Archy & Mehitabel by Don Marquis

…and now a quote from the only book I own two copies of on purpose, eponymous with the post title.

“i heard a spider

and a fly arguing

wait said the fly

do not eat me

i serve a great purpose

in the world


you will have to

show me said the spider


i scurry around

gutters and sewers

and garbage cans

said the fly and gather

up the germs of

typhoid influenza

and pneumonia on my feet

and wings

then i carry these germs

into the households of men

and give them diseases

all the people who

have lived the right

sort of life recover

from the diseases

and the old soaks who

have weakened their systems

with liquor and iniquity

succumb it is my mission

to help rid the world

of these wicked persons

i am a vessel of righteousness

scattering seeds of justice

and serving the noblest uses


it is true said the spider

that you are more

useful in a plodding

material sort of way

than i am but i do not

serve the utilitarian deities

i serve the gods of beauty

look at the gossamer webs

i weave they float in the sun

like filaments of song

if you get what i mean

i do not work at anything

i play all the time

i am busy with the stuff

of enchantment and the materials

of fairyland my works

transcend utility

i am the artist

a creator and a demi god

it is ridiculous to suppose

that i should be denied

the food i need in order

to continue to create

beauty i tell you

plainly mister fly it is all

damned nonsense for that food

to rear up on its hind legs

and say it should not be eaten


you have convinced me

said the fly say no more

and shutting all his eyes

he prepared himself for dinner

and yet he said i could

have made out a case

for myself too if i had

had a better line of talk


of course you could said the spider

clutching a sirloin from him

but the end would have been

just the same if neither of

us had spoken at all


boss i am afraid that what

the spider said is true

and it gives me to think

furiously upon the futility

of literature


(pp. 40-42 of the Doubleday Dolphin paperback edition, published 1930, with illustrations by Herriman)


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