Sunday, January 29, 2012

"The most comely of miniature mammals"

Mice, per contra, except to a few hysterical women,
rank among the most comely of all the miniature mammals
who impinge on our lives
Once, when I was living in a very old dorm in college with two oblivious, unhygienic roommates and one ultra-hygienic one, a family of mice installed themselves in our room. Their arrival was the unhygienic roommates' fault, but the hygienic roommate's burden, and she was intent on destroying them. But I put in a plea on their behalf--they are fragile and needy mammals like us (true, in a way...), they are unobtrusive and primarily go about their business quietly at night (not strictly true; my roommate woke up one night from their scuttlings and threw stuffed animals at me until I was awake enough to be informed that WE HAVE MICE), and, as long as they keep to their side of the contract I had outlined (cute, nocturnal, nondestructive) for them, we could harmoniously cohabit with them. My hygienic roommate reluctantly agreed, and we struck up a temporary truce with the mice, agreeing to provide them with a warm domicile in our walls for the winter if they agreed to stay out of our hair.
You never have managed, as all successful parasites must, to
break the code of your host, wise up on what habits can travel.
Ah!, if only You had, with what patience we would have trained You
how to obtemper your greeds, recalling the way that our Nannies
molded our nursery moeurs...

Good Little Mice never gnaw through
woodwork or nibble at packages. Good Little Mice never scatter
droppings that have to be swept up. Good Little Mice get a tidbit,
Bad Little Mice die young. Then, adapting an adage of lovers,
Two Little Mice are a company, Three Little Mice are a rabble.
One day soon after, I discovered strange holes in my laundry hamper, and more holes in the laundry within. The mice, it seemed, had dined on my t-shirts and underwear. Well, let's just say the mice lost their lawyer by this act of war, and, with the cohabitation treaty voided, they soon saw their doom.
What occurred now confirmed that ancient political axiom:
When Words fail to persuade, then Physical Force gives the orders.
Knowing You trusted in us and would never believe an unusual
object belonging to Men could be there for a sinister purpose,
traps were baited and one by one you were fatally humbugged:
all fourteen of You perished...

We had felt no talent to murder:
it was against our pluck. Why, why then? For raisons d’├ętat. As
householders we had behaved exactly as every State does,
when there is something It wants, and a minor one gets in the way.
I was, needless to say, very pleased to come across this poem today, which though clearly not intended to recall my nearly identical encounter with representatives of the mouse race, did. Raison d'etat, cute rodents, raison d'etat. The sovereign resignedly does what it must to protect its underwear.