Thomas Nashe: In Time of Plague

St. Roch Praying to the Virgin for an End to the Plague Jaques-Louis David

In Time of Plague
By Thomas Nashe

Adieu, farewell, earth’s bliss;
This world uncertain is;
Fond are life’s lustful joys;
Death proves them all but toys;
None from his darts can fly;
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!

Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health;
Physic himself must fade.
All things to end are made,
The plague full swift goes by;
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!

Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air;
Queens have died young and fair;
Dust hath closed Helen’s eye.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us!

Strength stoops unto the grave,
Worms feed on Hector’s brave;
Swords may not fight with fate,
Earth still holds ope her gate.
“Come, come!” the bells do cry.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us.

Wit with his wantonness
Tasteth death’s bitterness;
Hell’s executioner
Hath no ears for to hear
What vain art can reply.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us.

Haste, therefore, each degree,
To welcome destiny;
Heaven is our heritage,
Earth but a player’s stage;
Mount we unto the sky.
I am sick, I must die.
Lord, have mercy on us.

60 thoughts on “Thomas Nashe: In Time of Plague

  1. There has always been a wide streak of lawlessness in American culture. It may be part of our undoing when it comes to coronavirus.


  2. We are reminded how little control we actually have. Where is this pandemic going? Only God knows.


  3. He’s got a point about US culture. South Koreans didn’t take to the streets by the thousands like many Americans did — some with semiautomatics strapped across their bellies, as happened in MI — to illegally protest against the measures being taken by the state government to protect them and their neighbors from infection.


  4. Hang in there, senecagriggs. Just showing up is half the game, and a victory in its own right.


  5. Hard to implement is a poor excuse. Shouldn’t we try? The governor of Florida surly isn’t.


  6. Sigmund freud “lieben und arbeiten.” To love and to work.

    Tomorrow I’ll wake up, put my game face on and try to muddle thru.


  7. @Stbndct — So now you’re not satisfied with just political comments being moderated?

    No surprise there.


  8. @Stbndct — Maybe you should see that I am voicing my concerns and fears and give me a break.


  9. oh my, your attempt at shaming him is so vile


    Robert F. has not tried to silence anyone



  10. Amen to this.

    The plight of the nursing home victims keeps me up at night. They are SO vulnerable!


  11. I disagree with you that he is asking this of everybody who is vulnerable.

    I think he was expressing how much he wanted for his granddaughter to have ‘a good life’, and that is an expression of his love for her.

    question is: what kind of world would she go into that when she reaches the age of her grandfather, she also might be considered collateral damage to some kind of economic revival by the powers that be ???

    Would it not be better to realize that the life of all living is in the Hand of God? There are still things we can do that will contain this virus: TESTING and tracking and identifying contacts and other mitigating actions that keep those who ‘carry’ the virus away from the main population until they are healed.

    As long as we CAN do the right thing, wouldn’t it better if seneca realized that there are better options then that his beloved granddaughter should lose her grandfather too soon in this world?

    He needs to think about it. Grandpa’s are precious to their grandchildren. She wouldn’t want to lose him while there is still time to do other things instead.

    These are strange days and people are ‘lost’ and ‘confused’ and need to ‘put the kettle on’ and remain calm and think things through . . . . we have options. We can do better as a country, than to condemn our elders to be culled painfully by a cruel virus.


  12. “we have already made the decision to stay . . ”

    brave people, these servants of the Word


  13. I think Emily Dickinson was a very humble person and had an appreciation for Creation ‘in the small things’ that most of us take for granted. She spoke no modern Christianese lingo, nope. But I hear some age-old wisdom in her words, these:

    “we shall in some manner be cherished by our Maker”

    Was a very ill man in Iceland almost a thousand years ago who wrote this prayer asking mercy from God because God ‘created him’:

    “May softly come unto me
    Thy mercy.
    So I call on Thee,
    for Thou hast created me”

    Kolbeinn Tumason’s words now form Iceland’s best-known hymn:


  14. Seneca, it’s too easy to become complacent when we don’t see a “clear and present danger” outside our dooryard. Here in Maine, for example, there are only 827 officially infected and 29 dead, out of a population of a million or so. Only 5 officially infected in my county. But Maine is very rural, and most of the infected are in the Portland area, our largest city–and a disproportionate amount in nursing homes and assisted living.

    However, where I live we also have Acadia National Park and an influx of 4 million visitors each year, many from New York-New Jersey-Massachusetts because we’re only a tank of gas away. Thankfully, the Park is officially closed until at least June 1st. I suspect the closure will be renewed, but you can’t keep people away entirely, especially if they own a second home here, and that’s a large part of our economy too. So even though we’re comfortably distanced for now, everybody around here is apprehensive for the coming summer.

    And my other favorite place, Ecuador, is getting hit hard. The “official” death count as of yesterday was 403, but according to this BBC article, when you do the math as to the amount of people dying in recent weeks to the amount dying normally in other years, the count is up in the tens of thousands. There are a few reasons for this: In the Guayaquil area on the coast, it’s hot as hell, extremely densely populated, and very poor. There is a lot of interchange between Ecuador and Spain, which is now second behind the USA with people infected. So they may have had a head start on infection, and it got out of control early.

    In the US, the worst-hit areas are the densely populated cities. Rural areas are largely spared thus far because of social distancing, closures, and fewer people to catch it from and spread it to. But that will change if people insist on opening up for business as usual, or if people travel for summer vacations.

    I’m also concerned that, as in Ecuador, the infected count and death count in many countries is vastly under-reported—for whatever reason, innocent or cover-up. It’s possible that the count is simply lagging, as was the death count in the Indonesian tsunami in 2004. Early “official” death counts could only report what could be seen, and were merely in the hundreds, then thousands. But when the satellite photos began to compare before and after scenes of whole villages missing, they had to raise the “official” death count to more than 200,000.

    I’m worried about other poor and densely-populated countries in the early stages, especially with hot weather coming on. Now is not the time for complacency. Let’s get on the other side of this first.


  15. The South Korean government is smarter than the government of Florida. That’s pretty evident.


  16. Sic transit gloria mundi ——-but I live in Ga. and get a pass. I am not the Pope but would do it if they ask.


  17. It’s outrageous. And it’s happening in both high-end and more modest facilities. Here in Lancaster PA we have the second highest mortality rate of all the counties in the state, including the far more populous counties, and the majority of those deaths are happening in our many nursing homes/elder care facilities. We have friends from church, a couple, who recently moved to a very expensive, high-end facility, and there have been five deaths and dozens of cases of COVID-19 there. My wife has spoken to the wife, and she says they have been locked in their apartments for weeks, food brought on trays and left at the door. The staff is not telling them exactly what’s going on, in the name of not creating panic I guess, but these are adults, not children.


  18. Seneca, before you advocate for an opening of the economy up, as the FL governor has begun to do, how would you explain the disparity in Florida’s 740 deaths compared to South Korea’s 160 deaths? I believe the US and South Korea reported their first deaths on the same day. Florida’s population is approximately 22 million compared to South Korea’s 51 million.


  19. It doesn’t necessarily have to be either/or. You seem to have a very social Darwinian view of how things must work out. If we are not careful to follow the model of South Korea, using widespread testing and tracking, then when the economy/country is reopened, the healthcare system will fall, and it will effect those far beyond the circle of the old and/or vulnerable. Unless your triage proposal is just to leave the old and/or vulnerable untreated, to drown of slow asphyxiation at home with their families as witness. Just remember when you’re volunteering yourself and the rest of that old and/or vulnerable group for self-sacrifice (in your case), and other-sacrifice (in all the other cases — that’s very magnanimous of you!), there are people whose ages and conditions straddle more than one generation in that group, whose health issues might not otherwise have been life-threatening (asthmatics of every age, for instance ),who may normally still have had several decades of life with their kids and grandkids to look forward to, or who may not even have kids and grandkids.


  20. Good Points. And also good points from Mule and Dana. This is a tightrope that must be walked but it seems like a hippo is hanging onto each end of the balance bar ready to pull us over at the slightest imbalance.


  21. Bravely said, senecagriggs, in the tradition of those who honor Jesus Christ Crucified.

    If those who ‘volunteered’ were the ONLY ones who were to perish, but that is the problem, plus all the handicapped and the helpless who live and will never have a ‘choice’ of whether to ‘shelter themselves’ or to ‘volunteer’;
    but who are at the mercy of people who must now live upon honor and conscience in how they go forward.

    And your beloved granddaughter, what kind of a world will she inherit? What is to come now is that our country has to decide what our priorities are to be. The survival of the fittest? Some kind of Darwinian socialism? Or a country that embraces the saving of lives through proper testing and tracking of contacts so as to SAFELY go forward to re-open the economy?

    I think we are at a moral cross-roads now. No one planned this. But here we are. So what are we to do?
    Follow ‘orders’ from political leaders? Or do we take a stand for what is the most humane choice for all concerned? We may lay our lives down willingly for the sake of others, as many have done and will do. But how are we now to live as Christian people in accordance with Our Lord’s Royal Law?

    we were to see this time as a way to determine who among us are the sheep and who are the goats, what will the criteria be for Our Lord to decide ?

    moral dilemma? yes, no easy answers, but we cannot afford to also abandon honor or conscience and remain a civilization, no.


  22. Thanks, Mule. I could just kiss your fuzzy cheek for this!

    A blessed Blessed Sabbath to you.



  23. 1) We recovered from the Great Depression. Hopefully, this latest setback will not be compounded by going to war. Guess what helped us recover? Wide-ranging government programs – The New Deal, WPA, etc. BTW, the government of Germany continues to pay people their wages, believing that will help recovery faster than anything.

    2) The strand of genetic material that is the Covid virus does not care about the economy.

    See South Korea. They deployed early aggressive testing, tracing and isolation of known carriers of the virus. Their economy is doing okay even with an initial high number of cases because of the massive amount of testing they’ve done. Please, give us this kind of “overreaction” – widespread and accurate testing will enable the economy to open sooner rather than later.

    3) The Economy Over All – everyone must bow down when the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music sounds.

    4) Sen, what are you doing to help children in your locale? My husband and I are giving a tithe of our stimulus checks to our local food bank (we’re using the rest to get rid of our last bit of “consumer debt”).

    Sen, with what you’ve written of your background, I would think you would understand that a lot of things aren’t simply black and white in their scope, and that you could, and probably do, have compassion for people suffering from things they cannot help have happened to them. Why do you have to put up reports with no commentary about what you think about those actions? Does that mean you approve? If so, at least make an argument for it from what you see as a Christian standpoint. Can we have a discussion rather than a poke in the eye?

    Forgive me, a sinner. I let myself get irritated on Holy Saturday.



  24. If the children were our priority, they wouldn’t die, no matter how few people worked or how poor everybody became.

    I have seen small but undeniable signs of a sort of course correction in a lot of peoples’ lives as a result of the quarantine. Hopefully, our headlong, breakneck pursuit of material pleasures at the expense of family, friends, neighborhoods, and civic involvement has deviated, even if only by a dime’s breadth.

    Baby steps, baby steps…


  25. My triage perspective; I, an oldie, would willingly sacrifice MY LIFE for my granddaughter’s. I had my shot, she deserves hers.


  26. what stands guard over any civilization’s survival
    but the civility of honour and the humane reckoning of the value of a single human life?

    and who do you sacrifice in the triage that is demanded in this new distopia?
    the weak? the old? the helpless sick? the voiceless?

    while the powerful observe through heavy lenses from a high tower, what do they see? what do they see?

    when ‘Jesus spent a long time watching from a lonely wooden tower’, what did He see? what did He see?

    are we who we protect and who we stand up for?
    or are we them who sacrifice to save ourselves?
    The time to choose ‘has found us’


  27. The United Nations warns that hundreds of thousands of children worldwide may die because of governments’ overreaction to the COVID-19 virus:

    Hundreds of thousands of children could die this year due to the global economic downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic and tens of millions more could fall into extreme poverty as a result of the crisis, the United Nations warned on Thursday.
    Compared with adults, children infected with the coronavirus are less likely to have symptoms and more likely to have a mild illness, U.S. and Chinese studies have found.

    But the U.N. report warned that “economic hardship experienced by families as a result of the global economic downturn could result in an hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths in 2020, reversing the last 2 to 3 years of progress in reducing infant mortality within a single year.”

    With businesses shut down and more than a billion people told to stay home to avoid spreading the virus, the International Monetary Fund has predicted the world would this year suffer its steepest downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.


  28. Yes. But there is death to be had in not being able to go to mall or market, particularly if they run out of necessary, life-sustaining goods of every kind. And there is slower death from the discontinuation of education, routine medical/psychiatric care, hands-on care for those in need, the ability to exit dreadful at-home conditions, being able to be with ones loved ones in their mortal extremity or undertake their funereal rites in any normal fashion, etc. At some point, barring a miracle treatment and/or effective vaccine, a balance will have to be struck in the scales of death. Unfortunately, we do not possess the mathematical formulas for being sure whatever course we as a country choose will be the less deadly.


  29. I think when push comes to shove, what Dickinson says here expresses the true core of my faith. I wish I were more sure of the details, of the nuts-and-bolts of Christianity, but I’m not; my surety — to the degree that it exists — and my hope are much closer to what Dickinson is saying.


  30. O Lord, how lovely it is to be Thy guest.

    Breeze full of scents; mountains reaching to the skies; waters like boundless mirrors, reflecting the sun’s golden rays and the scudding clouds. All nature murmurs mysteriously, breathing the depth of tenderness. Birds and beasts of the forest bear the imprint of Thy love.

    Blessed art thou, mother earth, in thy fleeting loveliness, which wakens our yearning for happiness that will last for ever, in the land where, amid beauty that grows not old, the cry rings out: Alleluia!

    from the Athakist of Thanksgiving


  31. Robert, here is a facebook post from an American Baptist missionary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her husband is a doctor who is still battling Ebola, and now Covid-19 is coming along.

    Just received terribly sad news. For the end of the Ebola epidemic to be declared, 42 days have to pass from the release of the last patient. Only 48 hours from the declared end (on Easter Sunday), a patient in Beni (where Bill has been working since October 2018) tested positive after succumbing to the disease this afternoon. We were so looking forward to the end of this, Congo’s longest and deadliest outbreak. With the expansion of Covid-19 into eastern Congo, we had already made the decision to stay and pivot from Ebola to Covid… but now it looks we will be facing two fronts of seeming uncertainty. But we, as do our colleagues here, know that God is in control.


  32. People living in various countries of West Africa during the 1913-1916 Ebola outbreak, as well as those in Democratic Republic of Congo still currently experiencing an outbreak that started in August 2018, would think it highly applicable.


  33. “Hell’s executioner
    Hath no ears for to hear”

    ‘our’s not to reason why,
    our’s but to do and die
    into the Valley of Death ‘

    ‘Lord, have mercy on us’


  34. Excellent. This is a keeper that I will read enough to keep it anew in my mind. As I traveled a lot in my life i used this as a guide in my life journey. Did not know anything about Nashe life but that he died early. It is hard for me to remember all things are earth are passing.

    Wisdom, talent, faith and beauty is always relevant. Nashe thoughts and talent travels though the age and touches me, thanks to CM.


  35. ” I believe we shall in some manner be cherished by our Maker
    — that the One who gave us this remarkable earth has the power still farther to surprise that which He has caused.
    Beyond that all is silence… ”

    Emily Dickinson


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