Thursday, May 2, 2019

Poem for a Thursday: Marquis

archy, cockroach and vers libre poet

Ballade of the Under Side

the roach that scurries
skips and runs
may read far more than those
that fly
i know what family skeletons
within your closets
swing and dry
not that i ever
play the spy
but as in corners
dim i bide
i can t dodge knowledge
though i try
i see things from
the under side
the lordly ones the
haughty ones
with supercilious
heads held high
the up stage stiff
pretentious guns
miss much that meets
my humbler eye
not that i meddle
perk or pry
but i m too small
to feel great pride
i see things from
the under side
above me wheel
the stars and suns
but humans shut
me from the sky
you see their eyes as pure
as nuns
i see their wayward
feet and sly
i own and own it with
a sigh
my point of view
is somewhat wried
i am a pessimistic
i see things from the
under side
l envoi 
prince ere you pull a bluff
and lie
before you fake
and play the snide
consider whether
archy s nigh
i see things from
the under side
-Don Marquis (writing as Archy)

Archy was a recurring character in the newspaper columns of Don Marquis. His home paper was the New York Evening Sun. Archy made his first appearance on March 26, 1916, and we learn that in a previous life he was a vers libre poet, but when he died he was reincarnated as a cockroach, for his sins. As a cockroach typing his poems, he couldn't operate the shift key, which is why they're all lower case and without punctuation.

Mehitabel the cat became a frequent companion of Archy.

Three volumes of Archy's poems came out during Marquis' lifetime; there have been various collections of the otherwise uncollected as well. This is a fairly early one, first appearing August 5, 1916.

That's Archy shown above, drawn by George Herriman, of Krazy Kat fame. He's finding the office paste a little stale.

Jennifer at Holds Upon Happiness is featuring Ludwig Lewisohn this week.


  1. Love the serendipity because I JUST BOUGHT the The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel from Penguin. My aunt was talking about having read them as a child and how fun she found them.

    1. If you don't know them, you've got some fun ahead of you!

      If yours is the same as mine (Penguin) it's lacking in the illustrations, which is a pity, because they're great, too.