How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!
Lewis Carroll - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 2
Here Alice is referencing her attempt to recite Isaac Watts' (1674-1748) poem “Against Idleness And Mischief,” which was originally published in 1715 with a collection of “Divine Songs for Children.” Carroll’s “How Doth the Little Crocodile” is the first of the poem parody in Alice, appearing in Chapter 2: A Pool of Tears, and, like many of Carroll’s parodies, is now better known than the original version.
Against Idleness and Mischief
Isaac Watts (1715)
How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!
How skillfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.
In works of labour or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.
In books, or work, or healthful play,
Let my first years be passed,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.
In Disney's 1951 film version of Alice in Wonderland, the Caterpillar recites his "improved" version of "How Doth the Little Crocodile," after stopping Alice when she begins reciting Watt's original poem. The Caterpillar blows the smoke from his hookah into the shapes of a crocodile and fish, the effect of which is quite striking and even rather frightening. The Father William parody is given to Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum to recite.
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