Was Father William an Old Sport?
- These are just some unconnected ideas. Father William's standing on
his head, and backward somersaulting are both 'contrariwise.' Vs 2
might refer to yoga, Vs3 to tumbling, and Vs 7 to a balancing act. I
wonder if 'Father William' is a sly dig at athleticism? "Clever" seems
to mean skillful. Even Father Williams day at law court is evaluated
in terms of muscular development. Perhaps he was disbarred, and became
a street performer. Vs 4 reminds me of contemporary product
endorsements by athletes - in this case a testimonial. If the poem
contains some satirical digs - as well as just humor - it doesn't seem
to satirize manual labor, as Father William never uses his hands for
anything, except maybe to balance the eel on his nose. And CLD made
things with his hands. I wonder if "eel" is a pun on "genteel,"
implying high birth and breeding, or now, at least inelegant? Perhaps
balancing the eel means he holds his nose high in the air.
Anyway, I wonder what CLD thought of athletes (and of lawyers)? Did
Oxford have paid coaches, and how much emphasis did it place on
sports? Did CLD participate in any sports at college?