Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Miasma


Sick Woman, 1665, by Jan Steen
I gave true my faith to medicine,
did not wrap her up in sweet bouquet;
this mix to be the save of us
could not *miasma keep at bay.

Aquavitae, triacle, urine of virgin boy,
we drank of this across three morns,
drunk his receipt against this plague,
yet it stays with her upon this dawn.

She fevers so yet shivers yet,
cries with despair at paining head,
buboes puff pain at armpit, neck,
under skin bleed tokens,  black, purple, red

He feels at her pulse for well o’er an hour,
her plight fills me with awful dread;
he looks at me with sore forlorn
and I await the cry ‘Bring out your dead’

Anna :o]

The above is ‘work in progress’ and was inspired by Tess’ prompt at The Mag.

1665 was the year of The Great Plague, (also known as The Black Death or Bubonic Plague) which although affecting much of England affected London the most.  London was a filthy city (especially the slum districts) where household and human waste was flung into the street – an ideal breeding ground for black rat and its little jumping chums who infected their rat and human hosts with Yersinia Pestis.

The Bubonic plague presents with general symptoms of fever, vomiting and malaise, this followed by lymph gland enlargement (buboes) and the endotoxin of bacteria leading to bleeding manifestations which ultimately may lead to shock.

The above sounds pretty tame and for a better description read an eyewitness account by William Boghurst (an apothecarist and general practitioner) “Loimographia: an account of the great plague of London in the year 1665.  London" and for wonderful preventative and (supposedly) curative measures please read “A collection of seven and fifty approved receipts good against the plague : taken out of the five books of that renowned Dr. Don Alexes Secrets, for the benefit of the poorer sort of people of these nations. London
Both excellent insights into life in 1665 (and I am so glad I wasn’t alive then!).

The Great Fire of London finally brought to an end the ravages of the plague and life returned to its odd sort of normality…

…and if I wasn’t so damned tired (finished five nightshifts this am) I would write more but now need shut-eye and much zzzzzzzz, but would invite you to google and read more for looking back in history is fascinating stuff.

*Miasma: a theory that disease was linked to a noxious form of ‘bad air’ – hadn’t made the rat connection then...

This post also linked to the good folk at dVerse~Poets Pub.

34 comments:

Dr Erhumu - twitter@drerhumu said...

Beautiful, especially loved the in-line rhymes.
It seems whenever we acquire the knowledge to treat a deadly and devastating plague, a new one comes up.

Mary said...

Stunning work really....the ending "Bring out your dead" makes me sad.

Brian Miller said...

ugh...can you imagine...the early days of medicine alone were brutal as it was as much witch doctoring more than anything...then throw in the plague and being surrounded by death and not knowing what to do...

bring out your dead....can you imagine...shivers...

Adura Ojo said...

Those early days of medicine were indeed brutal. Something about ye ol' English language such as its use in this poem grabs me.

anthonynorth said...

You captured the horror and despair of the time perfectly.

izzy said...

Plague- shudder! and yes there was a mix of magic, potions and herbs!
timing was everything! thanks.

manicddaily said...

This is so cool. I love your vocabulary. It is very well done. Agh. What a time. This was really tremendously interesting. k.

Little Nell said...

Reading some of those 'cures' it's a wonder anybody survived at all. If the plague didn't get them the cure would! Very clever to spot the date and make the link. I like the style of this poem very much.

Other Mary said...

Wonderful poem, finely crafted. I like the historical connection to the plague; that never occurred to me.

Daydreamertoo said...

The Plague has to be one of the worst in the world's history. Imagine walking down the street and someone pouring a pot of pee out of their bedroom window, or poop in it too. Yes, no wonder they caught it. Yuck!
Very atmospheric and ...yuck!

Old Ollie said...

Aquavitae,yes...the rest not so much.

Great piece.

Claudia said...

i've read a book about this time...brutal and some doctors made it worse because they didn't really know what to do...it was a hard time to live back then..

Margaret said...

Oh those "remedies" ... I think I'd prefer witchcraft. Lots of interesting history and rhyme to-boot! Nice.

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Thank you for your welcome comments folks.

Anna :o]

Yvonne Osborne said...

Yummy sounding mixture. I'm glad I wasn't alive then too. Impressive writing, can't believe this is a "work in progress"!

ayala said...

Great piece, Anna.

Arron Shilling said...


plague and darkness - i recently
read a biography of Henry Gray of Grays Anatomy fame, an interesting man and a great read - grizzly times, early science . . .

i think you really capture the essence of the scene and scape
the place V well with colour and language :)

Matthew John Davies said...

I truly wonderful piece, and the contextual information only enriches.

Dave King said...

Interesting to compare the brutality of those days with my early memories, which were of treatments - and professionals - who were gentle, kind and completely ineffective. The bedside manner was all.

I hope we get to see the finished work at some stage. Even in progress it's compelling.

Green Speck said...

This is really very informative ... thanks for sharing ... and yes, you have captured it well in your poem !!!

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Thanks for your kind comments folks.

Yvonne, Dave ~ re 'the work in progress' - I have been tinkering with it since posting, cleaning up loose ends and what I regard as weaknesses and am more happy with it.

Initially I thought I needed more - but is less more? I tend to think I might leave as is (as in length)...

Anna :o]

Ana Eugénio said...

stunning and sad! thank you for commenting Kathy's post at my blog 'wonderland'! I'm your new follower :) xxo

Anna Montgomery said...

Shivers and sadness, what a difficult time, little class movement or hope of escaping your fate. No understanding of vectors, oh, we are fortunate to live in this day and age.

Tumblewords: said...

Excellent piece and the history right in place. Shiver.

Fred Rutherford said...

very strong. Love it, and all the supporting text is outstanding. A masterpiece. Thanks

TariqMian said...

I find your post as among "one of the best."

Amazingly, a blend of poem & prose full of reality and historical facts plus the disadvatges of ignoring health essentials provokes one's thoughts in deed.

Currently, I am extremely busy looking after my ailing mom in the hospital--but later on hopefully, I would love to be a regular visitor to benefit from your beautifully written posts.

NixBlog said...

A wonderful take on this prompt, Anna. We are so insulated in our clean, hygienic, modern, Western lives that death becomes something completely foreign and almost obscene.

The AIDS epidemic in the 1990s shocked the very fabric our existence because it brought death to the fore, something that many people could not cope with. And yet, we only have to visit a developing country and see that death and disease is still a major force and an inevitable part of life.

Being aware of the death that lurks hidden in every corner of our existence can be a life-affirming experience. It forces us to view our life differently and place our priorities in very different baskets...

Jenny Woolf said...

I love it - the poem, not the plague, (in case you could not work that out) :)

It always gives me the willies reading accounts of it - although to be fair, most illnesses sound pretty horrid if you read about them in detail. I often think we are lucky today not to have rats swarming everywhere, actually, let alone the plague!

Friko said...

...beyond the call of duty!

A series of night shifts, yet you produce a poem for Magpie. And go back in time to explain the background.

There's devotion to blogging.

Human Paradox said...

Very interesting and inquisitive work here. Thanks for your comments BTW.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Anna .. Great words for those times of Bubonic Plague and all things gungy - before we'd cleaned life up ...

You were obviously highly stimulated by Tess' prompt .. not being able to sleep - hope you've had some recuperative time since ..

Cheers Hilary

kaykuala said...

Beautiful verse Anna! You've done well with a long historical information to complement the verse! Nicely!

Hank

Jack Edwards Poetry said...

A vivid poem an a good theme. :)

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Thank you for your kind and welcome comments folks.

Anna :o]