The cabbage white lurches honestly.


The butterfly, the 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.

-Robert Graves

First I laughed out loud, and I know I was laughing at myself, because the poet had already communicated to me in the poem what he is quoted as saying at the bottom of the page of Poem A Day Volume 3: “Robert Graves discussed this poem in an unposted letter of 1933; he lamented that scientists ‘fail to understand that the cabbage-white’s seemingly erratic flight provides a metaphor for all original and constructive thought.’”

This particular cabbage white of whom I found a photo seems to be resting on a flower very similar to the one my recent honeybee was drinking from.

9 thoughts on “The cabbage white lurches honestly.

  1. Wonderful! In boating terms, that butterfly is a gunkholer: not a racer, nor even a cruiser, but an easily distracted “let’s see what’s over there” sort. Beyond that, I once tried to get a decent photo of one of these butterflies. After a half-hour, I gave up, exhausted.


  2. That is a moth, is it not? It’s very pretty. When I think of Robert Graves, I think of “The Shout”, a film with Alan Bates and John Hurt. From a short story of his – a strange one. But we had to see it because of Alan Bates. 🙂


  3. Oh, yes, love the title of this post too! I am definitely the cabbage white of the butterfly world, lurching about idiotically from one thing to another, but having quite a nice time at it:)


  4. Learned some new terms here, from post and comments. Im with Jo (i.e., “having quite a nice time” flitting about mentally and in activities. I like the poem, but might not have gotten to the metaphoric part. Thanks for that, and for the nice photograph. Cabbage white– strange name for a beautiful being.


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