Of Feral Cats and Cockroaches!

This week, I’ve been trying to get through the winter blues and the covid blahs by reading some humour. Over a hundred years ago, journalist and humorist Don Marquis created some of funniest free verse around. Wikipedia tells us:

Marquis’s best-known creation was Archy, a fictional cockroach (developed as a character during 1916) who had been a free-verse poet in a previous life, and who supposedly left poems on Marquis’s typewriter by jumping on the keys. Archy usually typed only lower-case letters, without punctuation, because he could not operate the shift key. His verses were a type of social satire, and were used by Marquis in his newspaper columns titled “archy and mehitabel”; mehitabel was an alley cat, occasional companion of archy and the subject of some of archy’s verses.

Archy and Mehitabel, Don Marquis 1916

this is the song of mehitabel
of mehitabel the alley cat
as i wrote you before boss
mehitabel is a believer
in the pythagorean
theory of the transmigration
of the soul and she claims
that formerly her spirit
was incarnated in the body
of cleopatra
that was a long time ago
and one must not be
surprised if mehitabel
has forgotten some of her
more regal manners

The Song of Mehitabel 1, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2021


i have had my ups and downs
but wotthehell wotthehell
yesterday sceptres and crowns
fried oysters and velvet gowns
and today i herd with bums
but wotthehell wotthehell
i wake the world from sleep
as i caper and sing and leap
when i sing my wild free tune
wotthehell wotthehell
under the blear eyed moon
i am pelted with cast off shoon
but wotthehell wotthehell
do you think that i would change
my present freedom to range
for a castle or moated grange

The Song of Mehitabel 2, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2021


wotthehell wotthehell
cage me and i d go frantic
my life is so romantic
capricious and corybantic
and i m toujours gai toujours gai
i know that i am bound
for a journey down the sound
in the midst of a refuse mound
but wotthehell wotthehell
oh i should worry and fret
death and i will coquette
there s a dance in the old dame yet
toujours gai toujours gai
i once was an innocent kit
wotthehell wotthehell
with a ribbon my neck to fit
and bells tied onto it
o wotthehell wotthehell
but a maltese cat came by
with a come hither look in his eye
and a song that soared to the sky
and wotthehell wotthehell

The Song of Mehitabel 3, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2021


and i followed adown the street
the pad of his rhythmical feet
o permit me again to repeat
wotthehell wotthehell
my youth i shall never forget
but there s nothing i really regret
wotthehell wotthehell
there s a dance in the old dame yet
toujours gai toujours gai
the things that i had not ought to
i do because i ve gotto
wotthehell wotthehell
and i end with my favorite motto
toujours gai toujours gai
boss sometimes i think
that our friend mehitabel
is a trifle too gay

The Song of Mehitabel 4, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2021

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