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Father William

Since I am a “father William,” and since it is my birthday today (I spent it at the Spring Art Show [1], pouring wine :-) ), I thought that I would share one of my favorite nonsense poems, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Chapter 5) which is not copyrighted in the United States.

The first two verses constitute (at least to ME :-) ) an example of “self-deprecating humor,” a type of humor that I enjoy, although I tend to favor the “one-liner.” One place I worked housed a collection of group-thinking folks (mostly in management) who did not understand self-deprecating humor in the least! In addition to their shared delusion of a distorted “reality,” the folks shared an interest in “control” and an interest in “morbid humor.” (Humor type is associated with Myers-Briggs personality type.)

I once had to do some fast talking to get out of a sticky situation involving my use of self-deprecating humor and a director there who did not understand self-deprecating humor and had a few other problems, besides. (It is hard to imagine that you could possibly get in trouble by poking fun at YOURSELF, but it happened to ME!) :-)

Be careful with your use of humor. Not only are there some humorless folks out there (euthanasia is not an option :-) ), there are others who will not recognize any form of humor but their own personal favorite.

The “Father William” poem of Lewis Carroll is a parody of “The Old Man’s Comforts and How He Gained Them” by Robert Southey.

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 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 has 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!”

(Note added April 5, 2009 at 10:26 PM PDT: I just read in an email that April is “National Humor Month.” How appropriate [for MOST of us]!) :-)

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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