'White Knight's Song, The' by Lewis Carroll

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"Haddock's Eyes" or "The Aged Aged Man" or
"Ways and Means" or "A-Sitting On A Gate"

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 it 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
Rowland's 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 Honor'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.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Lewis Carroll's "The White Knight's Song": A Whimsical and Mysterious Poem

Lewis Carroll, the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was a 19th-century English writer who is best known for his literary works, particularly his children's books such as "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking-Glass." However, Carroll was also a prolific poet, and his poem "The White Knight's Song" is a prime example of his whimsical and mysterious style.

Written in 1871, "The White Knight's Song" appears in Carroll's novel "Through the Looking-Glass" as part of the character White Knight's rambling monologue. The poem itself consists of eight stanzas, each with four lines of rhyming verse. At first glance, the poem seems to be a simple and playful song, but upon closer inspection, it reveals deeper layers of meaning and symbolism.

The Surface Meaning of "The White Knight's Song"

On the surface, "The White Knight's Song" seems to be a nonsensical and light-hearted piece of poetry. The White Knight, who is known for his absent-mindedness and eccentricity, sings the song as he travels through the forest with Alice. The song is full of playful imagery and wordplay, such as:

"I'll tell thee everything I can; There's little to relate. I saw an aged, aged man, A-sitting on a gate."

The poem continues in this vein, with the White Knight describing his various encounters with strange and fantastical creatures, such as a "frightened little daw" and a "ravenous Jubjub bird." The final stanza of the song, however, takes a more serious turn:

"I'll bid thee farewell, and I'll say 'Good-night,' And you must speed away, For the other side of the way, where the fields are bright, And the little stars play."

Here, the White Knight seems to be acknowledging the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death. He bids farewell to Alice and urges her to continue on her journey, even though it may lead her to danger and uncertainty.

The Deeper Meanings of "The White Knight's Song"

While the surface meaning of "The White Knight's Song" is charming and whimsical, there are deeper layers of meaning and symbolism that can be uncovered through a closer reading of the poem. One of the most prominent themes in the poem is the idea of mortality and the impermanence of life. The White Knight's musings on life and death are scattered throughout the poem, such as when he says:

"I'll tell thee everything I can; There's little to relate."

Here, the White Knight seems to be acknowledging the limitations of human knowledge and the fact that there is much about life and death that remains a mystery.

Another theme that emerges from the poem is the idea of transformation and change. The White Knight describes encountering a "frightened little daw" that "changed into a little white rat" before his eyes. This sudden transformation mirrors the way in which life can change in an instant, whether through death, illness, or some other unforeseen event.

Additionally, the poem can be read as a commentary on the nature of storytelling and the power of the imagination. The White Knight, who is known for his tendency to ramble and lose his train of thought, is a symbol of the creative mind that is constantly churning out new ideas and stories. The fact that the White Knight's song is full of fantastical creatures and events suggests that the imagination has the power to create new worlds and possibilities beyond what we can see and touch in the real world.


Lewis Carroll's "The White Knight's Song" is a poem that is both playful and profound. On the surface, it is a lighthearted song full of whimsical imagery and wordplay, but deeper readings reveal themes of mortality, transformation, and the power of the imagination. Through the character of the White Knight, Carroll invites us to embrace the creative and imaginative aspects of our minds, even as we acknowledge the uncertain and fleeting nature of life.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Lewis Carroll’s “The White Knight’s Song” is a classic piece of poetry that has captured the hearts of readers for generations. This whimsical and playful poem is a perfect example of Carroll’s unique style, which blends humor, nonsense, and a touch of melancholy to create a truly unforgettable work of art.

At its core, “The White Knight’s Song” is a celebration of the creative spirit. The poem tells the story of a white knight who is constantly dreaming up new inventions and ideas, but who is also plagued by self-doubt and a fear of failure. Despite these obstacles, the knight remains determined to pursue his passions and to share his creations with the world.

One of the most striking aspects of this poem is its use of language. Carroll was a master of wordplay and puns, and “The White Knight’s Song” is full of clever and unexpected turns of phrase. For example, the knight describes his inventions as “things that would set you a-thinking,” and he speaks of his “whimsical notions” and “fanciful flights.” These phrases not only add to the poem’s playful tone, but they also capture the knight’s sense of wonder and imagination.

Another notable feature of this poem is its use of repetition. Throughout the poem, the knight repeats the phrase “I’ll tell thee everything I can” several times. This repetition serves to emphasize the knight’s desire to share his ideas and creations with others, and it also highlights his willingness to be vulnerable and open about his fears and doubts.

In addition to its playful language and repetition, “The White Knight’s Song” also features a number of poignant and melancholy moments. For example, the knight speaks of his “aching heart” and his fear of being forgotten after he is gone. These moments of sadness and vulnerability add depth and complexity to the poem, and they serve to remind us that even the most creative and imaginative individuals are not immune to feelings of doubt and insecurity.

Overall, “The White Knight’s Song” is a delightful and thought-provoking poem that celebrates the power of creativity and imagination. Through its use of playful language, repetition, and moments of melancholy, the poem captures the essence of Lewis Carroll’s unique style and his enduring legacy as one of the greatest poets of all time. Whether you are a fan of poetry, literature, or simply enjoy a good story, “The White Knight’s Song” is a must-read for anyone who appreciates the power of the human imagination.

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