Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

A Preface

All in the golden afternoon
Full leisurely we glide:
For both our oars, with little skill,
By little arms are plied,
While little hands make vain pretence
Our wanderings to guide.

Ah, cruel Three! In such an hour,
Beneath such dreamy weather,
To beg a tale of breath too weak
To stir the tiniest feather!
Yet what can one poor voice avail
Against three tongues together?

Imperious Prima flashes forth
Her edict "to begin it":
In gentler tones Secunda hopes
"There will be nonsense in it."
While Tertia interrupts the tale
Not more than once a minute.

Anon, to sudden silence won,
In fancy they pursue
The dream-child moving through a land
Of wonders wild and new,
In friendly chat with bird or beast—
And half believe it true.

And ever, as the story drained
The wells of fancy dry,
And faintly strove that weary one
To put the subject by,
"The rest next time—" "It is next time!"
The happy voices cry.

Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:
Thus slowly one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out—
And now the tale is done,
And home we steer, a merry crew,
Beneath the setting sun.

Alice! A childish story take,
And with a gentle hand
Lay it where Childhood's dreams are twined
In Memory's mystic band,
Like Pilgrim's withered wreath of flowers
Pluck'd in a far-off land.

In this poem, Carroll is recalling the day of July 4, 1862, when he and a fellow cleric took the three Liddell girls on a boating expedition up the Thames. It was on that trip that
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
was started.
The references to 'Prima', 'Secunda', and 'Tertia' are to the three girls: Lorina, Alice, and Edith (eldest to youngest) respectively.

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