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Myxomatosis is an infectious disease among rabbits which is related to the pox. In 1950, it was artificially introduced from Brazil, where it was discovered in the 1930's, into Australia to kill off the overpopulation of rabbits. Among Brazilian rabbits, it causes minor discomfort; among European species, it is fatal.

It was brought to France from Australia in 1953 by a Frenchman who wished to control the rabbit population on his estate near Paris, and spread, predictably, from there to Great Britain. It spreads through parasites, and not through direct contact, so a well-cared-for pet rabbit should not be at risk.

The disease usually kills in about two weeks. The first symptoms are blindness from the swelling of the tissue around the the eyes. At this point, feeding and drinking are difficult, and secondary symptoms that result from lack of nutrition can set in. Most wild rabbits, once blind, are easy prey for wolves and foxes. The natural progression of the disease ends with a fatal lung infection.

In 1955, Philip Larkin wrote this poem about the disease, entitled (fittingly) "Myxomatosis."

Myxomatosis

Caught in the center of a soundless field
While hot inexplicable hours go by
What trap is this? Where were its teeth concealed?
You seem to ask.
I make a sharp reply,
then clean my stick. I'm glad I can't explain
Just in what jaws you were to supporate:
You may have thought things would come right again
If you could only keep quite still and wait.

Here is my favourite poem:
Myxomatosis
by Spike Milligan

A baby rabbit
With eyes full of pus
This is the work
Of scientific us

Another, albeit untitled, poem from Spike Milligan on the subject, from his book of various collected poems, stories and miscellaneous Milligan humour, The Bedside Milligan:

Rabbits they say
Are very scarce to-day
My diagnosis?
Myxamatowsis.

Notice the outdated spelling of "today", and Milligan's own approximation of myxomatosis. These are included because the version printed in the original is a reproduction of the original, hand-written by the author. It is interesting to note that there is only one adjustment (a deleted "is" before myxamatowsis), which perhaps indicates just how naturally such wonderful comedy flowed from the pen of the late great Goon.

As with all poetry, this poem must be seen in context to be appreciated. The book is peppered with Milligan's poems, most of which are no longer than this. After all, Milligan is the man who published a poem titled "String", reproduced in its entirety here:

String
Is a wonderful thing.

The poem is attached to another original creation by the hand of the author - a picture of an elephant, labelled "Non Rabbit Elephant". Wonderful.

The majority of his poems were, as one would expect, similarly comic and pithy. Nevertheless, as if to illustrate the often-discussed proximity of comedy and tragedy, Milligan suffered frequent bouts of manic depression through-out his life. These probably stemmed from his shell-shock incurred during his military service in the Second World War, but shell-shock was not a recognised condition at the time and the traumatised young soldier was thrown back into the ranks. This depression, and his thoughts on war, influenced another poem from the same book, named "The Young Soldiers":

Why are they lying in some distant land
Why did they go, did they understand?
Young men they were
Young men they stay
But why did we send them away, away?

The contrast of the two poems, just a few pages apart, is startling.


CST Approved

The text above is reproduced from Spike Milligan's "The Bedside Milligan", but without the permission of the original copyright holder. However, since it falls within the realms of 'fair use' (see the CST link above), it has been cleared.

(Judge, Jury & Executioner)

This song strangled me. As soon as the machine-drone falling synths and spitfire percussion kicked in I simply forgot to breathe. No in. No out. Completely still, tingling, and frightened. I didn't remember to inhale until a few moments after Thom Yorke's schizoaffective mumbling fell into place. Myxomatosis is an aggressive, claustrophobic song. The minimalist, menacing scales pad heavily beside Thom's sullen melodies, accompanied by a relentless cascade of beats, hollow and distorted metallic scratches, and extraterrestrial whines. This is simply migraine inducing stuff; it assaults as it serenades.

In interviews, Thom has declared that Myxomatosis is about mind control. The nail that sticks up gets hammered down. The nightmarish world woven around the speaker is rapidly growing beyond his ability to comprehend it. All around him he sees people turning into gibbering wrecks, mere shells to contain the mania of an existence that's lost all meaning. In a feat of pathetic arrogance, he feels himself to be the only person free of this disease, this myxomatosis deliberately released upon the docile population. Every attempt he makes to understand or explain it is leveled, and with increasing isolation he slips into the communal madness himself. His words become garbled and unintelligable. All he can clearly articulate is his inability to speak. I don't know why I feel so tongue tied.

Myxomatosis reinforces an emotion of complete helplessness that courses throughout Hail to the Thief. It embraces an extremely common theme of Radiohead's: alienation in an increasingly complex and impersonal society, but by making a metaphor of the devestating disease introduced by man that nearly wiped out the rabbit species in Britain, Thom concocts a new, sinster edge to this theme. The song first appeared in Lisbon, Portugal during Radiohead's June 22, 2002 performance. Its structure is much looser in concert than as settled in the studio, much like The National Anthem. The chorus ("I don't... skinned alive") during which everything cuts out except the drums was also used in the B-side Cuttooth off the Knives Out single. Thom must've taken a liking to it.

Keen-eyed thebigbadme kindly noted further lyrical borrowings within the song. The line, "I sat in the cupboard and wrote it down in neat," appeared alone in red on a page of Kid A's secret booklet concealed beneath the CD tray. Likewise, the slightly modified line, "We did some of his card tracks for the mafia geeks." Rarely does a Radiohead song stand absolutely alone among the band's body of work.

There are two lyrical versions of the song: the lyrics listed in the Hail to the Thief booklet and the lyrics as they are actually sung on the studio release. I will give the sung version


The mongrel cat came home
Holding half a head
Proceeded to show it off
To all his new-found friends

He said, "I've been to where I like.
  "I've slept with who I like.
    "She ate me up for breakfast.
      "She screwed me in a vice.

"But now,
I
   don't
           know
                  why I
                           feel
                                  so
                                       tongue

                                                tied."

I sat in the cupboard
And wrote it down in neat

They were cheering and waving
  cheering and waving
    twitching and salivating
                                                 like with myxomatosis.

But it got edited fucked up
Strangled beaten up
Used as a photo in Time magazine
Buried in a burning black hole in Devon

And now,
I
   don't
           know
                  why I
                           feel
                                  so
                                       tongue
                                                tied.
Don't
        know
               why
                     I feel
                               so
                                     skinned
                                               a-
                                                     live.

My thoughts are misguided and a little naïve
I twitch and I salivate

                                                 like with myxomatosis.

You should put me in a home or you should
Put me down

                                                 I got myxomatosis.
                                                 I got myxomatosis.

Yeah and no one likes a smart arse
But we all like stars
(Oh please) That wasn't my intention
(blah blah)
I did it for a reason (reason)

It must've got mixed up
Strangled
Beaten up

                                                 I got myxomatosis.
                                                 I got myxomatosis.

And now,
I
   don't
           know
                  why I
                           feel
                                  so
                                       tongue

                                                tied.

Radiohead/Hail to the Thief/2003/Track 12


In concordance with E2's new copyright policy, a second listing of lyrics as they were given in the album's booklet has been removed. The currently cited lyrics run to 211 words, the analytical content stands at 450. This fits within fair use guidelines. Questions, objections, or concerns: please message me and I'll reply as soon as possible.

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