You Are Old, Father William is a poem by Lewis Carroll that appears in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It is a parody of Robert Southey's poem, The Old Man's Comforts and How He Gained Them.

I recall once seeing a version of "You Are Old, Father William" that could perhaps be described as a parody of Carroll's parody, or as an even more nonsensical version of the poem. I remember just a few lines, such as, "Your teeth are beginning to freeze" and "Your favorite daughter has wheels in her head." Googling around, I find a few scattered mentions of this alternate version, but nothing fully satisfactory. Can someone provide a reference?


1 Answer 1


This newer parody version appears to have an anonymous author.

I found the full poem here and here, so at least you can read it in full:

"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your nose has a look of surprise;
Your eyes have turned round to the back of your head,
And you live upon cucumber pies."

"I know it, I know it," the old man replied,
"And it comes from employing a quack,
Who said if I laughed when the crocodile died
I should never have pains in my back."

"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your legs always get in your way;
You use too much mortar in mixing your bread,
And you try to drink timothy hay."

"Very true, very true," said the wretched old man,
"Every word that you tell me is true;
And it's caused by my having my kerosene can
Painted red where it ought to be blue."

"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your teeth are beginning to freeze,
Your favorite daughter has wheels in her head,
And the chickens are eating your knees."

"You are right," said the old man, "I cannot deny,
That my troubles are many and great,
But I'll butter my ears on the Fourth of July,
And then I'll be able to skate."

It's quite common in the genre of nonsense poetry that a piece of writing is of unknown provenance, perhaps made up in a home or schoolyard and circulating by word of mouth until the original author is completely lost. (See also this question.) One thing we can tell from this poem is that its author (unlike either Robert Southey or Lewis Carroll) was likely American, or writing in America, given the reference to the Fourth of July. But there doesn't seem to be any known original author. Perhaps this version even emerged gradually from mutations or misrememberings, like a game of Chinese whispers, so there is no "original author" as such for this.

  • 4
    October 1902 appearance here. Oct 17, 2021 at 11:10
  • The last two stanzas appeared in a Little Golden Book from the 1950's, a favorite of mine as a child. I loved reading this silly verse to my children and grandchildren; even made up a tune I could sing it to them. Even more fun that way!
    – Katharine
    Aug 19, 2022 at 16:04

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