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The Tale of Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis

Updated on November 8, 2014

Who are Archy and Mehitabel?

One of the best kid's stories I know is about archy the cockroach and mehitabel the cat. The story of archy and mehitabel was written by Don Marquis, the humorist Have you ever heard of a cockroach typing? archy was such a cockroach! Oh! Sweet was the day when first I met archy and mehitabel.

Don Marquis was a great writer and archy and mehitabel are probably his best loved creations! It is such a shame they are not more well known. Those who have not been introduced to archy and mehitabel are the poorer for it. Ah me.... toujours gai, toujours gai....

When it comes to funny poems Don Marquis certainly had the knack. The archie mehitabel axis produced its share of bathos too. The lives and times of archy and mehitabel are a gift to all those who discover them! I shall dedicate this page to them so that the young at heart can rediscover the poetry and the humour that Don Marquis gave the world so long ago....



#Author's note, the names do not require capital letters - read on to discover why....


Image of archy is by Herriman

Source

Mehitabel, reincarnation of Cleopatra

And archy, the great writer inside a cockroach

For those not in the know, mehitabel, sometimes thought an alley cat, is a beautious reincarnation of the goddess Queen Cleopatra; archy is a beetle - more specifically errrr... a cockroach. He types by jumping on the keys of Don Marquis' typewriter one at a time. He cannot also do the CAPS lock, so the writing is devoid of capital letters and the full range of punctuation.

An unfortunate side effect of this, is that it appears to be a grammatical error when archy types here and google disapproves, that cannot be helped but this is why archy and mehitabel should always be in lower case folks....

Carol Channing reads Archy and Mehitabel

Who wrote archy and mehitabel?

Who was responsible for archy and mehitabel? Don Marquis, Herriman and Krazy Kat

Well, I guess that depends who was responsible for what? archy for the copy? mehitabel and freddy for the characterization? Herriman for the illustrations? Ahhh, but for one man archy, the cockroach with the soul of a poet, would still be typing anonymously in a garage on a rusty typewriter and Herriman would be drawing more of Krazy Kat! That one man was Don Marquis, their agent and manager!

Don Marquis, from Walnut, Illinois, was born in 1878 and died in 1937. He was a writer and wrote for newspapers such as the New York Tribune (later became the New york Herald tribune) and the Evening Sun (later became The Sun). He was also a playwright and publisher of three volumes of unpunctuated verse on behalf of his friend archy, a talking cockroach who lived in his garage. One of these was published posthumously which would be some achievement had it not been for archy himself taking on the letter writing duties posthumously and mehitabel and freddy the rat carrying correspondence to and from the publisher's office at night....

Archy and Mehitabel - the Final Conquest! - Books by Don Marquis

Shinbone Alley?

Well, while I fully understand that everyone here KNOWS every cat is a gift of God and the most beautiful being in Creation, cockroaches get a rough deal from the press. Despite their miraculous powers of survival in the event of pollution, radiation and other horrid man-made disasters, their frugal nature and their ability to live on the stuff we throw away, their great strength and glossy appearance, who can honestly say they like a cockroach? Well, Don Marquis did and so does Mehitabel. Creativity raises its head in the most unlikely circumstances and I guess the moral is "Never judge a book by its cover". Then you are less likely to be surprised at the wonderful talents shown by ordinary folk!

What archy and mehitabel is all about....

Archy, as you can see, is a cockroach. He has the soul of a great poet however and expresses himself in blank verse through the medium of Don Marquis's own typewriter after hours. Unfortunately he is handicapped by his lack of punctuation and capitals. As he jumps on the keys to type, he is unable to reach the Caps Lock or Shift keys simultaneously with the letters.

Source

His best friend is a wonderful alley cat of dubious reputation, a reincarnation of Cleopatra, the beauteous Mehitabel....

I found archy and mehitabel thanks to a friend when I was eighteen years old and have recently rediscovered them. They are well worth a look!

Eartha Kitt played mehitabel in a musical....

"Eartha Mae Kitt (January 17, 1927 - December 25, 2008) was an American actress, singer, and cabaret star. She was perhaps best known for her 1953 Christmas song "Santa Baby". Orson Welles once called her the "most exciting woman in the world." She took over the role of Catwoman for the third season of the 1960s Batman television series, replacing Julie Newmar, who was unavailable for the final season."

It was not the first time this woman with her amazingly feline voice played a cat however, in 1957 she played in a Broadway musical called Shinbone Alley which starred Eddie Bracken as archy and Eartha Kitt as mehitabel.....

I was most saddened to hear of her death at Christmas as I always thought her singing was wonderful!

mehitabel sings toujours gai - and Eartha sings her best!

The Lesson of the Moth - A poem by archy....

I am quoting the whole poem here, but please follow the link to more of Don Marquis' wonderful work!

At risk of being repetitive with fellow writers who criticize my grammar and punctuation, I am NOT going to correct lower case letters because they are in this instance exactly what was written by archy. A cockroach cannt jump on the shift key at the same time as he jumps on a letter!

the lesson of the moth

i was talking to a moth

the other evening

he was trying to break into

an electric light bulb

and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows

pull this stunt i asked him

because it is the conventional

thing for moths or why

if that had been an uncovered

candle instead of an electric

light bulb you would

now be a small unsightly cinder

have you no sense

plenty of it he answered

but at times we get tired

of using it

we get bored with the routine

and crave beauty

and excitement

fire is beautiful

and we know that if we get

too close it will kill us

but what does that matter

it is better to be happy

for a moment

and be burned up with beauty

than to live a long time

and be bored all the while

so we wad all our life up

into one little roll

and then we shoot the roll

that is what life is for

it is better to be a part of beauty

for one instant and then cease to

exist than to exist forever

and never be a part of beauty

our attitude toward life

is come easy go easy

we are like human beings

used to be before they became

too civilized to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him

out of his philosophy

he went and immolated himself

on a patent cigar lighter

i do not agree with him

myself i would rather have

half the happiness and twice

the longevity

but at the same time i wish

there was something i wanted

as badly as he wanted to fry himself

archy

Archy logo from Don Marquis website....

Gay Archy cartoons? You really typed that in? Don't you know it is Mehitabel who is toujours gai?

The Song of Mehitabel

By Don Marquis, in "archy and mehitabel," 1927

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

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

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

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

^ _ ^

(o o)

=^=

( ___ )/)

(,,) (,,)

Copy and paste Persian cat into signature to help it gain world domination!

Your thoughts on cats and cockroaches....

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    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 3 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I haven't read Archie and Mehitabel (toujours gai! toujours gai!) in far too many years to count!

    • Lemming13 profile image

      Lemming13 6 years ago

      I always loved archy and mehitabel, but I had never heard of the musical Shinbone Alley; I came here looking for more on the lovely Eartha, and you have given me more than I bargained for. Thanks!

    • pinkpig lm profile image

      pinkpig lm 8 years ago

      very unusual lens! like it, and rated

      delighted to see pink pig featured too, of course!

    • Suzie-Shine profile image

      Suzie-Shine 8 years ago

      A cockroach and an alley cat, what a combination and thanks for the introduction!

      Off subject but suggest a Guest Book on your eyebrow lens would be useful.

      Suzie.

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