There is a plague upon us.
Would that ours were as that pest
that by God’s occulted will
rose in a fiery brazen lust
to snatch the child from the mother’s breast,
and stifle the virgin in her fair repose,
and slay the soldier in his hour of rest.
Would that ours, as that Black Death,
turned the soil it tilled.
Would that ours were as that southern fright
that tore a war-torn generation,
seizing the young and unmatured,
casting nocturne on the night
painting pains with novel blight
sowing hopelessness with fatigue
to slay the soldier in his might.
Would that ours, as that Spanish Maid,
should to demise make us well inured.
Would these horrors were our horrors,
for then we could call them circumstance,
and grow and gain from all our sorrows,
gleaning courage from the maw of terrors
and drawing truth from venomed errors
and fortitude from chance,
like soldiers braving Apollo’s arrows.
Would that ours, as these elder plagues,
were the child of the body and the world at dance.
But ours is but a plague within,
a plague of soul and spirit lone,
that shows us forth as weak and craven —
we, who’ve masked our virtue for a bartered sin
and bent to chance with the first slender stone
to immure our hearts and wall us in,
to enclose us to barren security.
Oh, there is a swarm upon us —
a plague of politico, magnate and maven.
Yet ours is ere a plague of soul —
the wind that cannot right the bark,
the mind that can’t adjudge the flood,
the will that has misplaced the goal
and dreads to die, for it fears the soul
is but a midwife’s tale
and the Word of God a pious lie.
Would that we, o brothers mine,
o sisters, o bondsmen of my blood,
would no longer fret to live
nor fear to die nor insolvent cower
ere our time’s upon us;
would that we should cease to o’erly grieve
those who have been timely rived
and by God’s will taken from us,
nor to writhing ague nor needling cure our lives enslave.
Would that right and freedom and piety
were more to us than Croesus, Asclepius or Adonis.
Yet if this flood must break before it turn,
then let us burn to keep our fires alit,
and if we must fever ere we may burn —
then so a plague, a plague upon us!