Monument (marnanel) wrote,

The Centipede

THE CENTIPEDE
by A. P. Herbert
(Published in Punch, September 1920)

The centipede is not quite nice;
He lives in idleness and vice;
He has a hundred legs;
He also has a hundred wives,
And each of these, if she survives,
Has just a hundred eggs;
And that's the reason if you pick
Up any boulder, stone or brick
You nearly always find
A swarm of centipedes concealed;
They scatter far across the field,
But _one_ remains behind.
And you may reckon then, my son,
That not alone that luckless one
Lies pitiful and torn,
But millions more of either sex--
100 multiplied by x--
Will never now be born.
I daresay it will make you sick,
But so does all Arithmetic.

The gardener says, I ought to add,
The centipede is not so bad;
He rather LIKES the brutes.
The millipede is what he loathes;
He uses fierce bucolic oaths
Because it eats his roots;
And every gardener is agreed
That, if you see a centipede
Conversing with a milli--,
On one of them you drop a stone,
The other one you leave alone--
I think that's rather silly.
They may be right, but what I say
Is, "Can one stand about all day
And COUNT the creature's legs?"
It has too many, anyway,
And any moment it may lay
Another hundred eggs;
So if I see a thing like this (1)
I murmur, "Without prejudice,"
And knock it on the head;
And if I see a thing like that (2)
I take a brick and squash it flat;
In either case it's dead.

(1) and (2). There ought to be two pictures here, one with a hundred legs and the other with about a thousand. I have tried several artists, but most of them couldn't even get a hundred on to the page, and those who did always had more legs on one side than the other, which is quite wrong. So I have had to dispense with the pictures.

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Tags: other people's poetry
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