Robert Graves

Elsewhere I have a little excursus on the poet Graves, one of the few major poets surviving into my lifetime who seemed to be talking about something besides his own exquisite sensitivity. (I should note that Graves actually described himself as a minor poet, on the grounds that “minor poets can still fall in love.” But I believe he was pulling our noses a bit there.)

I think of him every day that I am out in the yard now because little pale-celadon — nearly white — butterflies hiccup and jitter through my jungly garden like stripes on an old television:

Flying Crooked

by Robert Graves
(1895-1985)


The butterfly, a cabbage-white,
(His honest idiocy of flight)
Will never now, it is too late,
Master the art of flying straight,
Yet has – who knows so well as I? –
A just sense of how not to fly:
He lurches here and here by guess
And God and hope and hopelessness.
Even the aerobatic swift
Has not his flying-crooked gift.

7 thoughts on “Robert Graves

  1. “like stripes on an old television”

    …is hereby awarded Simile of the Day, 23rd June, 2009.

    Congratulations on your win.

    • Do you know his assorted belles lettres, like “Lars Porsena, or the Future of Swearing” and “Avocado Pears”? I lucked into those on a pile of remainders — Occupation Writer, the title was.

      • I used to have a volume, long long ago when I was in a Graves phase in high school. I don’t know what I did with it … but it’s somewhere, along with my copies of Farewell to All That and King Jesus .

  2. I should be utterly out of patience with the man for writing an essay called “Man Does, Woman Is,” but it’s hard to be politically scolding in the face of such passion. And devotion. And how many writers would have the cojones to set up a plot in which Jesus was Herod’s grandson? It makes Dan Brown look like a piker.

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