THE BUTTERFLY BALL: And the Grasshopper's Feast by Alan & William Plomer Aldridge

THE BUTTERFLY BALL: And the Grasshopper's Feast

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Reportedly a ""phenomenal publishing success"" in England, this new reworking of William Roscoe's popular 1807 verses profiles some two dozen small animals--dormouse, mole, hare, caterpillars, and others--on their way to the dual celebration; the last few rhymes, anticlimactically, describe the delicacies at the feast and the music and dancing at the ball. Despite the ""stars like sequins"" and the ""oh goodie"" of the introductory rhyme these are not the pale butterfly flutters you might expect--even from their first lines. To wit: ""At dawn, when sunshine with a flood/ Of light fills all the sky with gold,/ The Gadfly's wife (so I've been told)/ Besides the paper and the post/ Brings him a morning cup of blood,/ Not just because he likes it most;/ It is in fact his only food/ And puts him in a sanguine mood/ For doing almost anything,/ But most of all for trumpeting."" Others are decidedly literate and often clever, with just enough irregularity (rhythmic and otherwise) to keep the old fashioned style and sensibility alive. Still, they are all bland innocence next to Alan Aldridge's full page, intensely colored and repellent portraits of meticulously rendered creatures in fussy, overelegant period costumes and baroque settings. There's all sorts of tufted upholstery and ruffled mauve satin, which adds to the general air of decadence and suffocation, and toward the end everyone comes together in a teeming, Boschlike psychedelic climax (with some gratuitous optical gamesmanship thrown in). With straight, guide-bookish nature notes appended (the first entry, incidentally, seems to contradict the quoted poem on the gadfly's drinking habits), it's a bizarre undertaking altogether.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1975
Page count: 72pp
Publisher: Grossman/Viking