Friday, March 27, 2020

Poetry Friday: The Influenza, 1890 - Winston Churchill

The Influenza, 1890 - Winston Churchill, age 15
Oh how shall I its deeds recount Or measure the untold amount Of ills that it has done? From China's bright celestial land E'en to Arabia's thirsty sand It journeyed with the sun. O'er miles of bleak Siberia's plains Where Russian exiles toil in chains It moved with noiseless tread; And as it slowly glided by There followed it across the sky The spirits of the dead. The Ural peaks by it were scaled And every bar and barrier failed To turn it from its way; Slowly and surely on it came, Heralded by its awful fame, Increasing day by day. On Moscow's fair and famous town Where fell the first Napoleon's crown It made a direful swoop; The rich, the poor, the high, the low Alike the various symptoms know, Alike before it droop. Nor adverse winds, nor floods of rain Might stay the thrice-accursed bane; And with unsparing hand, Impartial, cruel and severe It travelled on allied with fear And smote the fatherland. Fair Alsace and forlorn Lorraine, The cause of bitterness and pain In many a Gaelic breast, Receive the vile, insatiate scourge, And from their towns with it emerge And never stay nor rest. And now Europa groans aloud, And 'neath the heavy thunder-cloud Hushed is both song and dance; The germs of illness wend their way To westward each succeeding day And enter merry France. Fair land of Gaul, thy patriots brave Who fear not death and scorn the grave Cannot this foe oppose, Whose loathsome hand and cruel sting, Whose poisonous breath and blighted wing Full well thy cities know. In Calais port the illness stays, As did the French in former days, To threaten Freedom's isle; But now no Nelson could o'erthrow This cruel, unconquerable foe, Nor save us from its guile. Yet Father Neptune strove right well To moderate this plague of Hell, And thwart it in its course; And though it passed the streak of brine And penetrated this thin line, It came with broken force. For though it ravaged far and wide Both village, town and countryside, Its power to kill was o'er; And with the favouring winds of Spring (Blest is the time of which I sing) It left our native shore. God shield our Empire from the might Of war or famine, plague or blight And all the power of Hell, And keep it ever in the hands Of those who fought 'gainst other lands, Who fought and conquered well.

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