In honor of Earth Day, which is Sunday, I am sharing a poem by my father, who is an ardent birdwatcher and nature lover. He particularly enjoys literary accounts of nature fighting back against civilization. I’ve written in the past (in a post about the movie Avatar and environmentalist revenge fantasies) about Kipling’s short story from The Jungle Books where angry animals annihilate a village and “let the jungle in.” Here’s one of Scott Bates’s contributions to the genre.
It all starts with a story, mentioned in a Napoleon biography (he’s forgotten which one), of rabbits designed for slaughter turning on the hunters. Delighted with the account, Scott lets his imagination run from there. The poem appears in his ABC of Radical Ecology:
R Is the Rondo of Rabbit Run
A thousand rabbits, released for the day’s hunt, turned on the Emperor’s party and put it to flight – Life of Napoleon
By Scott Bates
Have you hard of the Battle of Rabbit Run
When the rabbits attacked Napoleon
It was back in the summer of 1805
Scarcely a hare is now alive
Who hasn’t heard of that famous fray
When a thousand rabbits refused to play
And rose up in wrath and won the day . . .
This is the way it came to pass
They had taken them out in the meadow grass
To provide some sport and some innocent fun
For His Imperial Majesty Napoleon
They has opened their cages “Allez! Allez!”
Expecting to see them run away
From the little man with the great big gun
When a thousand rabbits refused to run!
And turned and attacked Napoleon!
They went for that little son-of-a-gun!
All he could do was cut and run
Over the meadows and under the sun
Pursued by those hedge-hoppers by the ton
Shouting Conspuez Napoleon!
Shouting Down with Napoleon!
All they could do was flee in dismay
The Imperial Party in disarray
Jettisoning champagne and liver pate
Crying Morbleu! and assassines!
Running like humans to get away
From a thousand rabbits who every one
Was a Chicagov or a Wellington!
From a thousand heroes and everyone
The Waterloo of Napoleon!
And thus it befell that they carried the day
The historic Battle of Rabbit Run
Cony and Cottontail white hare and gray
They sipped champagne and they nibbled pate
And they drank to the day that would surely come
The day of the Rabbit Millennium
When Rabbits’ Rights would outlaw guns
And ragout de lapin and Napoleons
Note on the artwork: Slovenia, where I’ve twice spent Fulbright years, is famous for its beehive art (panjska koncnica). Often there are depictions of animals turning the tables on hunters. Honey is very important in Slovenia as the basis of many of its medications, and hunters could disturb the hives. In the fantasy above, the animals have gained the upper hand but at least are doing more than the hunter would do for them and giving him a proper burial.