'Twas such a manner of disease, 'twas such Mortal miasma in Cecropian lands Whilom reduced the plains to dead men's bones, Unpeopled the highways, drained of citizens The Athenian town. For coming from afar, Rising in lands of Aegypt, traversing Reaches of air and floating fields of foam, At last on all Pandion's folk it swooped; Whereat by troops unto disease and death Were they o'er-given. At first, they'd bear about A skull on fire with heat, and eyeballs twain Red with suffusion of blank glare. Their throats, Black on the inside, sweated oozy blood; And the walled pathway of the voice of man Was clogged with ulcers; and the very tongue, The mind's interpreter, would trickle gore, Weakened by torments, tardy, rough to touch. Next when that Influence of bane had chocked, Down through the throat, the breast, and streamed had E'en into sullen heart of those sick folk, Then, verily, all the fences of man's life Began to topple. From the mouth the breath Would roll a noisome stink, as stink to heaven Rotting cadavers flung unburied out. And, lo, thereafter, all the body's strength And every power of mind would languish, now In very doorway of destruction. And anxious anguish and ululation (mixed With many a groan) companioned alway The intolerable torments. Night and day, Recurrent spasms of vomiting would rack Alway their thews and members, breaking down With sheer exhaustion men already spent. And yet on no one's body couldst thou mark The skin with o'er-much heat to burn aglow, But rather the body unto touch of hands Would offer a warmish feeling, and thereby Show red all over, with ulcers, so to say, Inbranded, like the "sacred fires" o'erspread Along the members. The inward parts of men, In truth, would blaze unto the very bones; A flame, like flame in furnaces, would blaze Within the stomach. Nor couldst aught apply Unto their members light enough and thin For shift of aid—but coolness and a breeze Ever and ever. Some would plunge those limbs On fire with bane into the icy streams, Hurling the body naked into the waves; Many would headlong fling them deeply down The water-pits, tumbling with eager mouth Already agape. The insatiable thirst That whelmed their parched bodies, lo, would make A goodly shower seem like to scanty drops. Respite of torment was there none. Their frames Forspent lay prone. With silent lips of fear Would Medicine mumble low, the while she saw So many a time men roll their eyeballs round, Staring wide-open, unvisited of sleep, The heralds of old death. And in those months Was given many another sign of death: The intellect of mind by sorrow and dread Deranged, the sad brow, the countenance Fierce and delirious, the tormented ears Beset with ringings, the breath quick and short Or huge and intermittent, soaking sweat A-glisten on neck, the spittle in fine gouts Tainted with colour of crocus and so salt, The cough scarce wheezing through the rattling throat. Aye, and the sinews in the fingered hands Were sure to contract, and sure the jointed frame To shiver, and up from feet the cold to mount Inch after inch: and toward the supreme hour At last the pinched nostrils, nose's tip A very point, eyes sunken, temples hollow, Skin cold and hard, the shuddering grimace, The pulled and puffy flesh above the brows!— O not long after would their frames lie prone In rigid death. And by about the eighth Resplendent light of sun, or at the most On the ninth flaming of his flambeau, they Would render up the life. If any then Had 'scaped the doom of that destruction, yet Him there awaited in the after days A wasting and a death from ulcers vile And black discharges of the belly, or else Through the clogged nostrils would there ooze along Much fouled blood, oft with an aching head: Hither would stream a man's whole strength and flesh. And whoso had survived that virulent flow Of the vile blood, yet into thews of him And into his joints and very genitals Would pass the old disease. And some there were, Dreading the doorways of destruction So much, lived on, deprived by the knife Of the male member; not a few, though lopped Of hands and feet, would yet persist in life, And some there were who lost their eyeballs: O So fierce a fear of death had fallen on them! And some, besides, were by oblivion Of all things seized, that even themselves they knew No longer. And though corpse on corpse lay piled Unburied on ground, the race of birds and beasts Would or spring back, scurrying to escape The virulent stench, or, if they'd tasted there, Would languish in approaching death. But yet Hardly at all during those many suns Appeared a fowl, nor from the woods went forth The sullen generations of wild beasts— They languished with disease and died and died. In chief, the faithful dogs, in all the streets Outstretched, would yield their breath distressfully For so that Influence of bane would twist Life from their members. Nor was found one sure And universal principle of cure: For what to one had given the power to take The vital winds of air into his mouth, And to gaze upward at the vaults of sky, The same to others was their death and doom. In those affairs, O awfullest of all, O pitiable most was this, was this: Whoso once saw himself in that disease Entangled, ay, as damned unto death, Would lie in wanhope, with a sullen heart, Would, in fore-vision of his funeral, Give up the ghost, O then and there. For, lo, At no time did they cease one from another To catch contagion of the greedy plague,— As though but woolly flocks and horned herds; And this in chief would heap the dead on dead: For who forbore to look to their own sick, O these (too eager of life, of death afeard) Would then, soon after, slaughtering Neglect Visit with vengeance of evil death and base— Themselves deserted and forlorn of help. But who had stayed at hand would perish there By that contagion and the toil which then A sense of honour and the pleading voice Of weary watchers, mixed with voice of wail Of dying folk, forced them to undergo. This kind of death each nobler soul would meet. The funerals, uncompanioned, forsaken, Like rivals contended to be hurried through. And men contending to ensepulchre Pile upon pile the throng of their own dead: And weary with woe and weeping wandered home; And then the most would take to bed from grief. Nor could be found not one, whom nor disease Nor death, nor woe had not in those dread times Attacked. By now the shepherds and neatherds all, Yea, even the sturdy guiders of curved ploughs, Began to sicken, and their bodies would lie Huddled within back-corners of their huts, Delivered by squalor and disease to death. O often and often couldst thou then have seen On lifeless children lifeless parents prone, Or offspring on their fathers', mothers' corpse Yielding the life. And into the city poured O not in least part from the countryside That tribulation, which the peasantry Sick, sick, brought thither, thronging from every quarter, Plague-stricken mob. All places would they crowd, All buildings too; whereby the more would death Up-pile a-heap the folk so crammed in town. Ah, many a body thirst had dragged and rolled Along the highways there was lying strewn Besides Silenus-headed water-fountains,— The life-breath choked from that too dear desire Of pleasant waters. Ah, everywhere along The open places of the populace, And along the highways, O thou mightest see Of many a half-dead body the sagged limbs, Rough with squalor, wrapped around with rags, Perish from very nastiness, with naught But skin upon the bones, well-nigh already Buried—in ulcers vile and obscene filth. All holy temples, too, of deities Had Death becrammed with the carcasses; And stood each fane of the Celestial Ones Laden with stark cadavers everywhere— Places which warders of the shrines had crowded With many a guest. For now no longer men Did mightily esteem the old Divine, The worship of the gods: the woe at hand Did over-master. Nor in the city then Remained those rites of sepulture, with which That pious folk had evermore been wont To buried be. For it was wildered all In wild alarms, and each and every one With sullen sorrow would bury his own dead, As present shift allowed. And sudden stress And poverty to many an awful act Impelled; and with a monstrous screaming they Would, on the frames of alien funeral pyres, Place their own kin, and thrust the torch beneath Oft brawling with much bloodshed round about Rather than quit dead bodies loved in life.