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For those considering a comprehensive overview of plague in Medieval Europe, Hirsch’s long poem is extremely useful. Comprised of thirty-five stanzas, it provides an historical account of devastation associated with the onset of plague in Venice in 1347. An inventory of behavioral responses to catastrophic disease illustrates that responses to AIDS frequently mimic irrational behaviors associated with earlier epidemics. There are references to hysteria, scapegoating, flagellants, illness symptoms, escape, desperate cures, and religious fervor.
Summary:In this poem, a young woman with cerebral palsy must withstand the rude stares of children and the withdrawal of adults as they watch her walk to the beach. The narrator has never had a normal appearing body. She likens herself to objects in nature: mantises, crabs, coquinas. While these comparisons are not exactly flattering, they allow her to feel that she belongs in the world of nature. Only in the natural world are her jerky movements considered normal. Sitting on the beach she feels "inconsequential." Yet, the way her body is able to "stay the waves" and "more than stay-Resist," suggests that she is not inconsequential.
This is the story of a woodman who hates the sound of the nightingale. The song unites all the other creatures of the forest. The bird’s music "shook forth the dull oblivion / Out of their dreams; harmony became love / In every soul but one." Every soul except the woodman’s is united by the emotion evoked by the nightingale. The woodman spends his days chopping down trees, each of which contains the soul of a wood nymph and provides beauty and shelter to the world. The world is full, says Shelley, of people like the Woodman who "expel / Love’s gentle Dryads from the haunts of life, / And vex the nightingales in every dell."
Summary:Shelley is writing about the death of his young son, William. He imagines that William's body held a bright spirit who consumed the body of his host. William's body does not lie beneath the headstone. The grave is merely a shrine for the grief of the parents. The child's spirit runs free. Shelley hopes to sense its presence in the colors and scents of the flowers and grasses surrounding the grave.
Summary:There are two short poems by this name. Both are about Mary Shelley's reaction to the death of her son, William (see also To William Shelley in this database). Mary Shelley's depression is so intense that her husband feels as if she too has died. Her body is still there, but her real self has "gone down the dreary road / That leads to Sorrow's most obscure abode." Shelley knows he cannot follow her into depression for her own sake; he must be strong to pull her back.
Summary:Shelley angrily asks why some people chase after death or knowledge of it. To analyze the source of life or the conditions of its end is "vain" curiosity. Such knowledge has no benefit; it merely is a case of man trying to usurp the role of God.
Doctor Bicknell is a very respected surgeon, known for daring. For him, lives mean nothing, but cases mean everything. He is happy this morning, for a fascinating case is being released. The patient, known only by the name Semper Idem had cut his throat. The doctor miraculously saved him and on releasing him, advised him to next time keep his throat tilted back. The man returns the same day. This time he has done the job so well Doctor Bicknell cannot save him. Bicknell is not upset; indeed, he is rather proud that the man did such a good job.
Summary:The poem is an exchange of questions and answers that compares life to a journey. The journey is up-hill all the way, but at the end is an inn, a resting place, that cannot be missed and which has a room for everyone.
Summary:This is a description and thank you to a female gynecologist and supporter of birth control who lived and worked in the 1930s. The narrator describes the gentleness and respect that marked the doctor's practice.