Theme With Variations

Author: Lewis Carroll  | Date: 1869


[WHY is it that Poetry has never yet been subjected to that process of Dilution which has proved so advantageous to her sister-art Music? The Diluter gives us first a few notes of some well-known Air, then a dozen bars of his own, then a few more notes of the Air, and so on alternately: thus saving the listener, if not from all risk of recognizing the melody at all, at least from the too-exciting transports which it might produce in a more concentrated form. The process is termed "setting" by Composers, and any one, that has ever experienced the emotion of being unexpectedly set down in a heap of mortar, will recognize the truthfulness of this happy phrase.

For truly, just as the genuine Epicure lingers lovingly over a morsel of supreme Venison- whose every fibre seems to murmur "Excelsior!"- yet swallows, ere returning to the toothsome dainty, great mouthfuls of oatmeal-porridge and winkles: and just as the perfect Connoisseur in Claret permits himself but one delicate sip, and then tosses off a pint or more of boarding-school beer: so also-]

I NEVER loved a dear Gazelle-

Nor anything that cost me much:

High Prices Profit those who sell,

But why should I be fond of such?

To glad me with his soft black eye

My son comes trotting home from school;

He’s had a fight but can’t tell why-

He always was a little fool!

But, when he came to know me well,

He kicked me out, her testy Sire:

And when I stained my hair, that Belle

Might note the change, and thus admire

And love me, it was sure to dye

A muddy green, or staring blue:

Whilst one might trace, with half an eye,

The still triumphant carrot through.

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Chicago: Lewis Carroll, Theme With Variations Original Sources, accessed May 25, 2024,

MLA: Carroll, Lewis. Theme With Variations, Original Sources. 25 May. 2024.

Harvard: Carroll, L, Theme With Variations. Original Sources, retrieved 25 May 2024, from