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THE PLAGUE ATHENS

     'Twas such a manner of disease, 'twas such
Mortal miasma in Cecropian lands
Whilom reduced the plains to dead men's bones,
Unpeopled the highways, drained of citizens
The Athenian town. For coming from afar,
Rising in lands of Aegypt, traversing
Reaches of air and floating fields of foam,
At last on all Pandion's folk it swooped;
Whereat by troops unto disease and death
Were they o'er-given. At first, they'd bear about
A skull on fire with heat, and eyeballs twain
Red with suffusion of blank glare. Their throats,
Black on the inside, sweated oozy blood;
And the walled pathway of the voice of man
Was clogged with ulcers; and the very tongue,
The mind's interpreter, would trickle gore,
Weakened by torments, tardy, rough to touch.
Next when that Influence of bane had chocked,
Down through the throat, the breast, and streamed had
E'en into sullen heart of those sick folk,
Then, verily, all the fences of man's life
Began to topple. From the mouth the breath
Would roll a noisome stink, as stink to heaven
Rotting cadavers flung unburied out.
And, lo, thereafter, all the body's strength
And every power of mind would languish, now
In very doorway of destruction.
And anxious anguish and ululation (mixed
With many a groan) companioned alway
The intolerable torments. Night and day,
Recurrent spasms of vomiting would rack
Alway their thews and members, breaking down
With sheer exhaustion men already spent.
And yet on no one's body couldst thou mark
The skin with o'er-much heat to burn aglow,
But rather the body unto touch of hands
Would offer a warmish feeling, and thereby
Show red all over, with ulcers, so to say,
Inbranded, like the "sacred fires" o'erspread
Along the members. The inward parts of men,
In truth, would blaze unto the very bones;
A flame, like flame in furnaces, would blaze
Within the stomach. Nor couldst aught apply
Unto their members light enough and thin
For shift of aid- but coolness and a breeze
Ever and ever. Some would plunge those limbs
On fire with bane into the icy streams,
Hurling the body naked into the waves;

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