of Meaning


Jackson, Jr.

Winter 1999

Discuss the theory of names articulated
in this dialogue with some aspect of the theories of naming circulating
Plato’s Cratylus.
Be very specific. Cite exact passages in the Cratylus.

`You are sad,‘ the Knight said in an anxious tone: 
`let me

sing you a song to comfort you.‘

  `You are sad,‘ the Knight said in an anxious
tone:  `let me

  `Is it very long?‘ Alice asked, for she
had heard a good deal

of poetry that day.

  `It’s  long,‘ said the Knight, `but
very, VERY beautiful.

Everybody that hears me sing it — either it
brings the TEARS

into their eyes, or else — ‚

  `Or else what?‘ said Alice, for the Knight
had made a sudden


  `Or else it doesn’t, you know.  The
name of the song is called


  `Oh, that’s the name of the song, is it?’
Alice said, trying to

feel interested.

  `No, you don’t understand,‘ the Knight
said, looking a little

vexed.  `That’s what the name is CALLED. 
The name really IS „THE


  `Then I ought to have said „That’s what
the SONG is called“?‘

Alice corrected herself.

  `No, you oughtn’t:  that’s quite another
thing!  The SONG is

called „WAYS AND MEANS“:  but that’s only
what it’s CALLED, you


  `Well, what IS the song, then?‘ said Alice,
who was by this

time completely bewildered.

  `I was coming to that,‘ the Knight said. 
`The song really IS

„A-SITTING ON A GATE“:  and the tune’s my
own invention.‘

  So saying, he stopped his horse and let
the reins fall on its

neck:  then, slowly beating time with one
hand, and with a faint

smile lighting up his gentle foolish face, as
if he enjoyed the

music of his song, he began.

  Of all the strange things that Alice saw
in her journey Through

The Looking-Glass, this was the one that she
always remembered

most clearly.  Years afterwards she could
bring the whole scene

back again, as if it had been only yesterday
— the mild blue

eyes and kindly smile of the Knight — the setting
sun gleaming

through his hair, and shining on his armour in
a blaze of light

that quite dazzled her — the horse quietly moving
about, with

the reins hanging loose on his neck, cropping
the grass at her

feet — and the black shadows of the forest behind
— all this

she took in like a picture, as, with one hand
shading her eyes,

she leant against a green, watching the strange
pair, and

listening, in a half dream, to the melancholy
music of the song.

  `But the tune ISN’T his own invention,’
she said to herself:

She stood and listened

very attentively, but no tears came into her



`I’ll tell thee everything I can;

There’s little to relate.

I saw an aged aged man,

A-sitting on a gate.

„Who are you, aged man?‘ I said.

„and how is it you live?“

And his answer trickled through my head

Like water through a sieve.

He said „I look for butterflies

That sleep among the wheat:

I make them into mutton-pies,

And sell them in the street.

I sell them unto men,‘ he said,

„Who sail on stormy seas;

And that’s the way I get my bread —

A trifle, if you please.“

But I was thinking of a plan

To dye one’s whiskers green,

And always use so large a fan

That they could not be seen.

So, having no reply to give

To what the old man said,

I cried, „Come, tell me how you live!“

And thumped him on the head.

His accents mild took up the tale:

He said „I go my ways,

And when I find a mountain-rill,

I set it in a blaze;

And thence they make a stuff they call

Rolands‘ Macassar Oil —

Yet twopence-halfpenny is all

They give me for my toil.“

But I was thinking of a way

To feed oneself on batter,

And so go on from day to day

Getting a little fatter.

I shook him well from side to side,

Until his face was blue:

„Come, tell me how you live,“ I cried,

„And what it is you do!“

He said „I hunt for haddocks‘ eyes

Among the heather bright,

And work them into waistcoat-buttons

In the silent night.

And these I do not sell for gold

Or coin of silvery shine

But for a copper halfpenny,

And that will purchase nine.

„I sometimes dig for buttered rolls,

Or set limed twigs for crabs;

I sometimes search the grassy knolls

For wheels of Hansom-cabs.

And that’s the way“ (he gave a wink)

„By which I get my wealth —

And very gladly will I drink

Your Honour’s noble health.“

I heard him then, for I had just

Completed my design

To keep the Menai bridge from rust

By boiling it in wine.

I thanked much for telling me

The way he got his wealth,

But chiefly for his wish that he

Might drink my noble health.

And now, if e’er by chance I put

My fingers into glue

Or madly squeeze a right-hand foot

Into a left-hand shoe,

Or if I drop upon my toe

A very heavy weight,

I weep, for it reminds me so,

Of that old man I used to know —

Whose look was mild, whose speech was slow,

Whose hair was whiter than the snow,

Whose face was very like a crow,

With eyes, like cinders, all aglow,

Who seemed distracted with his woe,

Who rocked his body to and fro,

And muttered mumblingly and low,

As if his mouth were full of dough,

Who snorted like a buffalo —

That summer evening, long ago,

A-sitting on a gate.‘

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jackson, jr.