Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How Doth the Little Crocodile by Lewis Carroll

Yesterday was the birthday of two men I consider geniuses (in actuality, and in their fields): Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known under his pseudonym, Lewis Carroll) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Today, a short poem by Lewis Carroll from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:

How Doth the Little Crocodile
by Lewis Carroll

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!

How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!


This poem is a parody poem of a well-known "instructional" poem at that time, "Against Idleness and Mischief" from a book called Divine Songs for Children by Isaac Watts, a noted Nonconformist hymnwriter. It begins "How doth the little busy bee/Improve each shining hour,/And gather honey all the day/From every opening flower!", and ends with exhortations to be diligent and avoid Satan. You can read the full text here. Carroll's poem is still widely anthologized for children these days, whereas the Watts poem has fallen out of favor.

I've been hearing the Overture from Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) in my head, and think I will go put on the CD of one of my favorite of his symphonies, "The Haffner", Symphony No. 35, K. 385, and then spend some quality time with the copy of The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition that hubby got me for the holidays.

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