Monday, July 09, 2007


i otter post. i know, i know.

i'm consumed by guilt. i have several half-baked posts that will give one indigestion.

forgive. and read, instead, some archy and mehitabel, those other lower case heroes and reincarnations.

pete the parrot and shakespeare
By Don Marquis, in "archy and mehitabel," 1927

i got acquainted with

a parrot named pete recently

who is an interesting bird

pete says he used

to belong to the fellow

that ran the mermaid tavern

in london then i said

you must have known

shakespeare know him said pete

poor mutt i knew him well

he called me pete and i called him

bill but why do you say poor mutt

well said pete bill was a

disappointed man and was always

boring his friends about what

he might have been and done

if he only had a fair break

two or three pints of sack

and sherris and the tears

would trickle down into his

beard and his beard would get

soppy and wilt his collar

i remember one night when

bill and ben johnson and

frankie beaumont

were sopping it up

here i am ben says bill

nothing but a lousy playwright

and with anything like luck

in the breaks i might have been

a fairly decent sonnet writer

i might have been a poet

if i had kept away from the theatre

yes says ben i ve often

thought of that bill

but one consolation is

you are making pretty good money

out of the theatre

money money says bill what the hell

is money what i want is to be

a poet not a business man

these damned cheap shows

i turn out to keep the

theatre running break my heart

slap stick comedies and

blood and thunder tragedies

and melodramas say i wonder

if that boy heard you order

another bottle frankie

the only compensation is that i get

a chance now and then

to stick in a little poetry

when nobody is looking

but hells bells that isn t

what i want to do

i want to write sonnets and

songs and spenserian stanzas

and i might have done it too

if i hadn t got

into this frightful show game

business business business

grind grind grind

what a life for a man

that might have been a poet

well says frankie beaumont

why don t you cut it bill

i can t says bill

i need the money i ve got

a family to support down in

the country well says frankie

anyhow you write pretty good

plays bill any mutt can write

plays for this london public

says bill if he puts enough

murder in them what they want

is kings talking like kings

never had sense enough to talk

and stabbings and stranglings

and fat men making love

and clown basting each

other with clubs and cheap puns

and off color allusions to all

the smut of the day oh i know

what the low brows want

and i give it to them

well says ben johnson

don t blubber into the drink

brace up like a man

and quit the rotten business

i can t i can t says bill

i ve been at it too long i ve got to

the place now where i can t

write anything else

but this cheap stuff

i m ashamed to look an honest

young sonneteer in the face

i live a hell of a life i do

the manager hands me some mouldy old

manuscript and says

bill here s a plot for you

this is the third of the month

by the tenth i want a good

script out this that we

can start rehearsals on

not too big a cast

and not too much of your damned poetry either

you know your old

familiar line of hokum

they eat up that falstaff stuff

of yours ring him in again

and give them a good ghost

or two and remember we gotta

have something dick burbage can get

his teeth into and be sure

and stick in a speech

somewhere the queen will take

for a personal compliment and if

you get in a line or two somewhere

about the honest english yeoman

it s always good stuff

and it s a pretty good stunt

bill to have the heavy villain

a moor or a dago or a jew

or something like that and say

i want another

comic welshman in this

but i don t need to tell

you bill you know this game

just some of your ordinary

hokum and maybe you could

kill a little kid or two a prince

or something they like

a little pathos along with

the dirt now you better see burbage

tonight and see what he wants

in that part oh says bill

to think i am

debasing my talents with junk

like that oh god what i wanted

was to be a poet

and write sonnet serials

like a gentleman should

well says i pete

bill s plays are highly

esteemed to this day

is that so says pete

poor mutt little he would

care what poor bill wanted

was to be a poet



Batul said...

What a way to start a Monday morning! Thanks for spreading the cheer. And yes, you otter.

anita & amit said...

glad to meet another fan! i LOVE archy, and esp mehitabel with her cry of 'toujours gai!'

Cheshire Cat said...

Ha. Bill is a surrogate for Don Marquis.

Space Bar said...

Batul: :D Glad I could help

Anita: Oh you bet I am! I once looked so tragic about an Archy and Mehitabel I saw but couldn't afford in CP that Sampurna was compelled to gift me her omnibus many years later!

Cheshire Cat: Don't you mean, Marquis wishes we identified him with Bill in the poem?