Venice Treacle

Its London in 1665 so hold your nose they

Blamed a parcel of silks sent from the Levant, amid the fug

Amulets and charms were in vogue not

Oximeters, wizards and fortune-tellers preferred to

Press conferences with boffins

Remedies like garlic tobacco and Venice treacle sold out for want of

Mouthwash and high dose vitamin C while

Handkerchiefs soaked in vinegar served as masks in the stink they burned

Resin and pitch brimstone and gunpowder to kill effluvia and

Parishes had examiners and watchmen to trace contacts as

Woman-searchers poked the dead for tokens like

Blisters and boils and patients wound up not in ICU but

Pest-houses where swellings got cauterised or a poultice, and apart from bird-song and

Screams there was silence in the streets

Rifled victims bounced through the mire in dead-carts not ambulances and

Outbreaks of the pox had to be notified, though

Lock-down (they called it sequestration) for forty days

Drove some out of their minds, while those who risked going out for provisions

Were said to be the ruin of the whole City which had

Food banks only it was called Poor Relief and for fear of contagion

Butchers served offal on hooks then dropped customers' cash into a pot of vinegar as wary

Grocers stuck to open fields, the pestilence caused prices to soar and the

Rich left for the country as physicians and mountebanks alike died and

Ports were quarantined, while the dead and half-alive went alone to burial pits and

Apps being few and far between, Magistrates decreed a

Red cross should mark dwellings that had been visited

Old people were left to dangle, wandering beggars banned, dogs and cats killed off and

Black humour flourished, theatres and tippling houses got shut,

Servants smothered seedy masters with wet clouts for gold and strangers copped it,

KIng Charles fled the capital for Oxford while folk got laid off, daily

Daily death tolls were queried as scientists argued the toss the

Asymptomatic breathed death on others, and some talked of the

Of the Day of Judgement; a Quaker called Solomon Eagle ran naked through the streets with a pan of burning

Charcoal on his head fraudsters blossomed in the black market but

Three hundred and fifty years on

Its the age of science

Today things are different


WIth acknowledgement to A Journal of the Plague Year (1722) by Daniel Defore



1665distemperlock-downLondon plaguepoxVenice treacle

◄ The Servant

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Fri 22nd May 2020 14:17

Great write... Daniel would be very proud of you and of this, were it his Simon.


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