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With losse that touched yet more nere, on Husbandmen it crept,
And ragingly within the walles of this great Citie stept.
It tooke men first with swelting heate that scalt their guts within:
The signes whereof were steaming breath and firie colourde skin.
The tongue was harsh and swolne, the mouth through drought of burning veines
Lay gaping up to hale in breath, and as the pacient streines
To draw it in, he suckes therewith corrupted Aire beside.
No bed, no clothes though nere so thinne the pacients could abide.
But laide their hardened stomackes flat against the bare colde ground
Yet no abatement of the heate therein their bodies found:
But het the earth, and as for Leache was none that helpe could hight.
The Surgians and Phisitions too were in the selfesame plight.
Their curelesse cunning hurt themselves. The nerer any man
Approcheth his diseased friend, and doth the best he can
To succor him most faithfully, the sooner did he catch
His bane. All hope of health was gone. No easment nor dispatch
Of this disease except in death and buriall did they finde.
Looke, whereunto that eche mans minde and fancie was enclinde,
That followed he. He never past what was for his behoofe.
For why? that nought could doe them good was felt too much by proofe.
In everie place without respect of shame or honestie
At Wels, at brookes, at ponds, at pits, by swarmes they thronging lie:
But sooner might they quench their life than staunch their thirst thereby.
And therewithall so heavie and unwieldie they become,
That wanting power to rise againe, they died there. Yet some
The selfesame waters guzled still without regard of feare,
So weary of their lothsome beds the wretched people were,
That out they lept: or if to stand their feeble force denide,
They wallowed downe and out of doores immediatly them hide:
It was a death to every man his owne house to abide.
And for they did not know the cause whereof the sicknesse came,
The place (bicause they did it know) was blamed for the same.
Ye should have seene some halfe fordead go plundring here and there
By highways sides while that their legges were able them to beare.
And some lie weeping on the ground or rolling piteously
Their wearie eyes which afterwards should never see the Skie:
Or stretching out their limmes to Heaven that overhangs on hie,
Some here, some there, and yonder some, in what so ever coste
Death finding them enforced them to yeelde their fainting Ghoste.
What heart had I, suppose you, then, or ought I then to have?
In faith I might have lothde my life, and wisht me in my grave
As other of my people were. I could not cast mine eie
In any place, but that dead folke there strowed I did spie
Even like as from a shaken twig when rotten Apples drop,
Or Mast from Beches, Holmes or Okes when Poales doe scare their top.
Yon stately Church with greeces long against our Court you see:
It is the shrine of Jupiter. What Wight was he or shee
That on those Altars burned not their frankincense in vaine?
How oft, yet even with Frankincense that partly did remaine
Still unconsumed in their hands, did die both man and wife,
As ech of them with mutuall care did pray for others life?
How often dyde the mother there in suing for hir sonne,
Unheard upon the Altarstone, hir prayer scarce begonne?
How often at the Temple doore even while the Priest did bid
His Beades, and poure pure wine betwene their homes, at sodaine slid
The Oxen downe without stroke given? Yea once when I had thought
My selfe by offring sacrifice Joves favor to have sought,
For me, my Realme, and these three ymps, the Oxe with grievous grone
Upon the sodaine sunke me downe: and little bloud or none
Did issue scarce to staine the knife with which they slit his throte.
The sickly inwardes eke had lost the signes whereby we note
What things the Gods for certaintie would warne us of before:
For even the verie bowels were attainted with the sore.
Before the holie Temple doores, and (that the death might bee
The more dispitefull) even before the Altars did I see
The stinking corses scattred. Some with haltars stopt their winde,
By death expulsing feare of death: and of a wilfull minde
Did haste their ende, which of it selfe was coming on apace.
The bodies which the plague had slaine were (O most wretched case)
Not caried forth to buriall now. For why such store there was
That scarce the gates were wyde inough for Coffins forth to passe.
So eyther lothly on the ground unburied did they lie,
Or else without solemnitie were burnt in bonfires hie.
No reverence nor regard was had. Men fell togither by
The eares for firing. In the fire that was prepared for one
Another straungers corse was burnt. And lastly few or none
Were left to mourne. The sillie soules of Mothers with their small
And tender babes, and age with youth as Fortune did befall
Went wandring gastly up and downe unmourned for at all.
In fine so farre outrageously this helpelesse Murren raves,
There was not wood inough for fire, nor ground inough for graves.
Astonied at the stourenesse of so stout a storme of ills
I said: O father Jupiter whose mightie power fulfills
Both Heaven and Earth, if flying fame report thee not amisse
In vouching that thou didst embrace in way of Love ere this
The River Asops daughter, faire Aegina even by name,
And that to take me for thy sonne thou count it not a shame:
Restore thou me my folke againe, or kill thou me likewise.
He gave a signe by sodaine flash of lightning from the Skies,
And double peale of Thundercracks. I take this same (quoth I)
And as I take it for a true and certaine signe whereby
Thou doest confirme me for thy sonne: so also let it be
A hansell of some happie lucke thou mindest unto me.
Hard by us as it hapt that time, there was an Oken tree
With spreaded armes as bare of boughes as lightly one shall see.
This tree (as all the rest of Okes) was sacred unto Jove
And sprouted of an Acorne which was fet from Dodon grove.
Here markt we how the pretie Ants, the gatherers up of graine,
One following other all along in order of a traine,
Great burthens in their little mouthes did painfully sustaine:
And nimbly up the rugged barke their beaten path maintaine.
As wondring at the swarme I stoode, I said: O father deere
As many people give thou me, as Ants are creeping heere.
And fill mine empty walles againe. Anon the Oke did quake,
And unconstreynde of any blast, his loftie braunches shake,
The which did yeeld a certaine sound. With that for dreadfull feare
A shuddring through my bodie strake and up stoode stiffe my heare.
But yet I kissed reverently the ground and eke the tree.
Howbeit I durst not be so bolde of hope acknowne to bee.
Yet hoped I: and in my heart did shroude my secret hope.
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