Monday, July 22, 2013

Willy Wonka Poetry References

Gene Wilder was one of the greatest comedic actors of all time. At the age of 80, he made a rare public appearance in NYC to say that the remake of Wonka was "an insult." Kudos. What many people don't realize is that many of Wonka lines are lifted from famous literary sources. 
I'd like to explore the originals.


"Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men."
(...the strange knife-pedler)
Take from William Allingham's,
"The Fairies"

Up the airy mountain,

Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping altogether;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owls' feather!
Down along the rocky shore
Some make their home,
They live on crispy pancakes
Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds
Of the black mountain lake
With frogs for their watch-dogs,
All night awake.

"99...44... 100 percent pure"
(...the factory door combination)
Taken from the title of Ogden Nash's,
"Home, 99 44/100% Sweet Home"

Home is heaven and orgies are vile,
But I like an orgy, once in a while.

"You should never, never doubt 
what nobody is sure about"
( the shrinking hallway)
...from Hilaire Belloc's
"The Microbe"

The Microbe is so very small
You cannot make him out at all,
But many sanguine people hope
To see him through a microscope.
His jointed tongue that lies beneath
A hundred curious rows of teeth;
His seven tufted tails with lots
Of lovely pink and purple spots,
On each of which a pattern stands,
Composed of forty separate bands;
His eyebrows of a tender green;
All these have never yet been seen--
But Scientists, who ought to know,
Assure us that they must be so...

Oh! let us never, never doubt
What nobody is sure about!

"Is it my soul that calls me by my name?"
(spoken in the "Fun-house" room)
...was originally used in the epic play,
Shakespeare's, "Romeo and Juliet"

Romeo: It is my soul that calls upon my name:
How silver-sweet sound lovers' tongues by night,
Like softest music to attending ears!

"The suspense is terrible, I hope it will last"
(...whilst Augustus is stuck in the tube)
...from Oscar Wilde's,
"The importance of Being Earnest"

Cecily: Uncle Jack seems strangely agitated.
Chasuble: Your guardian has a very emotional nature.
Lady Bracknell: This noise is extremely unpleasant. 
It sounds as if he was having an argument. 
I dislike arguments of any kind. 
They are always vulgar, 
and often convincing.
Chasuble: [Looking up.] It has stopped now. 
[The noise is redoubled.]
Lady Bracknell: I wish he would arrive at some conclusion.
Gwendolen: This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last. 

"All I ask is a tall ship 
and a star to sail her by"
(uttered just before the wild boat ride)
...was from John Masefield's 
poem, "Sea Fever." 

I must go down to the seas again, 
to the lonely sea and the sky, 
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, 
and a gray dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, 
for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, 
and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, 
to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, 
where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over. 

"Round the world and home again,
that's the sailor's way!"
(...on the creepy boat)
...was from William Allingham's,
"Homeward Bound"

Head the ship for England! 
Shake out every sail!
Blithe leap the billows,
Merry sings the gale.
Captain, work the reckoning;
How many knots a day? -
Round the world and home again,
That's the sailor's way!

We've traded with the Yankees, 
Brazilians and Chinese;
We've laughed with dusky beauties
In the shade of tall palm trees;
Across the line and Gulf-Stream
Round by Table Bay -
Everywhere and home again,
That's the sailor's way!
Nightly stands the North Star 
Higher on our bow;
Straight we run for England;
Our thoughts are in it now.
Jolly time with friends on shore
When we've drawn our pay; -
All about and home again,
That's the sailor's way!
Tom will to his parents; 
Jack will to his dear;
Joe to wife and children;
Bob to pipes and beer;
Dicky to the dancing-room,
to hear the fiddles play; -
Round the world and home again,
That's the sailor's way! 

"A small step for mankind, 
but a giant step for us"
(...getting off the boat)
Quoting Neil Armstrong's
moon landing statement.

One small step for man,
one giant leap for mankind.

"In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
birds sing hey ding... a ding, a ding,
sweet lovers love the springtime"
( Inventing Room)
...from Shakespeare's,
"As You Like It"

With a hey, and a ho, and a hey-nonny-no,
These pretty country folks would lie
In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, Hey ding a ding, ding.
Sweet lovers love the spring.
This carol they began that hour,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey hey-nonny-no,
How that a life was but a flower
In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, Hey ding a ding, ding.
Sweet lovers love the spring.
And therefore take the present time,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey hey-nonny-no,
For love is crownèd with the prime
In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, Hey ding a ding, ding.
Sweet lovers love the spring.

"Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker"
(...when ingredients "butterscotch"
and "buttergin" are in question)
...from Ogden Nash's,
"Reflections on Ice Breaking"

Candy is dandy,
but liquor is quicker.

Candy is dandy,
but pot is not. 

* the "pot is not" was added in 1968

"Button, button, who's got the button?"
(Attempting to start the gum-meal machine)
...from Verna Meads Surer's children's song.

 But-ton, but-ton, who has the but-ton? 
Oh, where can it be?
I have to find it, I have to find it, If I could on-ly
John-ny holds his hands so tight, Ma-ry will not tell,
Jim-my looks as though he might, 
They're hid-ing it so well
But-ton, but-ton, who has the but-ton? 
Oh, where can it be?

"Where is fancy bred,
in the heart or in the head?
(...after Violet rolls away)
...from Shakespeare's,
"Merchant of Venice"

Verse 1
Tell me where is fancy bred, {he}
Or in the heart, or in the head?
How begot, how nourishèd? [nour-ish-ed]
Reply, reply.
It is engender’d in the eyes, {she}
With gazing fed;
and fancy dies, and fancy dies {together}
In the cradle where it lies.

Let us all ring fancy’s knell; {he}
I’ll begin it, --ding, dong, bell.
Let us all ring fancy’s knell;
I’ll begin it, --ding, dong, bell.
Ding, dong, bell. {together}

(Harp /Strings Interlude)

Verse 2
Tell me where is fancy bred, {she}
Or in the heart or in the head?
How begot, how nourishèd?
Reply, reply.
It is engender’d in the eyes, {he}
With gazing fed; (fancy dies) {she}
and fancy dies, and fancy dies {together}
In the cradle where it lies.

Chorus 2
Let us all ring (let us all ring) {he & she alternating}
fancy’s knell; (ring fancy’s knell) 
I’ll begin it, --ding, dong, bell.
Let us all ring (let us all ring) fancy’s knell; 
(ring fancy’s knell)
I’ll begin it, --ding, dong, bell.
Ding, dong, bell.

Ding, dong, ding, dong, ding, dong, bell.

"We are the music-makers,
and the dreamers of dreams"
(Wonka's response Veruca's Snozzberry)
...from Arthur O'Shaughnessy's, "Ode"

We are the music makers, 
And we are the dreamer of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties,
We build up the world's great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

A breath of our inspiration,
Is the life of each generation.
A wondrous thing of our dreaming,
Unearthly, impossible seeming-
The soldier, the king, and the peasant
Are working together in one,
Till our dream shall become their present,
And their work in the world be done.
They had no vision amazing
Of the goodly house they are raising.
They had no divine foreshowing
Of the land to which they are going:
But on one man's soul it hath broke,
A light that doth not depart
And his look, or a word he hath spoken,
Wrought flame in another man's heart.
And therefore today is thrilling,
With a past day's late fulfilling.
And the multitudes are enlisted
In the faith that their fathers resisted,
And, scorning the dream of tomorrow,
Are bringing to pass, as they may,
In the world, for it's joy or it's sorrow,
The dream that was scorned yesterday.
But we, with our dreaming and singing,
Ceaseless and sorrowless we!
The glory about us clinging
Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing;
O men! It must ever be
That we dwell, in our dreaming and singing,
A little apart from ye.
For we are afar with the dawning
And the suns that are not yet high,
And out of the infinite morning
Intrepid you hear us cry-
How, spite of your human scorning,
Once more God's future draws nigh,
And already goes forth the warning
That ye of the past must die.
Great hail! we cry to the corners
From the dazzling unknown shore;
Bring us hither your sun and your summers,
And renew our world as of yore;
You shall teach us your song's new numbers,
And things that we dreamt not before;
Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers,
And a singer who sings no more.

"Bubbles, bubbles everywhere,
but not a drop to drink...
(Introducing "Fizzy-lifting drinks")
...from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's,
"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink. 
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever"
(referring to the Wonkamobile)
...was from John Keates' poem,
"Endymion: A Poetic Romance"

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old, and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.

Nor do we merely feel these essences
For one short hour; no, even as the trees
That whisper round a temple become soon
Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon,
The passion poesy, glories infinite,
Haunt us till they become a cheering light
Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast
That, whether there be shine or gloom o'ercast,
They always must be with us, or we die.

Therefore, 'tis with full happiness that I
Will trace the story of Endymion.
The very music of the name has gone
Into my being, and each pleasant scene
Is growing fresh before me as the green
Of our own valleys: so I will begin
Now while I cannot hear the city's din;
Now while the early budders are just new,
And run in mazes of the youngest hue
About old forests; while the willow trails
Its delicate amber; and the dairy pails
Bring home increase of milk. And, as the year
Grows lush in juicy stalks, I'll smoothly steer
My little boat, for many quiet hours,
With streams that deepen freshly into bowers.
Many and many a verse I hope to write,
Before the daisies, vermeil rimmed and white,
Hide in deep herbage; and ere yet the bees
Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas,
I must be near the middle of my story.
O may no wintry season, bare and hoary,
See it half finished: but let Autumn bold,
With universal tinge of sober gold,
Be all about me when I make an end!
And now at once, adventuresome, I send
My herald thought into a wilderness:
There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress
My uncertain path with green, that I may speed
Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed.

"Parting is such sweet sorrow"
( Mrs. Teevee is carried away)
...also from Shakespeare's,
"Romeo and Juliet"

Good Night, Good night! P
arting is such sweet sorrow,
that I shall say good night till it be morrow. 

"So shines a good deed
in a weary world"
(...after Charlie leaves the
Gobstopper on his desk)
...also from Shakespeare's,
"Merchant of Venice"

That light we see is burning in my hall.
How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.

When the moon shone, we did not see the candle.

So doth the greater glory dim the less:
A substitute shines brightly as a king
Unto the king be by, and then his state
Empties itself, as doth an inland brook
Into the main of waters. Music! hark!

It is your music, madam, of the house.

Nothing is good, I see, without respect:
Methinks it sounds much sweeter than by day.

Silence bestows that virtue on it, madam.

The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark,
When neither is attended, and I think
The nightingale, if she should sing by day,
When every goose is cackling, would be thought
No better a musician than the wren.
How many things by season season'd are
To their right praise and true perfection!
Peace, ho! the moon sleeps with Endymion
And would not be awaked.

...that does it.
A complete guide to
Willy Wonka quotes and
their original contexts.


Please let me know if I forgot any!

© 2013 - All rights reserved


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this! For more than 40 years (I saw the film at the cinema when I was a child, and many times since) I've been looking for a resource that explains the origins of the quotes. I managed to piece together a few on my own, but you seem to have captured all of them. Much appreciated!


  2. "A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men" Roald Dahl

  3. Well done Sir, well done. I was actually working on doing this on my own. There is one that you don't have here and I am struggling with finding it. It is when he is driving the "Hsaw Aknow". He says, "Swifter then eagle, Stronger than Lion." Then he begins to sing and I can never tell what he is singign there, let alone where it would be from. Any thoughts?

  4. “Swifter than eagle, Stronger than lion!”
    (While driving the Wonkamobile)
    2 Samuel 1:23 (The Bible)

    (Sung in German, opera style)
    (While driving the Wonkamobile)
    Johan Jonatan "Jussi" Björling (opera singer)
    Song: Martha, M'appari Tutt'amor'

  5. Very well-played, Nick. Great catch.
    I knew there had to be something from that section of the film.

  6. Our family quotes movies all the time, (well, my kids quote accurately and I give them ample opportunity to correct my misquoting) so I stumbled upon your article while looking for the correct quote for "[Water, water,] everywhere and not a drop to drink!" I was pleasingly surprised to see the depth of quoting madness that went into the writing of this movie! Nice work putting this together, John.

  7. It was my pleasure! I've adored this film forever and I'm glad to share these with other fans!


Thanks for your comment!