Friday, June 17, 2016

Jack Scott writes

I, Rat

We have condemned a million fleets,
skippered, to the dark,
and chartered sailors to the shark.

Ships sink but once.

We own the earth and keep it ours
relinquishing our lesser powers
to cockroaches and Kudzu Vine,
syphilis and ignorance,
flies, and pigs, and ticks, and men,
Lonicera japonica,
and fleas.

we are everywhere;
by night,
everywhere at once.
We cast our shadows longest
where the light is least.

Taut as terror,
fast as fear,
powerful as pain,
potential as the Plague we ply,
persistent as the day you’ll die,
actual as toilet seats,
omnivorous as night,
we dominate by appetite.

we govern fractions.
We will eat anything.
We are Seven Legion.

There need be only seven sharks
to fill the seven seas
. . . or one
to limit swimmers in that wilderness
somewhere near their knees.

Darkness is the largest continent;
death, the deepest sea.

All ships sail from day to day,
by night, from light to light.
The ones we jump
just sail away.

Every ship will sink someday.

Rat patrols the longest shoreline in eternity.
We will endure as long as darkness,
and manure.

(Their anthem, to the tune of Onward, Christian Soldiers,
is to be sung in darkness by all rats at once wherever they are.

Onward, Rattus rattus, marching into war.
We are Seven Legion, as always before.
Death the Royal Master, leads against the foe.
Forward into battle, see our numbers grow.
Onward Rattus rattus, marching into war,
We are Seven Legion, as always before.

Like a mighty army, taking on all odds,
Brothers, we are gnawing on the bones of gods.
We are not divided, all one body, we,
One in tooth and stomach, one misanthropy.
Onward Rattus rattus, marching into war.
We are Seven Legion, as always before.

Crowns and thrones will perish, kingdoms fall and wane,
But we are sure as war, equally profane.
Gates of hell can never close upon our tail.
We are Mankind’s nightmare; we can never fail.
Onward Rattus rattus, marching into war.
We are Seven Legion, as always before.

Onward, then, ye Rodents, toast our Brotherhood.
Blend with ours your hunger, drink with us their blood.
Glory, laud, and honor unto Rattus bring,
Thus through countless ages, men and angels sting.
Onward Rattus rattus, marching into war.
We are Seven Legion, as always before.


(i, rat,
would travel to a lighter land,
now, and not be missed,
would lemming to the nearest ship,
exchange my immortality,
for any berth deserted by my kind,
for any passage
to any firmer ground
to be beneath my feet,
evermore surrounding me.

a panic like the midnight fear of rats we trade on
to escape this riddled land
before it leaks and sinks
beneath the shark-persistent sea.)

 The Royal Rat (Gouache painting double page spread) - OCThe Royal Rat -- mlp


  1. Rattus rattus (the black rat, the ship rat, Trodman, the roof rat, the house rat, the Alexandrine rat, the old English rat, etc.) originated in Malaysia or India, was spread by the Romans throughout the Near East, reached Europe by the 1st century, and a millennium and a half later taken around the world a millennium by Europeans. They have played a primary role in spreading bacteria, such as Yersinia pestis, responsible for the Justinianic and bubonic plagues.

    The Legio septima Claudia (Claudius' Seventh Legion) was one of the oldest units in the imperial Roman army, founded in 65 BCE in Hispania by Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (“Pompey”) to fight the rebellion of Quintus Sertorius, and Gaius Julius Caesar led it throughout the Gallic Wars (58-50 BCE) which resulted in the Roman conquest of modern France and Belgium. Legio VII was also one of the two legions he used in his invasions of Britain in 55 and 54 BCE, as well as in his decisive victory over Pompey at Pharsalus in 48 BC. It existed at least until the end of the 4th century.

  2. The southeastern US is flora-rich, including two invasive species from Japan, suikazura, the Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) and kuzu (“kudzu,” the Japanese arrowroot). The honeysuckle is sold by American nurseries as the cultivar “Hall's Prolific” and, due to its rapid spread via tiny fruit seeds, is very difficult to manage in semi-wild areas, such as large rural yards, and nearly impossible to control in naturalized woodland edge zones. It forms a tall dense woody shrub layer that aggressively displaces native plants. It can be controlled to some degree via labor-intensive methods such as cutting or burning the plant to root level at two-week intervals until the nutrient reserves in the roots are depleted, or through grubbing if soil destruction is not an issue. Kudzu is a group of plants in the pea family that climbs over trees and shrubs and grows so rapidly that it kills them by heavy shading. It was introduced to the United States as an ornamental bush at the Philadelphia Continental Exposition in 1876, but farmers found little use for a vine that took years to establish, was difficult to harvest, and couldn’t tolerate sustained grazing by horses or cattle. After the 1883 New Orleans Exposition, though, it was widely marketed in the Southeast as an ornamental plant to shade porches. In the first half of the 20th century, it was distributed as high-protein cattle fodder, and during the 1930s the Soil Conservation Service recommended its use to control erosion; the government helped fund the distribution of 85 million seedlings. Channing Cope, a popular radio host and "Atlanta Constitution" columnist, popularized the plant, promising “the healing touch of the miracle vine” would make barren farms “live again.” By the early 1940s he started the Kudzu Club of America, with a membership of 20,000 and the goal of planting 8 million acres across the South, sponsoring kudzu queens and kudzu planting contests. By 1946, 3 million acres (1.2 million hectares) had been planted. However, boll weevil infestations and the failure of cotton crops drove many Southern farmers from the land, and the unattended kudzu plantings quickly became "the vine that ate the South," spreading at the rate of 150,000 acres (610 sq km) a year. Today it covers nearly 7 ½ acres (3 million hectares), mostly in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Mississippi. “I thought the whole world would someday be covered by it, that it would grow as fast as Jack’s beanstalk, and that every person on earth would have to live forever knee-deep in its leaves,” Willie Morris wrote in “Good Old Boy: A Delta Boyhood.” In 1953 the Department of Agriculture removed it from its list of suggested cover plants and in 1970 listed it as a weed. By 1997, the vine was placed on the “Federal Noxious Weed List.”

  3. According to James Dickey’s “Kudzu,”

    Japan invades. Far Eastern vines
    Run from the clay banks they are

    Supposed to keep from eroding
    Up telephone poles
    Which rear, half out of leafage
    As though they would shriek
    Like things smothered by their own
    Green, mindless, unkillable ghosts
    In Georgia, the legend says
    That you must close your windows

    At night to keep it out of the house
    The glass is tinged with green, even so

    As the tendrils crawl over the fields
    The night the kudzu has
    Your pasture, you sleep like the dead
    Silence has grown Oriental
    And you cannot step upon ground:
    Your leg plunges somewhere
    It should not, it never should be
    Disappears, and waits to be struck

    Anywhere between sole and kneecap:
    For when the kudzu comes

    The snakes do, and weave themselves
    Among its lengthening vines
    Their spade heads resting on leaves
    Growing also, in earthly power
    And the huge circumstance of concealment
    One by one the cows stumble in
    Drooling a hot green froth
    And die, seeing the wood of their stalls

    Strain to break into leaf
    In your closed house, with the vine

    Tapping your window like lightning
    You remember what tactics to use
    In the wrong yellow fog-light of dawn
    You herd them in, the hogs
    Head down in their hairy fat
    The meaty troops, to the pasture
    The leaves of the kudzu quake
    With the serpents' fear, inside

    The meadow ringed with men
    Holding sticks, on the country roads

    The hogs disappear in the leaves
    The sound is intense, subhuman
    Nearly human with purposive rage
    There is no terror
    Sound from the snakes
    No one can see the desperate, futile
    Striking under the leaf heads
    Now and then, the flash of a long

    Living vine, a cold belly
    Leaps up, torn apart, then falls

    Under the tussling surface
    You have won, and wait for frost
    When, at the merest touch
    Of cold, the kudzu turns
    Black, withers inward and dies
    Leaving a mass of brown strings
    Like the wires of a gigantic switchboard
    You open your windows

    With the lightning restored to the sky
    And no leaves rising to bury

    You alive inside your frail house
    And you think, in the opened cold
    Of the surface of things and its terrors
    And of the mistaken, mortal
    Arrogance of the snakes
    As the vines, growing insanely, sent
    Great powers into their bodies
    And the freedom to strike without warning:

    From them, though they killed
    Your cattle, such energy also flowed

    To you from the knee-high meadow
    (It was as though you had
    A green sword twined among
    The veins of your growing right arm--
    Such strength as you would not believe
    If you stood alone in a proper
    Shaved field among your safe cows--):
    Came in through your closed

    Leafy windows and almighty sleep
    And prospered, till rooted out


  4. The lyrics to "Onward, Christian Soldiers" were written in 1865 by Sabine Baring-Gould, an Anglican priest, hagiographer, antiquarian, novelist, folksong collector, translator, and scholar with more than 1,240 publications. As curate for Horbury Bridge, he wrote the "Hymn for Procession with Cross and Banners" in about 15 minutes as a Whitsuntide processional for children walking from his church to Horbury St Peter's Church near Wakefield, Yorkshire. "It was written in great haste, and I am afraid that some of the lines are faulty," he admitted, but he allowed hymn-book compilers to alter the lyrics (though most modern hymnals use his original words.) He set the lyrics to a melody from the slow movement of Joseph Haydn’s Symphony in D, No. 15, and the hymn was printed in 1871 in an English church periodical, the “Church Times” but only became popular after it was attached to the tune "St. Gertrude, " composed that same year by Arthur Sullivan; in addition to his 13 major orchestral works, eight choral works and oratorios, two ballets, incidental music to several plays, and many hymns, songs, and piano and chamber pieces, he wrote 23 operas, Sullivan is best known for his 14 operatic collaborations with W. S. Gilbert, including “H.M.S. Pinafore,” “The Pirates of Penzance,” and “The Mikado.”
    It was adopted by the Salvation Army as its favored processional. Founded in London's poverty-stricken East End in 1865 as the East London Christian Mission by William Booth, a former Methodist Reform Church minister, and his wife Catherine, who also took ministerial duties. Their main converts were alcoholics, morphine addicts, prostitutes, and other "undesirables" who were unwelcome in polite Christian society. Believing that many Christians had come to rely on the outward signs of spiritual grace rather than on grace itself, they abolished sacraments such as baptism and communion and advocated abstinence from alcohol, smoking, illegal drugs, and gambling. According to Booth, "The three ‘S's’ best expressed the way in which the Army administered to the 'down and outs': first, soup; second, soap; and finally, salvation." In 1878, the couple reorganized it as a quasi-military organization in 1878, with its own colors (flag), uniforms, and ranks, and it frequently targeted saloons and pubs. Tavern owners responded by organizing the “Skeleton Army” to disrupt its meetings and gatherings by throwing rocks, bones, rats, and tar at attendees as well as making physical assaults on them. The Frys, a family of musicians from Alderbury, Wiltshire, played music to distract the Skeletons and to act as the Salvationists’ bodyguards.
    Onward, Christian soldiers!
    Marching as to war,
    With the cross of Jesus
    Going on before.
    Christ, the royal Master,
    Leads against the foe;
    Forward into battle,
    See his banners go!

    Onward, Christian soldiers!
    Marching as to war,
    With the cross of Jesus
    Going on before.

    At the sign of triumph
    Satan's host doth flee;
    On, then, Christian soldiers,
    On to victory.
    Hell's foundations quiver
    At the shout of praise;
    Brothers, lift your voices,
    Loud your anthems raise.

    Like a mighty army
    Moves the Church of God;
    Brothers, we are treading
    Where the Saints have trod.
    We are not divided;
    All one body we:
    One in hope and doctrine,
    One in charity.

    Onward, then, ye people;
    Join our happy throng.
    Blend with ours your voices
    In the triumph song:
    Glory, laud, and honor
    Unto Christ, the King.
    This through countless ages
    Men and angels sing.


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