A Game of Fives by Lewis Carroll

Five little girls, of Five, Four, Three, Two, One:
Rolling on the hearthrug, full of tricks and fun.
Five rosy girls, in years from Ten to Six:
Sitting down to lessons—no more time for tricks.
Five growing girls, from Fifteen to Eleven:
Music, Drawing, Languages, and food enough for seven!
Five winsome girls, from Twenty to Sixteen:
Each young man that calls, I say “Now tell me which you mean!”
Five dashing girls, the youngest Twenty-one:
But, if nobody proposes, what is there to be done?

Five showy girls—but Thirty is an age
When girls may be engaging, but they somehow don’t engage.
Five dressy girls, of Thirty-one or more:
So gracious to the shy young men they snubbed so much before!

* * * *

Five passé girls—Their age?  Well, never mind!
We jog along together, like the rest of human kind:
But the quondam “careless bachelor” begins to think he knows
The answer to that ancient problem “how the money goes”!


“A Game of Fives” by Lewis Carroll was published in 1869 in Phantasmagoria and Other Poems. It is indicative of Lewis Carroll’s playful, clever style. Carroll uses precise diction suggestive of a sing-song nursery rhyme in order to create a satirical commentary on mundane life. He utilizes the ages of each sister as a clear mark of passage in order to denote their marital and societal status and how the attitude of the girls shifts over time. The good-humored narrator shifts from third person in the first 14 lines of the poem—which is evocative of a sonnet—to  first person in the last stanza. Carroll uses precise, easily understood diction throughout the poem in order to satirize the immature, childlike attitude of the girls and the narrator.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (pseudonym Lewis Carroll) was born in January 27, 1832 inDaresbury, Cheshire, England. He was the third child of eleven. Carroll graduated from at taught at Christ Church College, Oxford. Carroll’s skills and interests included mathematics, photography, and logic. He is most famous for his children’s literature books