Letter to the Times

(The Mouse Trap)

David Rowbotham

Sir,
Writers in the usual academic ambience would not be
able to function even as live mice. Live mice, being
small-and academics are good at making writers feel
small-would soon be as dead as lions.
-Oka Muzio, Asti, Via Guttazari, 36 Ita|y, to
The Times Literary Supplement – 11 June 1964

The Mouse speaks: “Meglio un giorno da leone…

“Let me make them famous with a malice,
These, the infamous, ruling in the palace,
Each hating each, according to degree,
But altogether hating, slyly, me;
For I am what they couldn’t choose to be,
Creative, at least, with a continuing pen,
Though, true enough, destructive when hate creeps in.

“The victory, of course, shall still be theirs,
For they have taught me their furious despairs
And meanings of faded innocence and trust,
Of gained resentments held at greatest cost
And smiles that hide the feelings cherished most,
Which I, as well, can use to work my will
But, using, must concede they conquer still.

“However, let my singing open hate
Have some virtue’s size. I dispense spite
Free of the frosts of caution they have wrought
Around their faces like crusted steams of thought,
Their nature screening the maladies they caught;
I bubble and boil, malady manifest,
In effusion of what I harbour, what detest.

“Too late, I never realised the lot
Live writers have in the academic plot
Laid out in its own defence of what it lacks,
Until I fell among these hooded backs
Whose coloured honours seem but coarsened sacks
Assumed because elsewhere they failed to shine
And, childish, learned a fabric discipline.

“My discipline is sterner, even for this
Unforgivable indulgence of the hiss
Of insulted blood blackening my vein.
Their littleness in me becomes my stain
Of magnitude cast forth in a dark refrain;
But let me make them famous with such malice,
These, the infamous, ruling in the palace.”