Don Marquis

American humorist

Donald Robert Perry Marquis (29 July 187829 December 1937) was an American humorist, journalist, novelist, poet, cartoonist, newspaper columnist, and playwright most famous for creating the characters "Archy" the cockroach, and "Mehitabel" the cat.

Believe that everything is for
you until you discover
that you are for it.

Quotes edit

If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; but if you really make them think, they'll hate you.
  • I have noticed that when chickens quit quarreling over their food they often find that there is enough for all of them i wonder if it might not be the same with the human race
    • archy's life of mehitabel, random thoughts by archy (1933)
  • A demagogue is a person with whom we disagree as to which gang should mismanage the country.
    • As quoted in O Rare Don Marquis, a Biography, by Edward Anthony (1962), Ch. 11

The Almost Perfect State (1921) edit

"The Almost Perfect State" in Modern Essays (1921), edited by Christopher Morley
  • No matter how nearly perfect an Almost Perfect State may be, it is not nearly enough perfect unless the individuals who compose it can, somewhere between death and birth, have a perfectly corking time for a few years. The most wonderful governmental system in the world does not attract us, as a system; we are after a system that scarcely knows it is a system; the great thing is to have the largest number of individuals as happy as may be, for a little while at least, some time before they die.
  • Infancy is not what it is cracked up to be. The child seems happy all the time to the adult, because the adult knows that the child is untouched by the real problems of life; if the adult were similarly untouched he is sure that he would be happy. But children, not knowing that they are having an easy time, have a good many hard times. Growing and learning and obeying the rules of their elders, or fighting against them, are not easy things to do.
  • Of middle age the best that can be said is that a middle aged person has likely learned how to have a little fun in spite of his troubles.
    It is to old age that we look for reimbursement, the most of us. And most of us look in vain. For the most of us have been wrenched and racked, in one way or another, until old age is the most trying time of all.
    In the Almost Perfect State every person shall have at least ten years before he dies of easy, carefree, happy living . . . things will be so arranged economically that this will be possible for each individual.
  • Personally we look forward to an old age of dissipation and indolence and unreverend disrepute. In fifty years we shall be ninety-two years old. We intend to work rather hard during those fifty years and accumulate enough to live on without working any more for the next ten years, for we have determined to die at the age of one hundred and two.
  • Between the years of ninety-two and a hundred and two, however, we shall be the ribald, useless, drunken, outcast person we have always wished to be. We shall have a long white beard and long white hair; we shall not walk at all, but recline in a wheel chair and bellow for alcoholic beverages; in the winter we shall sit before the fire with our feet in a bucket of hot water, a decanter of corn whiskey near at hand, and write ribald songs against organized society; strapped to one arm of our chair will be a forty-five calibre revolver, and we shall shoot out the lights when we want to go to sleep, instead of turning them off; when we want air we shall throw a silver candlestick through the front window and be damned to it; we shall address public meetings (to which we have been invited because of our wisdom) in a vein of jocund malice. We shall … but we don’t wish to make any one envious of the good time that is coming to us … We look forward to a disreputable, vigorous, unhonoured, and disorderly old age.
  • We have always been compelled, and we shall be compelled for many years to come, to be prudent, cautious, staid, sober, conservative, industrious, respectful of established institutions, a model citizen. We have not liked it, but we have been unable to escape it. Our mind, our logical faculties, our observation, inform us that the conservatives have the right side of the argument in all human affairs. But the people whom we really prefer as associates, though we do not approve their ideas, are the rebels, the radicals, the wastrels, the vicious, the poets, the Bolshevists, the idealists, the nuts, the Lucifers, the agreeable good-for-nothings, the sentimentalists, the prophets, the freaks. We have never dared to know any of them, far less become intimate with them.
  • We shall know that the Almost Perfect State is here when the kind of old age each person wants is possible to him. Of course, all of you may not want the kind we want . . . some of you may prefer prunes and morality to the bitter end.
  • The best good that you can possibly achieve is not good enough if you have to strain yourself all the time to reach it. A thing is only worth doing, and doing again and again, if you can do it rather easily, and get some joy out of it.
    Do the best you can, without straining yourself too much and too continuously, and leave the rest to God. If you strain yourself too much you'll have to ask God to patch you up. And for all you know, patching you up may take time that it was planned to use some other way.
    BUT . . . overstrain yourself now and then. For this reason: The things you create easily and joyously will not continue to come easily and joyously unless you yourself are getting bigger all the time. And when you overstrain yourself you are assisting in the creation of a new self — if you get what we mean.
  • Men could not think of THE ALMOST PERFECT STATE if they did not have it in them ultimately to create THE ALMOST PERFECT STATE.
  • The wise and subtle deities permit nothing worthy to be lost. It was with no thought of beauty that the builders labored; no conscious thought; they were masters or slaves in the bitter wars of commerce, and they never saw as a whole what they were making; no one of them did. But each one had had his dream. And the baffled dreams and the broken visions and the ruined hopes and the secret desires of each one labored with him as he labored; the things that were lost and beaten and trampled down went into the stone and steel and gave it soul: the aspiration denied and the hope abandoned and the vision defeated were the things that lived, and not the apparent purpose for which each one of all the millions sweat and toiled or cheated; the hidden things, the silent things, the winged things, so weak they are easily killed, the unacknowledged things, the rejected beauty, the strangled appreciation, the inchoate art, the submerged spirit — these groped and found each other and gathered themselves together and worked themselves into the tiles and mortar of the edifice and made a town that is a worthy fellow of the sunrise and the sea winds.
    Humanity triumphs over its details.
  • The individual aspiration is always defeated of its perfect fruition and expression, but it is never lost; it passes into the conglomerate being of the race.
    The way to encourage yourself about the human race is to look at it first from a distance; look at the lights on the high spots.

archy and mehitabel (1927) edit

  • dedicated to babs
    with babs knows what
    and babs knows why
  • the octopus's secret wish
    is not to be a formal fish
    he dreams that some time he may grow
    another set of legs or so
    and be a broadway music show
  • oh i should worry and fret
    death and i will coquette
    there s a dance in the old dame yet
    toujours gai toujours gai
    • the song of mehitabel
  • procrastination is the
    art of keeping
    up with yesterday
    • certain maxims of archy
  • an optimist is a guy
    that has never had
    much experience
    • certain maxims of archy
  • well boss
    mehitabel the cat
    has reappeared in her old
    haunts with a
    flock of kittens

    archy she said to me
    the life of a female
    artist is continually
    hampered what in hell
    have i done to deserve
    all these kittens
    i look back on my life
    and it seems to me to be
    just one damned kitten
    after another
    i am a dancer archy
    and my only prayer
    is to be allowed
    to give my best to my art
    but just as i feel
    that i am succeeding
    in my life work
    along comes another batch
    of these damned kittens
    it is not archy
    that i am shy on mother love
    god knows i care for
    the sweet little things
    curse them
    but am i never to be allowed
    to live my own life
    i have purposely avoided
    matrimony in the interests
    of the higher life
    but i might just
    as well have been a domestic
    slave for all the freedom
    i have gained
    i hope none of them
    gets run over by
    an automobile
    my heart would bleed
    if anything happened
    to them and i found it out
    but it isn t fair archy
    it isn t fair
    these damned tom cats have all
    the fun and freedom
    if i was like some of these
    green eyed feline vamps i know
    i would simply walk out on the
    bunch of them and
    let them shift for themselves
    but i am not that kind
    archy i am full of mother love
    my kindness has always
    been my curse
    a tender heart is the cross i bear
    self sacrifice always and forever
    is my motto damn them
    i will make a home
    for the sweet innocent
    little things
    unless of course providence
    in his wisdom should remove
    them they are living
    just now in an abandoned
    garbage can just behind
    a made over stable in greenwich
    village and if it rained
    into the can before i could
    get back and rescue them
    i am afraid the little
    dears might drown
    it makes me shudder just
    to think of it
    of course if i were a family cat
    they would probably
    be drowned anyhow
    sometimes i think
    the kinder thing would be
    for me to carry the
    sweet little things
    over to the river
    and drop them in myself
    but a mother s love archy
    is so unreasonable
    something always prevents me
    these terrible
    conflicts are always
    presenting themselves
    to the artist
    the eternal struggle
    between art and life archy
    is something fierce
    yes something fierce
    my what a dramatic
    life i have lived
    one moment up the next
    moment down again
    but always gay archy always gay
    and always the lady too
    in spite of hell
    well boss it will
    be interesting to note
    just how mehitabel
    works out her present problem
    a dark mystery still broods
    over the manner
    in which the former
    family of three kittens
    one day she was talking to me
    of the kittens
    and the next day when i asked
    her about them
    she said innocently
    what kittens
    interrogation point
    and that was all
    i could ever get out
    of her on the subject
    we had a heavy rain
    right after she spoke to me
    but probably that garbage can
    leaks so the kittens
    have not yet
    been drowned
  • dance mehitabel dance
    caper and shake a leg
    what little blood is left
    will fizz like wine in a keg
    • mehitabel dances with boreas
  • i
    have often noticed that
    ancestors never boast
    the descendants who boast
    of ancestors i would
    rather start a family than
    one blood will tell but often
    it tells too much
    • a roach of the taverns
  • as i was crawling
    through the holes in
    a swiss cheese
    the other
    day it occurred to
    me to wonder
    what a swiss cheese
    would think if
    a swiss cheese
    could think and after
    cogitating for some
    time i said to myself
    if a swiss cheese
    could think
    it would think that
    a swiss cheese
    was the most important
    thing in the world
    just as everything that
    can think at all
    does think about itself

what the ants are saying edit

  • no insect likes human beings
    and if you think you can see why
    the only reason i tolerate you is because
    you seem less human to me than most of them
  • it wont be long now it wont be long
    man is making deserts of the earth
    it wont be long now
    before man will have used it up
    so that nothing but ants
    and centipedes and scorpions
    can find a living on it
    man has oppressed us for a million years
    but he goes on steadily
    cutting the ground from under
    his own feet making deserts deserts deserts
  • what man calls civilization
    always results in deserts
  • men talk of money and industry
    of hard times and recoveries
    of finance and economics
    but the ants wait and the scorpions wait
    for while men talk they are making deserts all the time
    getting the world ready for the conquering ant
    drought and erosion and desert
    because men cannot learn
  • each generation wastes a little more
    of the future with greed and lust for riches
  • it wont be long now it won't be long
    till earth is barren as the moon
    and sapless as a mumbled bone
  • dear boss i relay this information
    without any fear that humanity
    will take warning and reform

archy does his part (1935) edit

  • it is a cheering thought to think
    that god is on the side of the best digestion
    • the big bad wolf
  • there is bound to be a certain amount of
    trouble running any country
    if you are president the trouble happens to you
    but if you are a tyrant you can arrange things so
    that most of the trouble happens to other people
    • archy's newest deal
  • there is always
    a comforting thought
    in time of trouble when
    it is not our trouble
    • comforting thoughts

warty bliggens, the toad edit

i met a toad the other day by the name of warty bliggens...
  • i met a toad
    the other day by the name
    of warty bliggens

    he was sitting under
    a toadstool
    feeling contented
    he explained that when the cosmos
    was created
    that toadstool was especially
    planned for his personal
    shelter from sun and rain
    thought out and prepared
    for him
warty bliggens considers himself to be the center of the said universe...
  • a little more
    conversation revealed
    that warty bliggens
    considers himself to be
    the center of the said

    the earth exists
    to grow toadstools for him
    to sit under
    the sun to give him light
    by day and the moon
    and wheeling constellations
    to make beautiful
    the night for the sake of
    warty bliggens
  • i asked him
    why is it that you
    are so greatly favored
    ask rather
    said warty bliggens
    what the universe
    has done to deserve me

the robin and the worm edit

  • a robin said to an
    angleworm as he ate him
    i am sorry but a bird
    has to live somehow the
    worm being slow witted could
    not gather his
    dissent into a wise crack
    and retort he was
    effectually swallowed
    before he could turn
    a phrase
  • demons and fishhooks
    he exclaimed
    i am losing my personal
    identity as a worm
    my individuality
    is melting away from me
    odds craw i am becoming
    part and parcel of
    this bloody robin
    so help me i am thinking
    like a robin and not
    like a worm any
    longer yes yes i even
    find myself agreeing
    that a robin must live
    i still do not
    understand with my mentality
    why a robin must live
    and yet i swoon into a
    condition of belief
  • amen said a beetle who had
    preceded him into the
    interior that is the way i
    feel myself is it not
    wonderful when one arrives
    at the place
    where he can give up his
    ambitions and resignedly
    nay even with gladness
    recognize that it is a far
    far better thing to be
    merged harmoniously
    in the cosmic all
    and this confortable situation
    in his midst
    so affected the marauding
    robin that he perched
    upon a blooming twig
    and sang until the
    blossoms shook with ecstacy
    he sang
    i have a good digestion
    and there is a god after all
    which i was wicked
    enough to doubt
    yesterday when it rained
  • breakfast breakfast
    i am full of breakfast
    and they are at breakfast
    in heaven
    they breakfast in heaven
    all s well with the world
  • how beautiful is the universe
    when something digestible meets
    with an eager digestion
    how sweet the embrace
    when atom rushes to the arms
    of waiting atom
  • well well boss there is
    something to be said
    for the lyric and imperial
    believe that everything is for
    you until you discover
    that you are for it

    sing your faith in what you
    get to eat right up to the
    minute you are eaten
    for you are going
    to be eaten
  • there are more things
    twixt the vermiform appendix
    and nirvana than are dreamt of
    in thy philosophy horatio

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