Come, come, the bells do cry

I am sick, I must die.

Lord have mercy upon us…

Thomas Nashe wrote In Time of Pestilence at a time when the Plague of 1665 was decimating the population of London, and spreading to the rest of the country by means of imports of flea infested cloth and ships’ rats. The Great Fire of London in the year following probably had a cleansing effect, but many homeless Londoners fled to the suburbs and had to start again with little except what they could carry with them. Pepys writes about it in his diaries, noting the crosses marked on the door and corpses piled up on carts to be taken to the plague pits. I was once a teacher at Bunhill (Bone Hill) Row, in a school built over a plague pit on the edge of London. It still sends shivers down my spine to remember that.

I’m hoping the voices of people who have experienced extraordinary things in their lifetimes will continue to resonate with us, so that we don’t forget that Nashe’s In Times of Pestilence also means us, every one of us, here, in Beirut, in a leaking dinghy in the Channel, or wherever we are. Lord have mercy upon us.

To your very good health! And mine.

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