December 15, 2006

Poetry Friday II: For Andy White, on a difficult day

One of E.B. White's favorite writers was Don Marquis, author of archy and mehitabel, 1927, from which:

pity the poor spiders

i have just been reading
an advertisement of a certain
roach exterminator
the human race little knows
all the sadness it
causes in the insect world
i remember some weeks ago
meeting a middle aged spider
she was weeping
what is the trouble i asked
her it is these cursed
fly swatters she replied
they kill of all the flies
and my family and i are starving
to death it struck me as
so pathetic that i made
a little song about it
as follows to wit

twas an elderly mother spider
grown gaunt and fierce and gray
with her little ones crouched beside her
who wept as she sang this lay

curses on these here swatters
what kills off all the flies
for me and my little daughters
unless we eats we dies

swattin and swattin and swattin
tis little else you hear
and we ll soon be dead and forgotten
with the cost of living so dear

my husband he up and left me
lured off by a centipede
and he says as he bereft me
tis wrong but i ll get a feed

and me a working and working
scouring the streets for food
faithful and never shirking
doing the best i could

curses on these here swatters
what kills off all the flies
me and my poor little daughters
unless we eats we dies

only a withered spider
feeble and worn and old
and this is what
you do when you swat
you swatters cruel and cold

i will admit that some
of the insects do not lead
noble lives but is every
man s hand to be against them
yours for less justice
and more charity

-- archy

White was especially keen on Marquis's "warty bliggens", which you can find here.

Update: Almost forgot to add that if you like your archy in audio, there's a little gem I found in my father's CD collection last year, "archy and mehitabel/echoes of archy & Carnival of the Animals". It's a two-part CD, the first with "archy and mehitabel: a back-alley opera" with Carol Channing, Eddie Bracken, and David Wayne, and "echoes of archy" with David Wayne; and the second with Saint-Saen's "Carnival of the Animals", with new verses by Ogden Nash, performed by Andre Kostelanetz and Noel Coward. The archy recordings were originally made in 1954, Carnival was recorded in 1949, and each released on LP. Do your favorite children a favor and stuff it in a stocking or two.

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