The poem, a preface to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, begins as follows:
All in the golden afternoon
Full leisurely we glide;
For both our oars, with little skill,
By little arms are plied,
While little hands make vain pretence
Our wanderings to guide.
I've bolded the lines I don't understand. I understand what each of the individual words mean, but I'm not exactly sure how this "pretence," which could be a sort of make-believe playing of little children (Carroll is on a boat with three little girls), relates to the final line in the stanza. Since the first two pairs of lines go together, I'm wondering how I should interpret this last pair. Honestly I can't even visualize what "little hands make vain pretence" even depicts.