Hunting the Pottamouse

By T. M Clarke & B.F.Clark



On a cold grey day in the month of May

In the middle of town, not up, not down,

A Pottamouse escaped from a train,

Shortly before it started to rain.

The circus alerted the local gendarmes

Who ran into the streets and sounded alarms

But the rain washed away every trace of a trail

The Pottamouse hunt was destined to fail.


The people, they said, should stay in bed,

Or hide in a box with very strong locks

While the experts plotted the plan

To begin a nationwide scan.

But progress was halted before they began.

Despite all their knowledge, not one, to a man

Could honestly claim they had seen such a beast,

Not even a picture, or heard one at least!


They scratched and they fumed and they rolled-up their eyes,

They pulled at their beards, they pulled at their ties,

They called out the experts, consulted rare books,

They pondered their findings with serious looks,

They stood on their chairs and commanded attention,

The crisis demanded some sort of invention,

That once it was started would seek out the place

Where the Pottamouse hid, if even a trace

Of the creature in all of the land could be found.

A device which was some sort of ‘Pottamouse hound’.



They printed a poster asking for those

Who had built such machines or thought they would know

How such a contraption could perhaps be constructed

Or at least how this project should best be conducted.

How many people, what tools one should use

Which widget? What gidget? The length of the screws?

What size are the questions you feed in the top?

How long do you wait for the thinking to stop?

They posted the posters across all the land

And hoped that their message would soon reach their man.


Then off in the distance a huffing and puffing

Came Alistair Harold McLester Von Something.

An eminent maker of things most peculiar

Late of Vienna the son of a jeweler,

Who once in his youth had designed a device

That everyone said had done something quite nice

For which he'd been given all kinds of awards

Which he kept on the wall of his office,

in Lourdes


He ran in a clatter of people and things

His coattails shot out at the back like great wings

His face was as big and as round and as red

As the face of the sun when it slips into bed

And all of the people who lived in the town

Came out of their houses and danced all around,

But cries of great joy soon turned to dismay,

For the great Alistair was in much disarray.


He rummaged through bags,

Throwing clothes here and there,

Pantaloons, socks and huge underwear.

All were amazed by his wonderful garments ,

While he searched every trunk, every secret compartment.

He stopped for an instant, his chin held in thought,

Then dove back right in to the chest he had brought

home from a visit to a land in the East

Where he'd built a Caboozle for an eminent High Priest.


But all of his searching and all of his fussing

Gave rise to nought, in his hand he held nothing.

And the people looked on thinking maybe they oughtn't,

But what could be missing that he found so important?

Then he turned to the crowd, and they each backed away

And heard Alistair state with sombre dismay,

"I have mislaid by glasses and without them can't find

Not even my own shadow. I'm rendered quite blind.


They're made from rare crystal from Solomon's mines

and have some kind of magic which helps me draw lines

Of fantastic inventions born in my brain

But without them, I tell you, my ideas are quite lame.

The crowd  had gone silent, their hopes all subdued,

When a girl about eight said, "I don't mean to be rude,

But I think you're quite silly, Mr Alistair Von Something,

For while you were fussing and fretting and frumping,

And getting all hot and turning quite red,

Your glasses were all along perched on your head"


Quite true!  Quite true!  Now we're getting somewhere!

He snatched his bifocals from under his hair

And perching them high on the bridge of his nose

Set about digging through all of the clothes

He kept in the marvelous bag at his feet

There was something for everyone

Right down the street.


There were cottons from Persia and silks from Beijing

There were tweeds from South London fit for a king!

There were satin penumbras and linen cravats

And fantastic, fabulous, outrageous hats!

He was crying "No questions!  Don't ask! Put them on!"

"One to each, don't be greedy!  Go on!  Do go on!"

There were hats made with feathers from Nightengale Swans

There were hats made from fruit and from chocolate bon bons,

There were hats made from things that you can't say out loud,

And he threw every one of them out to the crowd.


Now all of the people in their marvelous regalia

Found a new faith in this man from Westphalia.

Surely a gent who had traveled so far,

Dined with Kings, danced with Queens, met a venerable Czar,

Talked with the gurus in far flung Tibet,

Taught princes in Prussia how to fish with a net,

Would not fail in his task to build a device

That could hunt down the Pottamouse in less than a trice.


"I will need a large table and big sheets of paper.

A long pointy pencil, and a rubber eraser,

I'll need Indian ink, the best you can buy,

And a pen that won't squirt any back in my eye.

I want a room in an attic so I can see far

And a big brass telescope to find the North Star.

For every inventor must know where he's going

To prevent his attention from to-ing and fro-ing.


They did all he asked with greatest of speed

They did all they could, satisfied every need.

And soon all was ready for him to begin,

So he opened the door and strode right on in.

A vast table before him and diverse utensils:

The ink that he'd asked for and long pointy pencils.

He rested his coat on the back of a chair,

Looked out of the window and ruffled his hair.

His brain started whirring as he paced back and forth.

Then he felt that familiar seed of a thought.



He sent to the East for a barrel of springs,

He sent to the West for some bob-a-ma-things,

He sent to the North for two dozen fly-wheels ,

He sent to the  South for electrical eels.


Then he stuck them together in shapes most profound

With some stick-em-up-stuff he had lying around.

Then he gave it a kick to start the unwinder,

And lo and behold! A Pottamouse finder!


He leaped at the door just in time to unlock it,

The Pottamouse finder was out like a rocket.

It sped up the street with the best of intentions,

It was one of his very most awesome inventions!


The people, they scattered as it ran through the town,

Sniffing them up and sniffing them down.

It looked under benches and round the town clock.

It searched all the boats tied up at the dock.

It spun round three times wond’ring where to go next,

Then spun round five more, looking quite perplexed,

When Alistair at last came huffing and blowing, saying,

“Of course my machine doesn’t know where it’s going!”

I must give it these questions which I have in my vest,

Which are quite fundamental for completing the quest.”


He held up the papers and read them out loud,

Listened to now by a gathering crowd.

“Is it ten feet tall, or four-feet three?

Does it live in a hole, or on top of a tree?

Is it covered in fur, or is it’s skin colored red?

Did anyone find one hiding under their bed?

Can it swim in the ocean like a great blue whale?

Does it have a tuft at the end of its tail?

Does it come out at night and creep all around?

Or curl up to doze in a cave under ground?”


He rolled up the questions and stuffed them right in,

Hoping the search would right ‘way begin.


Have you ever seen something that’s started to boil,

With it’s lid screwed down tight ‘til the rivets uncoil.

It bulges and chatters and whistles and steams,

Then just before blowing it sits there and screams?

Well, that’s just how the thing-a-ma-whatzit looked then,

As it scanned all the data, then scanned it again.

Then, just as the crowd was beginning to cringe,

It blew off two widgets and half of a hinge.


Up like a tornado, or whirly-ma-gig.

Leaving dresses a-swirling, dancing a jig.

Wrapped in a cloud of dust and of leaves,

It rose from the ground, up over the trees.

Over the steeple, leaving church bells a-clanging.

Over the houses, their shutters a-banging.


Up to the sky in a great arc it rose,

‘til it looked no bigger than Tom Thumb’s nose.

The people, they stood there in utter amazement.

You could say that their look was one of agazement.

The dust settled round them, as they looked to the sky.

Then Alistair shouted, “My gosh. It can fly!”


The crowd was astounded, astonished and quiet,

They were perfectly flummoxed, and none could deny it.

Then Alistair cried, “It’s coming back down!

On the top of that hill on the far edge of town!”


The townspeople clustered much closer together,

Wondering how, what, why, when, where, whether.

None dared to be first to rush to the hill,

So they watched as the Pottamouse finder stopped still

Next to some creature as big as a house,

That was shaped like a teapot and also a mouse.

With ears and a tail, three feet and a spout,

With hairy chin whiskers, a quivering snout,

And eyes big as cartwheels, stuck on a head

Exactly the shape of a loaf of French bread.


The Pottamouse, terrified, trembled a mite,

Afraid that the finder was going to bite.

For this creature, though seeming a fierce apparition,

Possessed a perfectly mild disposition.

Misjudged for its looks at a very young age,

It was sold to a circus and locked in a cage.

Thought to be vicious and strong as an ox,

They kept it locked up in it’s cage in a box.

They added a hole so you could see through

For a dollar a look, or one-fifty for two.


They fed it with mice and rats and live snakes,

But eventually discovered  it ate only cakes!

Black Forest and Angel and sometimes Dundee,

And anything with chocolate it scoffed up with glee.

But now this poor creature, alone and quite scared,

By the Pottamouse finder, was securely ensnared.

Over the hill, the people came running,

Headed by the venerable Mr. Von Something.

Drawing close to the scene, he slowed down and then stopped.

His eyes grew quite wide and his bottom jaw dropped.

He could hardly believe what he saw with his eyes.

It was bigger and older, but he still recognized

His first great creation he’d made in his youth

From an old china teapot and a very sweet tooth;

Some things from the shed at the back of the house;

French bread for a head and some essence of mouse.


Some stories they end with a bang and a shout.

Some stories linger then fade slowly out,

Some stories just seem to go on forever,

But this story that we have been telling together,

Ends in a spot on the top of hill,

With everyone gathered round tightly to thrill

To the sight of the fabulous Pottamouse thing,

Which, happy to see them, had started to sing

A song that was sung when the world was still new,

Of things half-remembered, as old the day grew.


And when at the very far end of the song,

The shadows behind them had stretched out so long

That they reached as far as the village below,

They bade their farewells and made quickly to go,

While professor McLester Von Something looked down

On the day fading over the roofs of the town,

And the houses with windows that sparkled with light,

He searched for some words to set everything right.


Then at last with a sigh, a smile, now at ease,

He lifted his forefinger  into the breeze,

And patting the Pottamouse on it’s forehead

Looked into it’s eyes and  affectionately said,

“Oh what a magnificent thing I’ve created!”

(The Pottamouse purred and grew slightly inflated).

Then patting him under the base of his spout,

He turned, and with no one to see them about,

As night gathered closely to bid them farewell,

And down in the village they rang the church bell,

Professor Von Something, the finder and “Pot”,

(The name he affectionately called his what-not)

Were lost to the present and part of the past,

And so is our story – so long,

At long last. 


T. M. Clarke & B.F.Clark copyright 1996

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