Of all the blessings which kind heaven bestows,
From infancy to life’s most lengthened close,
The one, far greater than all earthly wealth,
Is the inestimable gift of health;
But as this precious gift of heaven is placed
Greatly within our power to use or waste,
Should not its scientific study claim
Our grave attention and our best care gain?
Without it, the bright jewel of the mind
Is apt to get distorted, weak and blind,
And if not previously well schooled and trained,
Becomes to fears unjustified enchained.
This chiefest blessing of all bounteous heaven,
Is to His children by the Father given
As a productive talent, to be used
For universal good, and not abused.
It thus becomes a solemn charge, that each
Who understands it thus, should others teach,
By individual efforts, and means paid,
For missionary service widely laid,
And as strong healthy minds so much depend,
On healthy bodies; to this righteous end.
Should not all education be then based
On this foundation and with it enlaced?
Let children even, learn that kindly heaven,
To them this priceless heritage has given,
Which they must learn to use with constant care,
And of its dangerous abuse beware.
Why should they not be early taught to know
The dire effects from alcohol that flow,
As well as the right use of generous food.
And well-timed exercise to cleanse the blood.
To trace th’ effects that flow from every cause:
With ventilation’s most important laws,
Of cleanliness of mind and person too,
And strict exactitude in all they do,
And to breathe through their nostrils, meant to be
Their ever ready respirator free:
To masticate, not bolt their food, and try
To learn themselves, and know the reason why.
Thus being early taught, in after life
They might be better armoured for the strife
Of fierce temptations, which, when conquered, can
Strengthen and elevate the inner man,
For soon or later each is bound to learn,
That every talent must make fair return,
To Him who mercifully gave its use,
For joyful happiness, and not abuse.
There are three sanitary agents given
To mankind, by the gracious God of heaven,
Freely and without stint, for all who choose
These blessed ministers of His to use.
These agents blest are, water, light and air,
Abundantly provided everywhere,
Flowing so freely o’er the outstretched earth,
That man has scarcely yet discerned their worth.
The wind is earth’s great ventilating force,
Water the cleansing, purifying course,
Light the awakening, stimulating power,
To nature as to man Heaven’s priceless dower.
Important lessons they each hourly teach,
Which every creature has within his reach,
For the same laws that nature’s rule apply
To every member of God’s family,
Bringing stern punishment for every cause
Involved in disobeying His great laws.
All honour to the band of pioneers,
Who nobly fought ‘midst opposition sneers
T’ establish sanitary laws, through all
Our towns and cities, for the great and small,
So that preventable disease might be
Assaulted, and stamped out effectually,
And that diseases which perforce remain
Might fuller scientific treatment claim;
And, thanks to Heaven, the fight was not in vain,
For their wise teaching was so simple, plain,
That thousands were induced to join th’ affray
And aid the righteous scheme to win the day,
So that a large share of the nation’s wealth
Was gained to minister to public health:
And now, no longer are our towns disgraced
By filthy sewage and foul noxious waste,
And every corporation through the land
Is bound on this wise scheme to take its stand.
Medical science tells us that the skin
Is pierced by perspiratory tubes within,
In countless thousands, used for drainage pores;
Vessels secreting oil are found in stores,
Whilst more provide for growth, and others still
Carry off parts decayed with matchless skill,
Each needing daily cleansing with due care,
If we would health and mental vigour share.
Providing other strict conditions willed
By nature, be unswervingly fulfilled.
Thus it should be our first concern to learn,
The laws on which such vital interests turn.
The ambulance and cookery classes each,
In pleasant style much useful wisdom teach,
But are not patronized to the extent
They merit, in their practical intent.
The winter course of science lectures free
A spur to much research has proved to be,
Where representatives from every class,
The most delightful hours together pass.
And what a joy it is to sit at ease,
Listening to words that educate and please,
From master minds who know their subject well,
And on its salient points delighted dwell.
These with free libraries and concerts tend
Much happiness with useful work to blend;
And our fair city may be proud to know,
Th’ uplifting forces which from them outflow.
The despotism of custom in our day
To much benignant progress bars the way,
While superstition, ignorance and sloth
Oppose all national and mental growth.
But under education’s brightening ray,
And blessed reason’s intellectual sway,
These barriers are bound to disappear,
And leave the path to progress free and clear.
The dogmatism of fashion too is crime,
When injuring the human form sublime,
By its stern mandates, which attract the weak,
Causing them nature’s holiest laws to break,
By lacing tightly, to a model form,
Which fashion sternly says should then be worn;
This tightening in the vital organs so,
Prevents the circulation’s healthy flow,
And thus the lungs and pliant ribs and heart,
Incapable of acting out the part
Assigned to them by nature, prove a prey
To premature diseases and decay.
We talk with pious horror and regret,
Of the unwise Chinese, who will not let
The feet of their poor female children grow,
Entailing thus unutterable woe;
But when unprejudiced the reason acts,
And we together scan th’ appalling facts,
Resulting from tight lacing, and tight shoes,
We cannot conscientiously refuse,
To say that of the two vile customs, ours
Is certainly more culpable than theirs,
While we too are not guiltless or discreet,
Respecting our behaviour to our feet,
Making them hobble on high heels, with toes
Not half the width that should their forms enclose;
So we should be more modest when we seek
To satirize them and their customs-weak,
Remembering that we too are much to blame,
And like them merit censure and much shame.
How wisely Israel’s poet songster said,
That cleanliness to godliness is wed,
For filthiness of body must conduct,
Impurities which mental life obstruct.
How well are engineers on the alert,
To keep their engines free from dust and dirt,
Knowing that without such great care from them,
They could not do the work required by men;
So neither can we hope our bodies will
Their heaven directed work aright fulfil,
If their machinery is not kept free,
From foul obstruction and impurity.
Science and nature then should be our guide,
Instructive lessons they for all provide,
Teaching us how the pleasant winds insure
That atmospheric air is sweet and pure;
God’s antidote they are, invisible,
To poisonous vapours else unbearable,
Which steam from all decaying substances,
Throughout the earth’s wide-spread dependences.
But as men civilized do not exist
Always in open air, these guides insist,
That as God uses circulating air,
To purify and sweeten everywhere,
That we should also, through our dwellings wide
An ever circulating air provide,
As we, like other animals outpour,
Foul, poisonous vapours too from every pore.
How well bees understand effects and cause,
Of breaking ventilation’s righteous laws,
For see, their crowded hive with straw inlaid,
Has in it but one tiny opening made,
And yet the many thousand inmates there,
Have better, purer, more refreshing air,
Than men and women, in close bedrooms pent
For seven or eight long hours, without a vent
To carry off empoisoned loathsome air,
That they are stupidly content to share.
If we could look within the hive we’d see,
Full two score bees holding tenaciously,
With firm grasp to the floor, unceasingly
Flapping their tiny wings with energy,
And as they fall off wearied, others come
To take their place, with merry hum,
And thus they work, without a moment’s pause,
Exemplifying ventilation’s laws,
By forcing good air to supplant the bad,
And so escape the consequences sad
Of poisonous vapours and contracted homes,
For which their heaven-taught wisdom thus atones;
Proving they are indeed, inspired to be
Exponents of the laws of Deity.
And if still further witness is required,
To prove what nature teaches be desired,
Let us in fancy’s aerial chariot fly
To Bengal’s capital, and once more try
To demonstrate from just another side,
The evils which infected air provide;
For it is just a century ago,
Calcutta furnished such a tale of woe,
As surely seldom has been found before
In any other country’s saddest lore.
The Great Mogul of India had allowed,
The English to have factories endowed,
In certain parts of his dominion wide,
Which soon became a source of wealth and pride,
To those who laboured in them, and it chanced
That a barbarian Nabob on them glanced
With envious eyes, Suragah Dowlah named.
The tributary king Bengal then claimed,
And this barbarian monster, one fine day
Led a large army to the factory
Built at Calcutta, and so suddenly
Did he attack the place that the small band
Of a few hundred English could not stand
A moment ‘gainst his several thousand men,
As they at most but numbered one to ten;
Defence was useless, so they wildly fled
To ships within the harbour, by hope led
To find a refuge there; several of whom
Thereby escaped a most disastrous doom,
But others were pursued and brought to bay,
Which formed th’ appalling history of the day,
For in the wild confusion of the fight,
Above six score were captured in their flight;
These the victorious Nabob, had immured
Within the fortress prison, well secured,
Too well, alas! for the contracted den,
Known as the “Black Hole of Calcutta” then,
But eighteen feet in length by fourteen wide.
Could air for twenty men at most provide;
And there were four score odd strong, stalwart men,
Thrust into that abominable den;
Having but two small holes for windows there
For the admission of Heaven’s blessed air,
Crushed in with violent brutality,
Shoulder to shoulder they stood gaspingly.
No room to stir in that accursed place,
They pressed in ghastly horror, face to face;
The anguish of the captives soon became
Greater than any pen or word could name;
The neighbourhood resounded with their cries,
Which all description utterly defies,
But as the night wore on, these ravings ceased,
As most of the poor victims got released,
From their most agonising pain, by death;
Whilst the remainder scarce had gasping breath.
Thus when the morrow’s blessed sun arose,
It did a most revolting sight disclose,
A ghastly spectacle of horror, where
Were six score loathsome corpses upright there,
Whilst jammed between them, in the filthy den,
Were twenty-three more miserable men,
Who hardly could be said to be alive,
So fearfully did death among them strive
To make them all his own, leaving no trace
Of aught but spectre life in that vile place.
This dreadful history cannot fail to show,
How fatal consequences surely flow,
From disregard of the Creator’s laws,
For these foul poisonous vapours were the cause
Of five score agonising deaths, within
The space of a few hours, from wilful sin.
Many such instances of equal weight,
I might from various other sources state,
To show what misery and direful woe,
From breaking nature’s laws is sure to flow;
Whilst in the keeping of them, blessings pure
Flow in rewards continual and sure.
Then, seeing we have so much in our power,
Let us like the wise bees improve each hour,
Learn of so-called barbarians, to set free
The vital organs, to act easily,
And to defy dogmatic customs, when
They would enslave the intellect of men,
No longer nature’s holy precepts break;
So shall sound bodies sounder minds soon make,
As such a course rich blessings surely brings
From the All Wise, All Mighty King of Kings.
(Hannah S Battersby)
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