Since before I can remember I've been entranced by butterflies, but ever since I saw Bo Widerberg's movie Elvira Madigan I've been haunted by the final image, frozen on screen, of the uncaptured butterfly, an image indicating the impossibility of the doomed couple to catch, to hold prisoner the ecstatic moment.
The butterfly is often used in literature, although Wordsworth's 'To a Butterfly' leaves me wondering why he bothered to write a rather empty nursery rhyme, and even Robert Frost's 'Blue-Butterfly Day' (much as I love the expression 'sky-flakes'), leaves me far from 'having ridden out desire'.
In Women in Love, D. H. Lawrence brings up the butterfly:
'Ursula was watching the butterflies, of which there were dozens near the water, little blue ones suddenly snapping out of nothingness into a jewel-life, a large black-and-red one standing upon a flower and breathing with his soft wings, intoxicatingly, breathing pure, ethereal sunshine; two white ones wrestling in the low air; there was a halo round them; ah, when they came tumbling nearer they were orangetips, and it was the orange that had made the halo. Ursula rose and drifted away, unconscious like the butterflies.'
Speaking to Ursula, Birkin has a rather brutal thing to say:
'[H]umanity never gets beyond the caterpillar stage – it rots in the chrysalis, it never will have wings. It is anti-creation, like monkeys and baboons.'
I just prefer to remember a few butterflies I have known:
Or this peacock.