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Haddocks' Eyes

Haddocks' Eyes is a poem by Lewis Carroll from Through the Looking-Glass. It is sung by the White Knight in chapter eight to the tune that he claims to be his own invention, but which Alice recognizes as I give thee all, I can no more.

By the time Alice heard it, she was already getting tired of poetry.

It is a parody of Resolution and Independence by William Wordsworth.

Naming

The White Knight explains the rather confusing naming for the song.

  • The song's name is called Haddocks' Eyes
  • The song's name really is The Aged Aged Man
  • The song is called Ways and Means
  • The song really is A-sitting On a Gate

This complicated set of names has been used as a metaphor for the use–mention distinction.

The Poem

I'll tell thee everything I can:
There's little to relate.
I saw an aged aged man,
A-sitting on a gate.
"Who are you, aged man?" I said,
"And how is it you live?"
And his answer trickled through my head,
Like water through a sieve.

He said "I look for butterflies
That sleep among the wheat:
I make them into mutton-pies,
And sell them in the street.
I sell them unto men," he said,
"Who sail on stormy seas;
And that's the way I get my bread --
A trifle, if you please."

But I was thinking of a plan
To dye one's whiskers green,
And always use so large a fan
That they could not be seen.
So, having no reply to give
To what the old man said,
I cried "Come, tell me how you live!"
And thumped him on the head.

His accents mild took up the tale:
He said "I go my ways,
And when I find a mountain-rill,
I set it in a blaze;
And thence they make a stuff they call
Rowlands' Macassar-Oil --
Yet twopence-halfpenny is all
They give me for my toil."

But I was thinking of a way
To feed oneself on batter,
And so go on from day to day
Getting a little fatter.
I shook him well from side to side,
Until his face was blue:
"Come, tell me how you live," I cried,
"And what it is you do!"

He said "I hunt for haddocks' eyes
Among the heather bright,
And work them into waistcoat-buttons
In the silent night.
And these I do not sell for gold
Or coin of silvery shine,
But for a copper halfpenny,
And that will purchase nine.

"I sometimes dig for buttered rolls,
Or set limed twigs for crabs:
I sometimes search the grassy knolls
For wheels of Hansom-cabs.
And that's the way" (he gave a wink)
"By which I get my wealth--
And very gladly will I drink
Your Honour's noble health."

I heard him then, for I had just
Completed my design
To keep the Menai bridge from rust
By boiling it in wine.
I thanked him much for telling me
The way he got his wealth,
But chiefly for his wish that he
Might drink my noble health.

And now, if e'er by chance I put
My fingers into glue,
Or madly squeeze a right-hand foot
Into a left-hand shoe,

Or if I drop upon my toe
A very heavy weight,
I weep, for it reminds me so
Of that old man I used to know--
Whose look was mild, whose speech was slow
Whose hair was whiter than the snow,
Whose face was very like a crow,
With eyes, like cinders, all aglow,
Who seemed distracted with his woe,
Who rocked his body to and fro,
And muttered mumblingly and low,
As if his mouth were full of dough,
Who snorted like a buffalo--
That summer evening long ago,
A-sitting on a gate.

Upon the Lonely Moor

In 1856, Carroll published the following poem anonymously under the name Upon the Lonely Moor. The two poems are quite obviously related. Alice through the Looking glass was published in 1865. Another poem famous from "Through the Looking glass" is Jaberwocky which was also started by Carroll many years earlier.

I met an aged, aged man
Upon the lonely moor:
I knew I was a gentleman,
And he was but a boor.
So I stopped and roughly questioned him,
"Come, tell me how you live!"
But his words impressed my ear no more
Than if it were a sieve.

He said, "I look for soap-bubbles,
That lie among the wheat,
And bake them into mutton-pies,
And sell them in the street.
I sell them unto men," he said,
"Who sail on stormy seas;
And that's the way I get my bread -
A trifle, if you please."

But I was thinking of a way
To multiply by ten,
And always, in the answer, get
The question back again.
I did not hear a word he said,
But kicked that old man calm,
And said, "Come, tell me how you live!"
And pinched him in the arm.

His accents mild took up the tale:
He said, "I go my ways,
And when I find a mountain-rill,
I set it in a blaze.
And thence they make a stuff they call
Rowland's Macassar Oil;
But fourpence-halfpenny is all
They give me for my toil."

But I was thinking of a plan
To paint one's gaiters green,
So much the color of the grass
That they could ne'er be seen.
I gave his ear a sudden box,
And questioned him again,
And tweaked his grey and reverend locks,
And put him into pain.

He said, "I hunt for haddock's eyes
Among the heather bright,
And work them into waistcoat-buttons
In the silent night.
And these I do not sell for gold,
Or coin or silver-mine,
But for a copper-halfpenny,
And that will purchase nine.

"I sometimes dig for buttered rolls,
Or set limed twigs for crabs;
I sometimes search the flowery knolls
For wheels of hansom cabs.
And that's the way" (he gave a wink)
"I get my living here,
And very gladly will I drink
Your Honour's health in beer."

I heard him then, for I had just
Completed my design
To keep the Menai bridge from rust
By boiling it in wine.
I duly thanked him, ere I went,
For all his stories queer,
But chiefly for his kind intent
To drink my health in beer.

And now if e'er by chance I put
My fingers into glue,
Or madly squeeze a right-hand foot
Into a left-hand shoe;
Or if a statement I aver
Of which I am not sure,
I think of that strange wanderer
Upon the lonely moor.

See also

References

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