Sing the Rat

Ted Hughes

Sing the hole’s plume, the rafter’s cockade
Who melts from the eye-corner, the soft squealer
Pointed at both ends, who chews through lead

Sing the scholarly meek face
Of the penniless rat
Who studies all night
To inherit the house

Sing the riff-raff of the roof-space, who dance till dawn
Sluts in silk, sharpers with sleek moustaches
Dancing the cog-roll, the belly-bounce, the trundle

Sing the tireless hands
Of the hardworking rat
Who demolishes the crust, and does not fail
To sign the spilt flour

The rat, the rat, the ratatatat
The house’s poltergeist, shaped like a shuttle
Who longs to join the family

Sing his bright face, cross-eyed with eagerness
His pin-fingers, that seem too small for the job
Sing his split nose, that looks so sore
O sing his fearless ears, the listener in the wall

Let him jump on your head, let him cling there
Save him from sticks and stones

Sing the rat so poor he thrives on poison
Who has nothing to give to the trap, though it gapes for a year
Except his children
Who prays only to the ferret
‘Forget me’ and to the terrier
‘In every thousand of me, spare two’

Sing him

Who stuffs his velvet purse, in hurry and fear
With the memory of the fork,
The reflections of the spoon, the hope of the knives

Who woos his wife with caperings, who thinks deep

Who is the slave of two fangs

O sing
The long-tailed grey worry of the night-hours
Who always watches and waits
Like a wart on the nose
Even while you snore

O sing
Little Jesus in the wilderness
Carrying the sins of the house
Into every dish, the hated one

O sing
Scupper-tyke, whip-lobber
Smutty-guts, pot-goblin
Garret-whacker, rick-lark
Sump-swab, cupboard-adder
Bobby-robin, knacker-knocker
Sneak-nicker, sprinty-dinty
Pintle-bum