Poetry Friday: Flying Crooked

poetry friday

Iphigene here. I wasn’t so sure what to post today, but as I skimmed through my poetry books, I found this poem by Robert Graves. It’s short, simple, but true. I’m sure that this little poem is more than just about the cabbage-white butterfly. The Poetry Friday host this week is Diane at Random Noodling.

cabbage white butterflies

Flying Crooked

by Robert Graves

The butterfly, a 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.

In an unposted letter of 1933, Robert Graves wrote that scientists “fail to understand that the cabbage-white’s seemingly erratic flight provides a metaphor for all original and constructive thought.”

20 comments on “Poetry Friday: Flying Crooked

  1. Perfect poem and photograph, Iphigene! I really love these lines:
    “He lurches here and here by guess
    And God and hope and hopelessness.”
    Butterfly is just like so many of us, I guess!


    • Hi Tara,
      That’s what I loved about this poem, it short and simple, and definitely about a butterfly, but Graves captures how most (if not all) of us fee. I’m glad you enjoyed this poem. My apologies for such a delayed reply. I’m quite here and there these days and not quite in GB for most of the time. 🙂


  2. The photo and the poem are terrific, Iphigene. I love the idea of the metaphor for all poets.


    • Isn’t it a wonderful thing?! I was looking for the perfect picture of the cabbage-white butterfly but this stood out. It must be the blue, that vast expanse that made me think it fits the poem perfectly. Thanks for dropping by Linda. 🙂


  3. “(His honest idiocy of flight)” is a great line. It reminds me of me! Thanks for sharing it!


    • I’m glad you liked the poem dmayr. This is one of those poems when i read just really took hold of me in it simplicity and profundity. But isn’t that the case most of the time…the profound are the simple ones. 🙂


  4. This is wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing it. I am sure a lot of us can relate to that jagged flight and take hope in it’s success.


    • Hi Andromeda,
      I’m really glad this poem is a hit among many. It’s such a simple poem, but it speaks so much of something so close to everyone..that jagged flight….


  5. I love the poem, but especially his belief that the butterfly’s “seemingly erratic flight provides a metaphor for all original and constructive thought.” Very well said.


    • That little note had to be included. What other way can this poem be explained but through the words of its poet. I’m glad this little poem resonated with you. I think Graves went way way beyond butterflies with this poem and captured a sentiment so common in all of us.


  6. I can relate to the cabbage-white butterfly – “He lurches here and here by guess” I’ve been known to lurch a time or two. Thanks for sharing Robert Graves’ poem. =)


    • Hi Bridget,
      I’m glad you enjoyed this poem. I’m not quite familiar with Graves, but this poem just stood out. When I read it, it just spoke to me and made sense. Maybe its because like you i do lurch too. 🙂


  7. Perfect metaphor! I love this poem.


  8. Thanks for sharing! I think I like the quote you included at the end as much as the poem itself. :0)


    • Hi Robyn,
      You’re most welcome. Sometimes when its my turn to post for poetry friday it takes a while for me to decide which poem to post. This time around, Graves poem just jumped off the page and I knew it was worth sharing. After all, we all fly crooked in this expanse called life.


  9. Pingback: [Monday Reading] A Shaun Tan and Gary Crew Collaboration – Memorial and The Viewer |

  10. Dear Iphigene, could you please point me to the source of the remarkable note from the 1933 letter?
    All best wishes,


  11. Hi – beautiful poem, photo, and message. What is the source of the photo? Did you take it? Thanks so much.


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