Defoe: Journal of the Plague Year

“The truth is, the case of poor servants was very dismal, as I shall have occasion to mention again by-and-by, for it was apparent a prodigious number of them would be turned away, and it was so. And of them abundance perished, and particularly of those that these false prophets had flattered with hopes that they should be continued in their services, and carried with their masters and mistresses into the country; and had not public charity provided for these poor creatures, whose number was exceeding great and in all cases of this nature must be so, they would have been in the worst condition of any people in the city.”

Almost 350  years ago, Defoe went through a “plague year” and I am not surprised, nor shocked, to see that he was concerned about the people who had little or no money and those who had been “flattered with hope” by the likes of “priests” and “astrologers”.

You can dip into this volume at Gutenberg.org and reflect upon how little human nature ever changes.  We are always repeating and reenacting the woes of the past; the popular delusions and denials; the magical thinking.   My son is scornful of those who retreat to their Martha Vineyard’s spreads.  So little news, however, concerns the homeless and the deeply financially insecure.   I am almost paranoid enough to believe that our republican leaders knew a lot about this in December or January, but refused to entertain the notion that they could not shape the world as they wanted.

 

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground!   I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.
Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.
This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.
Theodore Roethke, “The Waking” from Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke. Copyright 1953 by Theodore Roethke.

 

 

 

 

Author: Gubbinal

Bookish, tea-drinking cat-lady who loves great poetry and music and is in the midst of dying

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