The cabbage white lurches honestly.

FLYING CROOKED

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.

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  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. 🙂

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  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:)

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  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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