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OK. I’ve long really loved this song and I’m not about to explain why, at least not in the first person. But myxomatosis is fascinatingly awful to the entrant to the UK, as we don’t have anything like it in the USA. Here’s the wiki description:

In rabbits of the genus Sylvilagus (cottontail rabbits), myxomatosis only causes localized skin tumors, but the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is more severely affected.[1] At first, normally the disease is visible by lumps (myxomata) and puffiness around the head and genitals. It then may progress to acute conjunctivitis and possibly blindness; however, this also may be the first indication of the disease. The rabbits become listless, lose appetite, and develop a fever. Secondary bacterial infections occur in most cases which cause pneumonia and purulent inflammation of the lungs. In typical cases where the rabbit has no resistance death may take place with frightening rapidity, often in as little as 48 hrs. Death takes an average of 14 days.

Go read more of the wiki description for the absolutely fucked history of the spread of the disease. Horrific, and horrifically stupid mankind is. And you have no idea how many stories rural brit types have told me about how mixy rabbits are handled here. Benevolently bashed against a tree, charitably run over by cars. Here’s why you do that, Americans:

Jesus christ, this world, huh? But now to the point of the post. Philip Larkin’s poem on the subject:


Caught in the center of a soundless field
While hot inexplicable hours go by
What trap is this? Where were its teeth concealed?
You seem to ask.
I make a sharp reply,
Then clean my stick. I’m glad I can’t explain
Just in what jaws you were to suppurate:
You may have thought things would come right again
If you could only keep quite still and wait.

Again, jesus god. Everyone forever should leave Larkin alone because to write one like this I’d give, well, I’d almost suppurate. Strange word that. Basically the verbal form of pus. To pus. Where the hell did Larkin find that? And the sort of miscross with piggish Latin “to be supper for someone” is the key. The rabbit’s misunderstanding of its problem crosses with our misunderstanding of the latinate word. Brilliantly disturbing line, eh, when you think about it, mixing the conjunctivitisy pus with fox’s rabbit for dinner. And that colon at the end of the third to last line really really bothers me in a vividly fucked up sort of way. Tragic punctuation. Think I’ll go back to the strangely more optimistic Radiohead song before I start to worry about my listlessness and lost appetite in a different manner than I already do. Or worry about the fact that I somehow think things will come right again if I can only keep quite still and wait.

Written by adswithoutproducts

August 18, 2010 at 4:11 am

Posted in poetry

13 Responses

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  1. OK that was a bit maudlin. Usually the sort of thing I delete in the morning. Read with the publication time in mind. I’m going to leave it up though because I love the poem so much….


    August 18, 2010 at 10:33 am

    • I thought it was pretty powerful, all of it, not only the powm. The photo is powerful too, because you know the rabbits have to be eradicated when they’re sick like that, but when I opened it up, I was thinking about bucolic photos I took in the 80s of big jackrabbits in our yard down South, only to find this photo, which is really something. I don’t know whether I’d say it was maudlin, even though I fiercely loathe certain types of ‘animalists’, who want to protect filthy rats in Central Park, when I see them down in the subway rails and they run out on the platforms sometimes. The whole matter of wrongly dispersed populations of animals is very difficult, from the deer in suburbs all around the tri-state area and the snow geese that have to be killed because they’ve caused airline crashes (that one in the Hudson sometime back, for example)

      The poem has a little echo of A. E. Housman’s poem ‘Into my heart an air that kills, from far yon country blows, what are those blue remembered hills, what smiles, what frowns are those? It is the land of lost content, I see it shining plain. The happy highways where I went, and cannot come again’. I think that’s it, I don’t even know the title, it was used at the end of the great Australian film ‘Walkabout’.

      Lady Teazle

      August 19, 2010 at 4:53 am

  2. “And tried to put his foot upon Peter, who jumped out of a window, upsetting three plants. The window was too small for Mr. McGregor, and he was tired of running after Peter. He went back to his work.

    Peter sat down to rest; he was out of breath and trembling with fright, and he had not the least idea which way to go. Also he was very damp with sitting in that can.

    After a time he began to wander about, going lippity – lippity – not very fast, and looking all around…

    Then he tried to find his way straight across the garden, but he became more and more puzzled..

    But Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail had bread and milk and blackberries, for supper.
    THE END.

    essex girl

    August 18, 2010 at 10:06 pm

  3. as a student, the depth and intelligence of your observations of literature etc… intimidates me so much that I can not read my thesis without feeling incredibly inadequate. THANKS!


    August 19, 2010 at 1:52 pm

  4. Jesus, anonymous. That’s a nice thing for you to say. But I’ll say to you what I said to my ex-students the other day who is now doing a PhD when she expressed the same sort of anxiety: this business, literature, is all about feeling incredible inadequate, we ALL feel this way, but the only way through is simply to open yourself to the works, listen to yourself listening, and try to record the feeling of what happens. But all of us, from top to bottom. feel the same sort of intimidation. The important thing to remember is that ours is the most human of arts, ostensibly open to anyone to hear and then respond.

    If you wanna say, in abstractly anonymous terms, what’s your thesis about?

    Sermon over.

    Essex girl,

    Absolutely fantastic and perfectly right. That’s the fucked up ambiguous ending that I remember from childhood. Peter doesn’t quite make it home – that’s what the last line is trying to tell us.


    August 19, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    • ahhh were I to outline the thesis I’d be pretty identifiable to a certain group of people who know you well. Though thanks for the reassuring words.


      August 19, 2010 at 8:52 pm

  5. essex girl,

    Jesus, think of the fictional possibilities of that. God. God. Feel like I should elevate your comment up into a post….


    August 19, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    • Peter does make it home. But we’re told this isn’t the first time he’s got into trouble in that garden – he keeps going back there. To the place where his father was caught and turned into a pie…


      August 19, 2010 at 3:37 pm

  6. Peter does make it home. But we know that this isn’t the first time he’s got into trouble with this sort of thing. It’s implied that he keeps going back to that garden – to the place where his father was caught and put into a pie…

    essex girl

    August 19, 2010 at 3:41 pm

  7. Also, I’ve been doing some research and it seems that Larkin had a real thing for rabbits. Apparently, in his letters there are sentimental cards featuring nursery pictures of rabbits dancing, playing cricket, queuing for roast chestnuts..One of his favourite childhood possessions was a toy rabbit. And he addressed his girlfriend Monica as “Dearest bun”, which he takes to a level deeper than cute endearment in his poem ‘A Valentine’s Day’:

    Knowledge comes but wisdom lingers
    Years sweep by us like the wind
    What is closed in Fortune’s fingers
    Year by year for us to find?
    When the rabbit’s shanks grow leaner
    Time bites keener, life looks meaner
    Come rose [sine?] spina —
    Petals flutter to the floor,
    Though the thought & Time’s unnerving
    Shall we swear to have no swerving?
    O in 1984
    Still retain the sordid habit of consorting with a rabbit.
    Let me always call you mine, still remain my Valentine.

    essex girl

    August 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm

  8. pffft radiohead schmadiohead, analyse this!


    August 25, 2010 at 3:54 pm

  9. […] ένα εξαιρετικό κείμενο από το ads without products, εδώ. Αυτή είναι και η πρόταση ιστολογίου γι’ αυτή την […]

  10. […] a conversation tonight, I feel that I should re-elevate this post. Read the comments too – there’s some very good stuff about Peter et al. Share […]

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