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"Speak Roughly" imageSpeak Roughly

"Speak roughly to your little boy,
And beat him when he sneezes:
He only does it to annoy,
Because he knows it teases."



“Speak Roughly” is another of Carroll’s many poem parodies, although today the original has been almost entirely forgotten.  Often credited to G.W. Langford, the original poem, ”Speak Gently” was actually probably written by the American poet David Bates around 1850. The real poem encourages parents to "rule by love" instead of fear, while the parody highlights the violent nature of the Duchess and the absurd chaos in the Duchess’ kitchen.

Original Poem

Speak gently! -- It is better far
To rule by love, than fear --
Speak gently -- let not harsh words mar
The good we might do here!

Speak gently! -- Love doth whisper low
The vows that true hearts bind;
And gently Friendship's accents flow;
Affection's voice is kind.

Speak gently to the little child!
Its love be sure to gain;
Teach it in accents soft and mild: --
It may not long remain.

Speak gently to the young, for they
Will have enough to bear --
Pass through this life as best they may,
'T is full of anxious care!

Speak gently to the aged one,
Grieve not the care-worn heart;
The sands of life are nearly run,
Let such in peace depart!

Speak gently, kindly, to the poor;
Let no harsh tone be heard;
They have enough they must endure,
Without an unkind word!

Speak gently to the erring -- know,
They may have toiled in vain;
Perchance unkindness made them so;
Oh, win them back again!

Speak gently! -- He who gave his life
To bend man's stubborn will,
When elements were in fierce strife,
Said to them, 'Peace, be still.'

Speak gently! -- 't is a little thing
Dropped in the heart's deep well;
The good, the joy, which it may bring,
Eternity shall tell.



Many of the film versions have the Duchess sing "Speak Roughly," but I think the version from Alice at the Palace (1981) is the best because it conveys the chaos of the scene without being utterly disturbing.

"Pig and Pepper" Alice at the Palace (1981)


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