To A Mouse by Robert Burns
“To A Mouse” is Burns’s apology to a field mouse whose nest he had disturbed. He in turn reflected on the nature of life, and how despite our best intentions and efforts, things out of our control can ruin our plans (“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/ Gang aft agley”).
Burns mentions that he could easily spare the one ear of corn in 24 sheaves that the mouse would eat and that it’s only fair that the mouse think of its survival. As he was clearly a sensitive, thoughtful man, we’d probably recommend a live capture mousetrap, so he can relocate the tim’rous beastie to an unused field or the forest.
Diary of a Church Mouse by John Betjeman
“Diary of a Church Mouse” follows a church mouse in its day-to-day life, in which it eats scraps of food like straw and sawdust and scurries around by itself. It then notes that the only time it feasts is during the Harvest Festival in autumn, but that godless mice and other rodents find that a convenient time to sneak in and eat, too. This all culminates in the final lines, where the church mouse marvels at “how very full the church can be/ With people I don’t see at all/ Except at Harvest Festival.”
The church needs help from Ehrlich, and the people in the church could be sure that their Harvest Festival offerings aren’t nibbled by mice.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning
This poem tells the story of the town of Hamelin, which was over-run with rats. A man appeared and assured the town that he could drive out the pests – he had the power to enchant any living creature with his piping. The city offered him 1000 guilders if he got rid of the rats. He then led all the rats to the river, where they all drowned (except for a very strong rat, who was able to swim to the other bank, but that’s rather incidental).
When the piper asked for his fee, the mayor refused, reasoning that 1. the dead rats couldn’t be brought back into the city, and 2. he’d rather spend the money on wines for the city’s banquets. One thousand guilders is worth around £390, which was a lot of money in the Middle Ages, but nonetheless, the piper insisted, saying not even the caliph in Baghdad could haggle with him. So the piper played his pipe and drove all the city’s children off a cliff. Except for one child, who was physically incapable of keeping up with the other children, so he didn’t get to the cliff’s edge by the time the piper stopped playing.
Here at Rentokil we believe that education and prevention is a far better use of resource, so had the company existed in the middle ages the Pied Piper would have been out of business.
The Moths by Mary Oliver
“The Moths” is a less easily-penetrated poem, certainly more dense than The Pied Piper of Hamelin, anyway, but it reflects on white moths fluttering in the forest. These moths lead the narrator to reflect on the pain that occurs when you realise the world won’t be perfect and on the moment you accept that your life is not that significant and you’re okay with that.
Normally, we’re okay with moths staying in forests where they won’t cause any damage to our property, but some moths might need to be taken care of, even if they are in the woods. The narrator doesn’t know what kind of moth she watched, but if it had been the oak processionary moth, she would need to be worried.
Oak processionary moths can devastate forests, particularly in parts of northern Europe where the moths don’t have natural predators to keep their populations under control. Moreover, the caterpillars are covered in bristly hairs that contain a toxin that can cause rashes. The bristles also break off easily and can become airborne. If they are then inhaled, the hairs can cause pharyngitis, an asthma attack or anaphylaxis. Needless to say, it is a moth that needs to be controlled professionally in areas like England, where they are not naturally found and therefore do not have natural predators.
The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams
This poem is widely considered a masterpiece, and though not as famous as “This is Just to Say”, it contains all the hallmarks of Williams’ work. It takes a mundane moment in life and injects it with more meaning than you would expect possible.
In “The Red Wheelbarrow”, we are taken through a scene on a farm, or perhaps someone’s garden, where a red wheelbarrow sits next to some chickens. Williams points out that the wheelbarrow, though mundane in every way – even a very normal colour – is actually indispensible. Nonetheless, it sits outside, exposed to the elements, and clearly forgotten by its owner while it’s not in use.
This might not seem like a scene that we would care much about, from a pest prevention perspective, but it is. See, the wheelbarrow is “glistening with rain/ water”, which means it is quickly becoming the perfect vehicle for mosquitoes to lay their eggs. Mosquitoes prefer pools of stagnant water for their eggs, as their larvae feed on algae and bacteria in the water, and a wet wheelbarrow is perfect for that. So we would ruin this poem by making sure the farmer takes care of his wheelbarrow, making sure that he knows to keep water out of it and storing it in a place where it won’t collect water.
All of which misses the point of the poem: the everyday things we take for granted, from wheelbarrows to relationships, are often the most important things we have.