Father William

SATB, a capella

A sprightly and funny setting of the poem “Father William” from “Alice in Wonderland”, this is one movement from a set – “Four Lewis Carroll Songs.”  May be purchased and performed separately.

Program Note

Four Lewis Carroll Songs were composed for and premiered by Seattle Pro Musica, and were awarded the Melodious Accord Composition prize. The work has been performed by numerous choral ensembles throughout the United States, and in Europe. The four movements may be performed as a set, or individually.

The four poems (Turtle Soup, Father William, Jabberwocky, and Speak roughly) are found in Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking-Glass, and are immediately familiar to most listeners. Turtle Soup is the song sung to Alice by the Mock Turtle, “in a voice chocked with sobs”, while Father William is a poem recited by Alice to the hookah-puffing caterpillar. Jabberwocky, the famous poem which Alice reads by holding it up to a looking-glass, is full of unusual words which are explained by Humpty-Dumpty thusly: “brillig – four o’clock in the afternoon; “slithy toves – lithe and slimy creatures something like a badger, a lizard and a corkscrew; gyre – to go round like a gyroscope; gimble – to make holes like a gimlet; mimsy – flimsy and miserable; borogove – a thin, shabby looking bird, something like a live mop; mome raths – green pigs, who’ve lost their way; outgrabe – something between bellowing and whistling, with a sneeze in the middle.” (The other words are left to the reader’s imagination.) Finally, Speak roughly is sung by the Duchess to her howling, sneezing baby, who later turns into a pig.

Notes on preparation and performance



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 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!”

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