Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CHOLERA MORBUS, by HORACE SMITH

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THE CHOLERA MORBUS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: It comes! It comes! From england's trembling tongue
Last Line: Requite the love that snatched them from the pest.
Alternate Author Name(s): Smith, Horatio
Subject(s): Angels; Death; England; Love; Dead, The; English

IT comes! it comes! from England's trembling tongue
One low and universal murmur stealeth: --
By dawn of day, each journal is o'erhung
With startling eyes, to read what it revealeth,
And all aghast, ejaculate one word --
THE CHOLERA -- no other sound is heard!

Had Death upon his ghastly horse revealed,
From his throat-rattling trump a summons sounded,
Not more appallingly its blast had pealed
Upon the nation's ear; -- awe-struck, astounded,
Men strive in vain their secret fears to smother,
And gaze in blank dismay on one another.

Now are all cares absorbed in that of health;
Hushed is the song, the dance, the voice of gladness,
While thousands in the selfishness of wealth,
With looks of confidence, but hearts of sadness,
Dream they can purchase safety for their lives
By nostrums, drugs, and quack preventitives.

The wretch who might have died in squalid want,
Unseen, unmourned by our hard-hearted blindness,
Wringing from fear what pity would not grant,
Becomes the sudden object of our kindness,
Now that his betters he may implicate,
And spread infection to the rich and great.

Yet still will wealth presumptuously cry,
"What though the hand of death be thus outstretched?
It will not reach the lordly and the high,
But only strike the lowly and the wretched.
Tush! what have we to quail at? Let us fold
Our arms, and trust to luxury and gold."

They do belie thee, honest Pestilence!
Thou 'rt brave, magnanimous, not mean and dastard
Thou 'lt not assert thy dread omnipotence
In mastering those already overmastered
By want and woe -- trampling the trampled crowd,
To spare the unsparing, and preserve the proud.

Usurpers of the people's rights! prepare
For death by quick atonement. -- Stony-hearted
Oppressors of the poor! -- in time beware!
When the destroying angel's shaft is darted,
'Twill smite the star on titled bosoms set,
The mitre pierce, transfix the coronet.

Take moral physic, Pomp! not drugs and oil,
And learn, to broad philanthropy a stranger,
That every son of poverty and toil,
With whom thou sharest now an equal danger,
Should as a brother share, in happier hours,
The blessings which our common Father showers.

O thou reforming Cholera! thou'rt sent
Not as a scourge alone, but as a teacher --
That they who shall survive to mark the event
Of thy dread summons thou death-dealing preacher!
By piety and love of kind may best
Requite the love that snatched them from the Pest.

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