Letitia Elizabeth Landon (L. E. L.) in Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1837/Gibraltar Plague
GIBRALTAR, FROM ALGEXIRAS.
SCENE DURING THE PLAGUE.
At first, I only buried one,
And she was borne along
By kindred mourners to her grave,
With sacred rite and song.
At first they sent for me to pray
Beside the bed of death:
They blessed their household, and they breathed
Prayer in their latest breath.
But then men died more rapidly—
They had not time to pray;
And from the pillow love had smoothed
Fear fled in haste away.
And then there came the fastened door—
Then came the guarded street—
Friends in the distance watched for friends;
Watched,—that they might not meet.
And Terror by the hearth stood cold,
And rent all natural ties,
And men, upon the bed of death,
Met only stranger eyes:
The nurse—and guard, stern, harsh, and wan
Remained, unpitying, by;
They had known so much wretchedness,
They did not fear to die.
Heavily rung the old church bells,
But no one came to prayer:
The weeds were growing in the street,
Silence and Fate were there.
O’er the first grave by which I stood,
Tears fell, and flowers were thrown,
The last grave held six hundred lives,*
And there I stood alone.
* A fact, mentioned to me by a clergyman, Mr. Howe, whose duty enforced residence during the ravages of the Yellow Fever.