How Doth the Little Crocodile


How doth the little crocodile

Improve his shining tail,

And pour the waters of the Nile

On every golden scale! [1]

How cheerfully he seems to grin [2]

How neatly spreads his claws,

And welcomes little fishes in,

With gently smiling jaws!

Poetic Terms

(2 Stanzas)

  1. Hyperbole
  2. Personification

The crocodile, in the first stanza, improves his looks, takes great care over them, and make himself generally look very attractive. In the Second Stanza, he shows good manners, he is neat, he smiles, he is cheerful, gentle, almost, one could add, likeable. We just about forget that he is a wild beast. However, this false front is to hide the desire underneath of a predator for prey. All the while, lurking beneath these good manners and attractive image, is a beast waiting for the right moment to strike. There are people like that too, and this poem could serve as a warning against those who may seem innocent or good. 'Never judge a book by its cover' would be a good moral; this poem warns readers not to trust a person’s smile, not to trust their looks, but to look at their personality instead. Also, 'A leopard doesn't change its spots': While he is polite and gentle, he still seeks to devour the little helpless fish, as is true to his nature.

You Are Old, Father William

You are Old, Father WIlliam

"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 kept 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!"

Poetic Terms

  1. Hyperbole
  2. Alliteration

This poem is a parody on the original by Robert Southey:

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
The few locks which are left 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 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.

In the original, a young man asks the old man how he can possibly be so happy and healthy if he is old, as he, the young man, fears for the future when he will be old too, his life almost entirely behind him, and his health failing. However, the old man assures him that if he enjoys his youth while he has it, and does not waste his health or mar it, he will live a happy life, even when he is old. This message is an important one, especially in today’s society that tries so desperately to avoid aging, to hide signs of aging, to find ways of living longer, even forever. It’s alright to age, and it shouldn’t be thought of as a terrible thing; aging is natural, it happens, and we just have to deal with it, and live our lives to the very end.

However, in the parody by Lewis Carroll, the poem is quite different. The old man is not only happy and healthy, but he clowns around, he stands on his head, he somersaults, he balances an eel on his nose, he eats as much as he pleases; at the end of the poem, he tells the boy he’s had enough of his questions, and that he’d better go away. In this poem, the old man uses his age as an excuse to do whatever he pleases, to play around, to eat as much as he wants. The old man also takes advantage of the young boy’s fears of age by trying to sell him some ointment which he says will keep his limbs supple when he gets old. He even misuses his authority, and as the man with the bigger stick, tells the boy to go away, because he’s asking too many questions, like most boys his age. He’s simply curious, and doesn’t have as much experience as the old man, but the man dismisses him because the has less power than he does, and therefore doesn’t merit his attention, or at least, not very much of it.

The Walrus and the Carpenter

Walrus and the Carpenter

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright --
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.
The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done --
'It's very rude of him.' she said,
'To come and spoil the fun!'
The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead --
There were no birds to fly.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand:
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
'If this were only cleared away,'
They said, 'it would be grand.'
'If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year,

Do you suppose,' the Walrus said,
'That they could get it clear?'
'l doubt it,'
[2] said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.
O Oysters, come and walk with us!
The Walrus did beseech.
'A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.
The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head --
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.
Out four young Oysters hurried up.
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat --
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.
Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more --
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.
The time has come,' the Walrus said,
'To talk of many things:
Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing wax --
Of cabbages -- and kings --
And why the sea is boiling hot --
And whether pigs have wings.'
'But wait a bit,' the Oysters cried,
'Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!'
'No hurry!' said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.
A loaf of bread,' the Walrus said,
'Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed --
Now, if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.
But not on us!' the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
'After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!'
'The night is fine,' the Walrus said,
'Do you admire the view?
It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!'
The Carpenter said nothing but
'Cut us another slice-
I wish you were not quite so deaf-
I've had to ask you twice!
It seems a shame,' the Walrus said,
'To play them such a trick.
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!'
The Carpenter said nothing but
'The butter's spread too thick!
'I weep for you,'the Walrus said:
'I deeply sympathize.' [3]
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
'O Oysters,' said the Carpenter,
'You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none --
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

Poetic Terms

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Personification
  2. Hyperbole
  3. Irony

In the beginning of the poem, the sun is still out, though it is the middle of the night. A possible meaning of this is that soon, intentions will be hidden, and it will be difficult(for the oysters) to discern good and bad, light and dark, day and night.

The Walrus and the carpenter are two beings who pretend to be nice and well-meaning to get a free meal out of the Oysters. When they first ask an elder Oyster to come out for a walk with them, he wisely declines, as he knows better; he is old and wise. By contrast, the younger oysters have not experienced as much of the world as the older oyster, and think nothing of going out for a walk with the “kind” Walrus and carpenter. The young Oysters are described as eager, and neat, as if they had prepared ahead of time for the “treat”. This could indicate that the pair have come before, perhaps many times, but the young oysters have only figured out that the pair will come again and prepare so that they may go along the next time; they are not yet smart enough to recognize the danger.

Once the four Oysters follow, others join them, assuming that, because others are going, there will be no danger; they also are attracted by a pleasant walk along the beach. When the Walrus and the Carpenter have reached a rock, they sit down, perhaps at the place they have stopped many times before, where many other oysters have been eaten. The oysters wait attentively, like small children waiting expectantly for a treat. The Walrus suggests that they begin their conversation, but the Oysters protest that some of them are out of breath, and all of them are fat, a likely motive for the pair to eat them. The Walrus tells them that they’re in no hurry, which the Oysters mistake to be the pair waiting for them before they converse, when in reality, the Walrus reveals that, in the next stanza, they may need some bread, pepper, and vinegar; here, the reader can imagine one of the pair producing these items. Now that they’re ready to eat, the oysters realize that the true intention of the pair all along had been to eat them, that they’d been tricked by someone older and sneakier than them. Even still, their innocent minds protest meekly instead of running away, as they can hardly believe that anyone would do such a thing quite so evil as eating them.

After this, all pretence over, the Carpenter simply eats, while the Walrus seems to take more pleasure in it, still talking to them as if they were simply sitting with them. The Walrus could be interpreted as slightly irritated by the Carpenter’s lack of acting, for not playing it up as he does, and just eating away. The Carpenter does not respond to the Walrus, he rather ignores his act, and asks for the butter, twice; this implies that the Walrus, in turn, ignores him the first time he asks. Here, the Walrus even cries for the loss of the Oysters that they cruelly seduced, murdered, and ate, and in the next stanza, the carpenter finally adds something now he’s done eating: an empty invitation to the devoured Oysters to walk them home again.



'Twas[1] brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble [2] in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:

Long time the manxome foe he sought --

So rested he by the Tumtum tree, [2]

And stood a while in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,

The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling [3] through the tulgey wood,

And burbled [3] as it came!

One two! One two! And through and through

The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! [3]

He left it dead, and with its head

He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?

Come to my arms, my beamish boy!

Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"

He chortled in his joy.

Twas' brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,'thumb|300px|right

And the mome raths outgrabe.

Poetic Terms

(7 Stanzas)

  1. Elision
  2. 2.0 2.1 Alliteration
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Onamatopoeia

Jabberwocky is defined as invented or meaningless language. Invented it may be, but meaningless it is not; the sound of the words give the reader a fair sense of what the “nonsensical” words are supposed to mean.

One possible interpretation of the poem is of a boy’s first steps into the world, and his increase of maturity. The first verse describes the outside world. In my opinion, brillig is that time of night when the moon and the stars come out and illuminate the dark world; the light casts shadows that dance around the landscape, and create a kind of witching hour, filled with creatures like the “slithy toves”, and the “mome raths”, that “gyre and gimble”, perhaps dance like gleeful little creatures in the “wabe”, the shadows. The “borogoves” could be the forest, a “mimsy”, or strange otherworldly place. The description in the first paragraph is important because it shows the otherwise unknown dangers of the world, and establishes the need for the father to tell his son about them in the second paragraph.

In the second paragraph, the father tells his son of the dangers in life, of the “Jabberwock”, the “Jubub bird”, and the “frumious Bandersnatch”. These names all sound slightly comical, in my opinion; the Jubjub bird, for example, sounds like a large brightly coloured herbivorous bird with large plumage and a long neck, that bounces around rather harmlessly on its long, slender legs. However, this is why the father must warn the son; without his guidance, he wouldn’t know what to fear, and what not to. He must prepare his son so that he may enter the world without him, and complete a sort of coming of age test.

In the third paragraph, the boy leaves his father and journeys out into the world alone, with his “vorpal” sword, a word that lends a certain magical quality to it, magic to fight magic. His foe is powerful, swift, and intelligent, “manxome”, so it takes a long time to find it. He is tired, so he rests under the “Tumtum tree”, a name that lends protective and/or healing qualities to the tree by the way the word chimes. He probably falls asleep.

In the fourth paragraph, he is still sleeping, but the tree that protects him causes him to wake up when the Jabberwock comes “whiffling” through the wood. It could also be that the Jabberwock simply makes so much noise with its “whiffling”, a word that sounds like a mix of whistling and a breeze whipping through leaves, that the boy wakes. The Jabberwock’s eyes of flame show that it is probably the most dangerous of the three creatures the boy could have picked to pursue; this shows that he is brave, but a little foolhardy, backing the idea that it is his first time out alone. The Jabberwock also lets out a war cry of sorts: It “burbles” as it comes towards him, indicating that he must go into combat with the creature, or die without a fight.

In the fifth paragraph, there is evidence of a clash: The “One two! One two!” could be the clashes of the sword against claws or scales, and the “through and through” indicates that the sword is penetrating the limbs or flesh of the beast. The onomatopoeia used, snicker-snack, added to the other pairs of words, creates an image of the boy swinging the sword back and forth, perhaps wildly, as he is young and inexperienced. In the end, however inexperienced, the boy succeeds in killing the Jabberwock, and he brings its head back with him to prove that he has truly done the deed.

In the sixth paragraph, the father greets his son joyfully, as his son slain the Jabberwock, completed the dangerous task, and now has become a man. However, he still greets him as his son, and as a boy, because he still has much to learn, and no matter what, he will still be his own dear son.

In the seventh and final paragraph, the opening stanza is repeated, indicating that, no matter what happened over the course of the poem, everything is still the same, life is the same, the world as they know it has not changed; the father passes down the same knowledge from generation to generation, and the boy faces the same challenge as his forefathers.

It could also be argued that the creatures in the poem are only metaphors for the troubles of this world: to become an adult, one must learn to deal with and overcome one’s problems alone. The father only tells the son what to watch out for; it is the son who actually deals with them. It is in this way that he becomes a man.

Another explanation of this poem is more inclined towards the Alice in Wonderland type of narrative: a boy falls asleep, and dreams of strange happenings, only to wake up and find himself exactly where he started. Everything is the same, as if it was all just a dream.