Sometimes it takes a bit of apparent nonsense to return us to the pith of common sense. This year being the century and a half marker of Lewis Carroll’s Alice, that wisdom struck me again. As Alice ate the cake she kept growing. “Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so surprised that she quite forgot how to speak good English.)
Who has not found a curious loss of good grammar growing older? Who has not gone blank with the spelling of a word?
As Alice grows like a telescope, she pities her distancing feet, wondering who will put on their shoes and stockings. She tells her poor little feet they must manage the best they can. She vows to be kind to them though for “perhaps they won’t walk the way I want to go!” And so when our feet or legs don’t work as well as they used to, perhaps we might take Alice’s lead, staying flexible and just trying to manage them as best we can.
And as to the ‘enormous condescension of posterity’, listen to 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 for 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 a 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.”