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Moth-eaten
Posted by: IanB (---.tnt11.mel1.da.uu.net)
Date: January 07, 2005 10:34PM

Sharing this fun one which I found in a very slim volume (only 28pp) of verse titled 'Unserious Rhymes' self-published in 1938 by one P.Blagg of 2 Whitehall Gardens, Chiswick W.4, England.

No preface, or mention of previous publication in any magazine, and I can't find any information on the Internet about P.Blagg. Maybe he or she was a casualty of WWII.


A Moth-Eaten Ditty
by P. Blagg

I’ve been before to the bottom drawer
Of the wardrobe, where repose
The woolly and hairy and furry things
That make my winter clothes;
And my brain has reeled at the sight revealed
Of the perforated cloth,
The honey-combed larva-leavings of
The clothes-consuming moth.

My soul was full and I lost my wool
In another sense that night,
And I called him a deed-o’-darkness grub
And a perishing parasite.
It was poor relief for all my grief
But I let my language rip
On the tegumentivorous hexapod
The one-ninth anti-snip.

I said, “Your sire, at least, aimed higher
And lightward urged his flight;
But you are a vile degenerate
And you shun the candlelight.”
And I feel today, in the self-same way,
Impelled to tear my hair,
And to rend what’s left of the warp and weft
In the rage of a wild despair.

Till I recollect my self-respect
When my aristocratic soul
Remembers he is a parvenu
On the evolution roll.
My race began with the first ape-man,
But his is an episode––
For what could his forebear feed upon
When mine was wearing woad?


In the original, every seconed line is indented, but I can't remember how to reproduce indents in these posts. The 'you' in line 3 of stanza 3 is italicised, as are 'he' and 'My' in stanza 4.

I'm unsure what's meant by a 'one-ninth anti-snip'.

Anyone else have a poem lamenting the depredations of the hexapodal tegumentivore?

Ian


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: lg (---.ca.charter.com)
Date: January 07, 2005 11:23PM

A Moth-Eaten Ditty
by P. Blagg

I’ve been before to the bottom drawer
   Of the wardrobe, where repose
The woolly and hairy and furry things
   That make my winter clothes;
And my brain has reeled at the sight revealed
   Of the perforated cloth,
The honey-combed larva-leavings of
   The clothes-consuming moth.

My soul was full and I lost my wool
   In another sense that night,
And I called him a deed-o’-darkness grub
   And a perishing parasite.
It was poor relief for all my grief
   But I let my language rip
On the tegumentivorous hexapod
   The one-ninth anti-snip.

I said, “Your sire, at least, aimed higher
   And lightward urged his flight;
But you are a vile degenerate
   And you shun the candlelight.”
And I feel today, in the self-same way,
   Impelled to tear my hair,
And to rend what’s left of the warp and weft
   In the rage of a wild despair.

Till I recollect my self-respect
   When my aristocratic soul
Remembers he is a parvenu
   On the evolution roll.
My race began with the first ape-man,
   But his is an episode––
For what could his forebear feed upon
   When mine was wearing woad?

Les


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: marian2 (---.range81-152.btcentralplus.com)
Date: January 09, 2005 06:15AM

Great fun - but he's no zoologist. Moths evolved from feather-eating ancestors which infested (and other descendants of theirs still do infest) birds nests. Only moth larvae eat cloth, wool etc, and the adults only go to it to lay eggs, so adult clothes moths probably don't shun light - I'll try to find out. The tegumentivorous hexapod is just a Latinised way of saying a 6-legged eater of protective coverings - I suspect the word tegumentivorous is his own creation , but the one-ninth anti-snip has me beat at the moment - it might bea 'translation' of the Latin name for the clothes moth - I'll look it up and get back if it is.

I collect poems about insects and other 'lower life forms' - so am delighted you posted it, Ian.


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: marian2 (---.range81-152.btcentralplus.com)
Date: January 09, 2005 06:53AM

'One-ninth anti-slip' is nothing to do with the present Latin name ( Tineola bisselliella ). The only suggestion I can make is that it has something to do with an old saying 'nine tailors make a man' - unearthed from Brewer's - a slur on the supposed feebleness of tailors, and the fact (from Chambers Dictionary) that 'snip' is an obsolete name for a tailor. So it is just about possible the author of the poem used this expression to suggest the clothes moth as an even smaller and more feeble creature than a tailor, but a great nuisance in undoing the tailors' work - I wouldn't stake much on being right, though!

Apparently clothes moths do rarely fly to light and prefer darkness. I sit corrected. The females only fly after egg laying, so presumably lay their eggs where they were brought up - hence the huge amount of damage on small areas of clothing, and often none on the next garment along (if you are lucky!)


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: IanB (---.tnt11.mel1.da.uu.net)
Date: January 09, 2005 11:13AM

Thanks Marian, for that ingenious explanation of 'one-ninth anti-snip'. The more I consider it, the more I think you are probably right.

'tegumentivorous hexapod' mixes Latin and Greek and is obviously intended light-heartedly.

Here's a little Australian poem I have always liked, celebrating rather than lamenting the appetites of these creatures, albeit in a special situation:

'The Hungry Moths'
by Ronald McCuaig (1908-1993)

Poor hungry white moths
That eat my love’s clothing,
Who says very soon
Ye’ll leave her with nothing,
Here under the moon
I make bold to persuade ye,
Ye may eat all her clothes
So ye leave me milady,
Poor
    hungry
          white
                moths.

That ambiguous word 'So' really pulls its weight! I read it as meaning 'So long as', with overtones of 'So that...'

Ian



Post Edited (01-09-05 15:43)


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: marian2 (---.range81-152.btcentralplus.com)
Date: January 09, 2005 02:45PM

Lovely, Ian - thanks.

By the way - re :'tegumentivorous hexapod' mixes Latin and Greek

Linnaen classification of organisms is a mixture of Latin and Greek Linnaeus was just trying to describe the creatures in the names he gave them and used words from both which educated people of his time would know, whatever their native tongue - so he used a mixture of the two langauages but Latinised the word endings. Many other purely descriptive terms used in biology derive from those names so you can legitimately make up your own pseudoLatin or mixed Greek Latin words to name new species. Blagg obviously knew that and did it for fun in his poem.


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: Pam Adams (---.bus.csupomona.edu)
Date: January 10, 2005 12:44PM

Is 'nine tailors' a slur on tailors or is it a reference to how much cloth is needed for a shroud? My only experience with the phrase comes from Dorothy Sayers and Lord Peter Wimsey- where it refers to the 9 strokes of the passing bell to tell that a man has died.

pam


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-02rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: January 10, 2005 12:51PM

Nice formatting, Les.

I enjoyed the internal rhymes - a fun read all the way through.

Still,

On the tegumentivorous hexapod

Assuming tetrameter, with a mix of iambs and trochees, how does one pronounce tegumentivorous?

Sounds like the line must scan either,

on the teguMENTiVORous HEXaPOD

on the TEGumenTIVorous HEXaPOD

Gotta be the 2nd one.


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: Marian-NYC (12.154.236.---)
Date: January 10, 2005 06:02PM

Marian2: Depending on how low your "lower life forms" go, you might want to include this from Ogden Nash:

The Germ

A mighty creature is the germ,
Though smaller than a pachyderm.
His customary dwelling place
Is deep within the human race.
His childish pride he often pleases
By giving people strange diseases.
Do you, my poppet, feel infirm?
You probably contain a germ.


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: marian2 (---.range81-152.btcentralplus.com)
Date: January 11, 2005 03:50AM

Thanks, Marian, I already have that one - and a lovely Hilaire Belloc fantasising on the same subject

The Microbe
Hilaire Belloc

The Microbe is so very small
You cannot make him out at all,
But many sanguine people hope
To see him through a microscope.
His jointed tongue that lies beneath
A hundred curious rows of teeth;
His seven tufted tails with lots
Of lovely pink and purple spots,
On each of which a pattern stands,
Composed of forty separate bands;
His eyebrows of a tender green;
All these have never yet been seen—
But Scientists, who ought to know,
Assure us that they must be so....
Oh! let us never, never doubt
What nobody is sure about!

Since I was a microbiologist in a previous life, and came across it at the tim, I am particularly fond of the Belloc.

Pam - I'd forgotten about Dorothy L Sayers and her nine tailors (as an ex-bel ringer I should have remembered). My edition (15th) of Brewer doesn't mention shrouds at all , it says ' An old expression of cotempt at the expense of tailors, implying such physical feebleness that it would take nine of them to make a man of good physique, the occupation not being conducive to sound physical development. It has been suggested that 'tailor' is a facetious adaptation of 'teller'. a 'teller' being a stroke on the funeral bell, three being given for a child, six for a woman and nine for a man.'



Post Edited (01-12-05 03:40)


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-01rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: January 11, 2005 11:33AM

The one-ninth anti-snip.

I'm not a knitter, but perhaps something to do with that? Knit one, purl two, slip nine? The moth eats a link away so it unravels?

Makes no sense you say? Never mind then. Can't have anything to do with 'the whole nine yards', no.


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: Linda (---.l3.c4.dsl.pol.co.uk)
Date: January 11, 2005 01:35PM

Sayers, not Christie. Sorry to nit pick, but I prefer Sayers' books.


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: Just Jack (---.southg01.mi.comcast.net)
Date: January 11, 2005 04:24PM

'The whole nine yards' is a sea-going term.
It refers to a cat of some kind. Yes, one with nine tails made of leather, each about three feet long and tipped with jagged metal fragments.
When applied as punishment the whip man was admonished to "Give him the whole nine yards". If he held back at all (if for instance it was a friend on the receiving end)the whip man would soon be experiencing the cat from the other end.



Jack


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: IanB (---.tnt11.mel1.da.uu.net)
Date: January 11, 2005 05:24PM


I agree, it's got to be TEGumenTIVorous. As with herBIVorous.

But if you make a noun out of it, the stresses become TEGuMENTiVORE. As with HERBiVORE



Post Edited (01-12-05 07:19)


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: IanB (---.tnt11.mel1.da.uu.net)
Date: January 11, 2005 07:51PM

Not wholly microbiology, Marian2, but this one might suit your collection:


'The Naturalist'
by Arnold Wall (1869-1966)

Two worlds are his, one of his own kind
Shackled by moral law, shaped to an end,
Bound by a thousand threads to kin and friend
Breathing the crystal atmosphere of mind.

The other opaque and fraught with mystery,
Unfettered, bowing to no alien will,
Now fierce, now kind, but freely flowing still,
World of the shrew, the beetle and the bee;

Of ape and squirrel, whale, and serpents dire,
Of swallow, thrush, peewit and albatross,
Of lavish life, and thoughtless happiness
Shot through with glowing veins of hot desire;

Along those twilight aisles he’ll peep and prowl
By hidden founts of action and emotion,
Of mother love and self-impelled devotion;
He plumbs the lizard’s lust, the dung-fly’s soul;

With the blind mole he burrows in the soil,
The adder is his brother, and he shares
The dances of the lapwings and the hares
The tiny emmet’s unremitting toil;

He joins the caterpillar in his trance,
With the pale moth floats to the midnight sky,
Or with the black and scarlet butterfly
Wafts to his wedding on the wings of chance;

Into the insect heart he plunges deep,
The larval feast, the chrysalid’s long sleep,
And wonders how the bustling bees contrive
The discipline and harmony of the hive;

Each life, however small, however lowly,
For him is fraught with deep significance;
The very spider’s silk, the plover’s dance,
And every nursling spark of life is holy.


I don't know whether the AABB rhyme scheme in the penultimate verse is a forgivable blemish, or a deliberate change of key to presage the end of the the poem.

AW was born in Ceylon and educated in England before migrating to New Zealand, where he became a university professor, botanist, poet, writer, mountaineer, broadcaster, commentator and generally marvellously active old man.

Ian



Post Edited (01-11-05 22:59)


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: marian2 (---.range81-152.btcentralplus.com)
Date: January 12, 2005 04:39AM

Thanks, Ian, that is lovely and just up my street. It really captures the Victorian spirit of unfettered curiosity about the natural world, that we seem to take for granted or have forgotten about when seduced by modern techology and the pursuit of science for our own ends.

Sorry about the Christie/Sayers mix-up Linda - I also prefer Sayers to most Christie (can't abide Poirot, but like Marple and some of the others). I knew perfectly well it was Sayers who wrote 9 Tailors, but somehow the wrong name came out (age stirring up the brain again?). I'll edit the post.


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-04rh16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: January 12, 2005 01:44PM

I don't see the Wall piece on the net, so I infer you typed it up from scratch, Ian. Most appreciated. On the weird stanza,

Into the insect heart he plunges deep,
The larval feast, the chrysalid’s long sleep,
And wonders how the bustling bees contrive
The discipline and harmony of the hive;

It sounds like the lines could be switched without loss, so it is a mystery to me as well.

Into the insect heart he plunges deep,
And wonders how the bustling bees contrive
The larval feast, the chrysalid’s long sleep,
The discipline and harmony of the hive;


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: IanB (---.tnt11.mel1.da.uu.net)
Date: January 12, 2005 04:46PM

Agreed, Hugh, the lines could be rearranged that way, but still would be a variance from ABBA. My speculation, probably far-fetched, was whether he meant adjacent rhyming couplets to sound a Shakespearian style note of closure, like an old steam train's toot-toot before a station stop. More likely, I guess, he just couldn't manage ABBA there and thought the inconsistency didn't matter.


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: marian2 (---.range81-152.btcentralplus.com)
Date: January 13, 2005 03:43AM

Why not:

Into the insect heart he plunges deep,
And wonders how the bustling bees contrive
The discipline and harmony of the hive;
The larval feast, the chrysalid’s long sleep.

I wonder if he wrote part of the poem in the ABAB rhyme scheme originally, switched to the more unusual ABBA (perhaps he hit a snag or because he thought it would improve the poem or just wanted to experiment) , and simply forgot to alter the penultimate stanza or copied the wrong version . It happens.


Re: Moth-eaten
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-03rh15rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: January 13, 2005 12:41PM

Yup, my bad, thanks. Yours is what I intended instead of the wrong cut-and-paste.




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