at the neck & put on a rescue ship.

He had everyone there in tears.

In fact, the whole thing was very emotional. One exhibition was set up the way a suburban house would have been. An elderly woman was walking through at the same time as us & was telling us all about what it was like to live in a house like that. I couldn't help thinking how strange it would be, to be from that generation & go to a museum & see that exhibition.

There was also an interesting section on what it was like for the children of Britain at the time. It must be hard bringing up children at the best of times, I can't even begin to imagine what it would have been like in war time.