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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

archy and mehitabel

the lesson of the moth

By Don Marquis, in "archy and mehitabel," 1927

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little roll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became
too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself

archy


I love Don Marquis' writings. The archy and mehitabel books are amazing and if you haven't partaken of their delights, may I recommend visiting Don Marquis' website

THEY ARE THE MOST UNLIKELY OF FRIENDS: Archy is a cockroach with the soul of a poet, and Mehitabel is an alley cat with a celebrated past -- she claims she was Cleopatra in a previous life. Together, cockroach and cat are the foundation of one of the most engaging collections of light poetry to come out of the twentieth century.

"expression is the need of my soul," declares Archy, who labored as a free-verse poet in an earlier incarnation. At night, alone, he dives furiously on the keys of Don Marquis' typewriter to describe a cockroach's view of the world, rich with cynicism and humor. It's difficult enough to operate the typewriter's return bar to get a fresh line of paper; all of Archy's dispatches are written lowercase, and without punctuation, because he is unable to hit both shift and letter keys to produce a capital letter.

"boss i am disappointed in some of your readers," he writes, weary of having to explain the mechanics of his literary output. " ... they are always interested in technical details when the main question is whether the stuff is literature or not."

It is.

4 comments:

Dayli said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you - for cluing me in onto this gem.
Love the poem you quoted here and love the rest of it.

May I quote the poem in my blog too? (Puh-lease?)

Fiona said...

D...big smile here...am so glad you love archy and mehitabel as much as i....you HAVE to try and get 'archy and mehitabel' to read through

please, go ahead, and i really am delighted you see what i do in archy's words!!!

DG said...

Hmmm, quite the story of those two.

Sunny Delight said...

you have converted another!

 

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