Father William

“You are old, father William,” the young man cried,
“And pleasures with youth pass away.
And yet you lament not the days that are gone;
Now tell me the reason, I pray.”

“In the days of my youth,” father William replied,
“I remember’d that youth could not last;
I thought of the future, whatever I did,
That I never might grieve for the past.” – Robert Southey

Not a phrase from the You are Old, Father William poem were expecting? Too bad. Lewis Carroll was parodying Southey’s The Old Man’s Comforts and How He Gained Them.

You may not think you know Southey, yet you have almost certainly read him and if you have read English literature at all you have seen his influence. His Horatio Nelson was the touchstone biography of the Hero for more than a century, his works with the other Lakes poets, especially The Fall of Robespierre, influential far beyond the shores of England. His collaboration and promotion of Davison’s 1817 edition of Sir Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte D’Arthur made it the standard edition for the work until the mid-20th century.

But his story which moulded your mind is The Story of the Three Bears, better known with the addition of Goldilocks. Even more pervasive than Alice.