The Last Rabbit

When I was at school studying for O level English I was made to read 2 poems. The first one was Alexander Pope’s “Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot”, and it shows how much I enjoyed it that I can only remember the first line. Even in the exam I could only quote that first line and as to what it meant, well, I’ve no idea.

The second poem was much better and more on my wavelength – “To see the rabbit.” It’s a poem written about an alternate world where there is a distinct lack of natural spaces. There are no forests, significant patches of grass, or animals, even in captivity. It is the “final” rabbit that we are going to see.

Back in 1976 when I studied this poem the main ideas were lost in the teaching of how each stanza fitted the next or why the author separated the poem in to uneven verses.

Years later I have come to think about this poem again. The last rabbit in England on the last small patch of grass. Rabbits reproduce prolifically so how can there only be one left? Where has all the grass gone? This is a world where humans reign supreme, where we have not thought about the environment and now it could be too late to change our ways.

But that’s just a poem isn’t it, written a long time ago? It can’t be relevant to today can it?

Well, here’s the poem, or part of it. If you want to read the rest you will find it on the internet.

To See the Rabbit.

We are going to see the rabbit.
We are going to see the rabbit.
Which rabbit, people say?
Which rabbit , ask the children?
Which rabbit?
The only rabbit,
The only rabbit in England,
Sitting behind a barbed-wire fence
Under the floodlights, neon lights,
Sodium lights,
Nibbling grass
On the only patch of grass
In England, in England
(except the grass by the hoardings
Which doesn’t count.)
We are going to see the rabbit
And we must be there on time.
First we shall go by escalator,
Then we shall go by underground,
And then we shall go by motorway,
And then by helicopterway,
And the last 10 yards we shall have to go
On foot.

I love the natural world, as you probably realise. Forty four years ago I read this and thought it was far fetched; there could never be a time when there was only one patch of grass and one rabbit in England, and maybe there never will but the point is that through the way humans live their lives a great impact has been made on nature and on the world.

Psalm 24:1-2
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.
The world and all its people belong to him.
For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas
and built it on the ocean depths.

Psalm 95:1-7
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.

A prayer for our world.
Father, help us to understand that we and all your creation depend on you and on one another. Teach us how to be good stewards of all that you have given us to care for, and help us to banish from our actions all greed, selfishness and short-term thinking.
(Green Christian Prayer.)


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