A Mischief of Mice
Friday, October 04, 2013
"The mouse ne'er shunn'd the cat as they did budge
From rascals worse than they." - William Shakespeare (Coriolanus)
“Mice are terribly chatty. They will chat about anything, and if there is nothing to chat about, they will chat about having nothing to chat about. Compared to mice, robins are reserved.” - Robin McKinley (Spindle's End)
Where has he gone, my meadow mouse,
My thumb of a child that nuzzled in my palm? --
To run under the hawk's wing,
Under the eye of the great owl watching from the elm-tree,
To live by courtesy of the shrike, the snake, the tom-cat.
- Theodore Roethke (from "The Meadow Mouse")
Washed in the River
Of course the woman with the mouse-child was famous,
as grace is famous
at the end of suffering. She kept him in
a nest in the dry bathtub
and washed in the river.
And though only children were meant
to believe this, I still believe this.
The fate of the body
is to confound
itself with everything. That's why
in another tale, the fair sister
opened her mouth and spoke
and the plain sister, vipers and toads.
Meanwhile the mother
of the gray thing
bathed him in a teacup.
Plucked him out and let him
run along the shore
to the window. Where both of them
were struck with longing —
he behind the great glass,
she behind the gray boy.
The second you see yourself in the suffering
the story's over.
The art above: Five illustrations by Beatrix Potter (from The Tailor of Gloucester and Two Bad Mice); "The Cat and the Mouse" by Johnny B. Gruelle; "Belling the Cat" and "Thumbelina" by Milo Winter -- the latter picture paired with "CIty Mouse, Country Mouse" by Charles Folkard; an illustration from the Brambly Hedge series by Jill Barklem; a decoration and two full-page illustrations from "The Robber Bridgegroom" (a Grimms fairy tale delightfully but inexplicably illustrated with pictures of mice and frogs in Japanese clothing) by HJ Owen [misprinted on the book's cover as HS Owen], published in 1922; a detail from a "Robber Bridegroom" painting by HJ Owen paired with "Three Blind Mice" by Charles Folkard; "Three Blind Mice" by Walton Corbould; fairy tale mice by Igor Oleinikov; two illustrations from "Town Mouse Country Mouse" by Jan Brett; "Mousekin" by Edna Miller; a full painting and a small sketch/study for "Thumbelina" by Lisbeth Zwerger; a drawing of E.B. White's "Stuart Little" by Garth Williams; a mouse drawing by H.S. Owen; a painting of mine called "The Mouse Child," and an image from the animated film "The Tale of Desperaux," based on the charming book by Kate DiCamillo. Below is another Brambly Hedge illustration by Jill Barklem.
For a delightful response to Robert Burns' poem "To a Mouse," see "From a Mouse," by the contemporary Scottish poet Liz Lochhead.