Had forgotten all about these classics – a couple of books I have – archy & mehitabel and archy’s life of mehitabel, which contain some witty, insightful and occasionally deep musings on life, in the voice of a cockroach, the lowliest and most despised life-form. This conceit allows Don Marquis the author to imbue the character of the cockroach with a feisty, frustrated doomed nobility in the face of terrible odds.
Archy is the spirit of a free-verse poet reincarnated in the body of a cockroach, one who head-butts the keys of a typewriter to express his thoughts in poetry. Mehitabel claims to be the reincarnation of Cleopatra in the body of a free-thinking, loose-living alley cat.
Here is the opener which sets the scene.
the coming of archy
By Don Marquis, in “archy and mehitabel,” 1927
The circumstances of Archy’s first appearance are narrated in the following extract from the Sun Dial column of the New York Sun:
Dobbs Ferry possesses a rat which slips out of his lair at night and runs a typewriting machine in a garage. Unfortunately, he has always been interrupted by the watchman before he could produce a complete story. It was at first thought that the power which made the typewriter run was a ghost, instead of a rat. It seems likely to us that it was both a ghost and a rat. Mme. Blavatsky’s ego went into a white horse after she passed over, and someone’s personality has undoubtedly gone into this rat. It is an era of belief in communications from the spirit land.
And since this matter has been reported in the public prints and seriously received we are no longer afraid of being ridiculed, and we do not mind making a statement of something that happened to our own typewriter only a couple of weeks ago.
We came into our room earlier than usual in the morning, and discovered a gigantic cockroach jumping about on the keys. He did not see us, and we watched him. He would climb painfully upon the framework of the machine and cast himself with all his force upon a key, head downward, and his weight and the impact of the blow were just sufficient to operate the machine, one slow letter after another. He could not work the capital letters, and he had a great deal of difficulty operating the mechanism that shifts the paper so that a fresh line may be started. We never saw a cockroach work so hard or perspire so freely in all our lives before. After about an hour of this frightfully difficult literary labor he fell to the floor exhausted, and we saw him creep feebly into a nest of the poems which are always there in profusion.
Congratulating ourself that we had left a sheet of paper in the machine the night before so that all this work had not been in vain, we made an examination, and this is what we found:
expression is the need of my soul
i was once a vers libre bard
but i died and my soul went into the body of a cockroach
it has given me a new outlook upon life
i see things from the under side now
thank you for the apple peelings in the wastepaper basket
but your paste is getting so stale i cant eat it
there is a cat here called mehitabel i wish you would have
removed she nearly ate me the other night why dont she
catch rats that is what she is supposed to be fore
there is a rat here she should get without delay
most of these rats here are just rats
but this rat is like me he has a human soul in him
he used to be a poet himself
night after night i have written poetry for you
on your typewriter
and this big brute of a rat who used to be a poet
comes out of his hole when it is done
and reads it and sniffs at it
he is jealous of my poetry
he used to make fun of it when we were both human
he was a punk poet himself
and after he has read it he sneers
and then he eats it
i wish you would have mehitabel kill that rat
or get a cat that is onto her job
and i will write you a series of poems showing how things look
to a cockroach
that rats name is freddy
the next time freddy dies i hope he wont be a rat
but something smaller i hope i will be a rat
in the next transmigration and freddy a cockroach
i will teach him to sneer at my poetry then
dont you ever eat any sandwiches in your office
i haven’t had a crumb of bread for i dont know how long
or a piece of ham or anything but apple parings
and paste and leave a piece of paper in your machine
every night you can call me archy
Probably all you need to know is here… Don Marquis.com
Thanks to all other enthusiasts who unknowingly provided content here.