Hiawatha's Photographing
by Lewis Carroll
   From his shoulder Hiawatha
   Took the camera of rosewood,
   Made of sliding, folding rosewood;
   Neatly put it all together,
   In it's case it lay compactly,
   Folded into nearly nothing;
   But he opened out the hinges,
   Pushed and pulled the joints and hinges,
   Till it looked all squares and oblongs,
   Like a complicated figure
   In the second book of Euclid.
   This he perched upon a tripod,
   And the family in order
   Sat before him for their pictures.
   Mystic, awful was the process.
   First a piece of glass he coated
   With Collodion, and plunged it
   In a bath of Lunar Caustic
   Carefully dissolved in water:
   There he left it certain minutes.
   Secondly, my Hiawatha
   Made with cunning hand a mixture
   Of the acid Pyro-gallic,
   And of Glacial Acetic,
   And of Alcohol and water:
   This developed all the picture.
   Finally, he fixed each picture
   With a saturate solution
   Of a certain salt of Soda -
   Chemists call it Hyposulphite.
   (Very difficult the name is
   For a metre like the present,
   But periphrasis has done it.)
   All the family in order
   Sat before him for their pictures.
   Each in turn, as he was taken,
   Volunteered his own suggestions,
   His invaluable suggestions.
   First the Governer, the Father:
   He suggested velvet curtains
   Looped about a massy pillar;
   And the corner of a table,
   Of a rosewood dining table.
   He would hold a scroll of something,
   Hold it firmly in his left hand;
   He would keep his right hand buried
   (Like Napoleon) in his waistcoat;
   He would contemplate the distance
   With a look of pensive meaning,
   As of ducks that die in tempests.
   Grand, heroic was the notion:
   Yet the picture failed entirely:
   Failed, because he moved a little,
   Moved, because he couldn't help it.
   Next, his better half took courage;
   She would have her picture taken:
   She came dressed beyond description,
   Dressed in jewels and in satin
   Far too gorgeous for an empress.
   With a simper scarcely human,
   Holding in her hand a nosegay
   Rather larger than a cabbage.
   All the while that she was taking,
   Still the lady chattered, chattered,
   Like a monkey in the forest.
   'Am I sitting still?' she asked him.
   'Is my face enough in profile?
   Shall I hold the nosegay higher?
   Will it come into the picture?'
   And the picture failed completely.
   Next the Son, the Stunning-Cantab:
   He suggested curves of beauty,
   Curves pervading all his figure,
   Which the eye might follow onward,
   Till they centred in the breast-pin,
   Centred in the golden breast-pin.
   He had learned it all from Ruskin
   (Author of 'The Stones of Venice',
   'Seven Lamps of Architecture'
   'Modern Painters', and some others);
   And perhaps he had not fully
   Understood the author's meaning;
   But, whatever was the reason,
   All was fruitless, as the picture
   Ended in an utter failure.
   Next to him the eldest daughter:
   She suggested very little;
   Only asked if he would take her
   With her look of 'passive beauty'.
   Her idea of passive beauty
   Was a squinting of the left-eye,
   Was a drooping of the right-eye,
   Was a smile that went up sideways
   To the corner of the nostrils.
   Hiawatha, when she asked him,
   Took no notice of the question,
   Looked as if he hadn't heard it;
   But, when pointedly appealed to,
   Coughed and said it 'didn't matter',
   Bit his lip and changed the subject.
   Nor in this was he mistaken,
   As the picture failed completely.
   So in turn the other sisters.
   Last, the youngest son was taken:
   Very rough and thick his hair was,
   Very round and red his face was,
   Very dusty was his jacket,
   Very fidgety his manners.
   And his overbearing sisters
   Called him names he disapproved of:
   Called him Johnny, 'Daddy's Darling',
   Called him Jacky, 'Scrubby Schoolboy'.
   And, so awful was the picture,
   In comparison the others
   Might be thought to have succeeded,
   To have partially succeeded.
   Finally my Hiawatha
   Tumbled all the tribe together,
   'Grouped' is not the right expression,
   And, as happy chance would have it,
   Did at last obtain a picture
   Where the faces all succeeded:
   Each came out a perfect likeness.
   Then they joined and all abused it,
   Unrestrainedly abused it,
   As 'the worst and ugliest picture
   They could possibly have dreamed of.
   Giving one such strange expressions!
   Sulkiness, conceit, and meanness!
   Really any one would take us
   (Any one that did not know us)
   For the most unpleasant people!'
   (Hiawatha seemed to think so,
   Seemed to think it not unlikely.)
   All together rang their voices,
   Angry, loud, discordant voices,
   As of dogs that howl in concert,
   As of cats that wail in chorus.
   But my Hiawatha's patience,
   His politeness and his patience,
   Unaccountably had vanished,
   And he left that happy party,
   Neither did he leave them slowly,
   With that calm deliberation
   Which photographers aspire to
   But he left them in a hurry,
   Left them in a mighty hurry,
   Vowing that he would not stand it.
   Hurriedly the porter trundled
   On a barrow all his boxes;
   Hurredly he took his ticket,
   Hurredly the train received him:
   Thus departed Hiawatha.
Notes - [Add a note]