Alice - All in the Golden Afternoon

Bruce N H

Active Member
Hi all,

I was reading a little about the opening poem (well, okay, I read the Wikipedia page) and I thought this was interesting. I know Corey's method is to focus on the words on the page and not outside information, but I thought this added some to my enjoyment of the poem. I vaguely knew that the book grew out of stories that Carroll told to young girls, one of whom was named Alice. The three sisters were Lorina, Alice, and Edith Liddell. So in the first stanza, the lines "by little arms" and "little hands" were a pun on the names of the girls rowing and steering the boat - "Liddell arms" and "Liddell hands". So according to later recollections and letters, there were real rowboat outings with the girls, including one in particular where the first version of Alice in Wonderland was conceived. I also found it charming that the line "The rest next time—" "It is next time!" was historical as well. When Carroll tired of telling stories he'd tell the girls that was all until the next time and they'd respond "Ah but it is next time." Finally from this, the real Alice was the one who insisted that Carroll write the stories down, and the first copy of the book was a handwritten version he gave to her. So the last stanza can definitely be read as a dedication to the girl who helped inspire the stories.

On another note, the animated Disney film has a song "All in the Golden Afternoon", but it is not a musical setting of this poem at all, only sharing the title line.

Jessi Robinson

New Member
I'm reading The Annotated Alice & the "little/Liddel" pun is mentioned there too.

One thing I really like about Corey's lectures is that his focus on the text allows me to explore context at my leisure. I'd there was too much of that in the lectures, I think I'd get bored because it would inevitably go in a direction I didn't care about.


I also thought about that pun, but in addition I also felt that the use of two syllable words "little" where otherwise the poem uses one gives those lines a sort of lilting, patter of tiny feet sort of feel. Very whimsical.
Considering puns, I was thinking about the matter of death imagery that came up in the discussion of the final stanza, particularly the matter of "laying a wreath," and I noticed that, in the line "Lay it where Childhood's dreams are twined" the syllable "it" spoils the iambic pentameter with an extra unaccented syllable. However, if one were to elide it as a Victorian might—"Lay't,"—it then fits the meter, and also functions as a stealthy sort of death pun on the word "late," meaning "recently deceased." Given that the real life Alice Liddel was 13 when the story was published (the original "beta" manuscript didn't contain the poem), this might be understood as a punning kind of reference to the "death of childhood" that all children experience right around that point.
I have no special thoughts on the first episode of the Alice class so far, except to say that during the "wreath" discussion I couldn't get the line "And in a fading crown have twined the golden elanor" out of my head.