'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!'
I'm less keen on the original version, it's a little dull. I prefer Lewis Carroll's take on Father William. It's good to see different versions though and to compare them, such as:
'This Be The Verse' by Philip Larkin:
They **** you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had And add some extra, just for you.
But they were ****** up in their turn By fools in old-style hats and coats, Who half the time were soppy-stern And half at one another's throats.
Man hands on misery to man. It deepens like a coastal shelf. Get out as early as you can, And don't have any kids yourself.
'This Be The Worst' by Adrian Mitchell:
They tuck you up, your mum and dad, They read you Peter Rabbit too. They give you all the treats they had And add some extra, just for you.
They were tucked up when they were small, (Pink perfume, blue tobacco-smoke), By those whose kiss healed any fall, Whose laughter doubled any joke.
Man hands on happiness to man, It deepens like a coastal shelf. So love your parents all you can And have some cheerful kids yourself.
I think I prefer Mitchell's later version but Larkin's original has it's merits too.
Edited by Nellie-Mod
Apparently the merits of Philip Larkin are not appreciated byNellie-Mod :(