Boy Mozart caught the smallpox and survived.
Archduchesses and Louis Quinze succumbed
together with no end of notables –
though variola killed its x per cent
without the least discrimination.
Through ages, prince and peasant both
trembled with dread of ghastly blistered death
or blindness or disfigurement.
* * *
Jenner was tapped to sail with Cook but stayed
to doctor placid Gloucestershire.
With a pustule from a milkmaid’s hand
and a small scratch on a young boy’s arm
he showed a lesser ill could cure a greater.
His wonder-vaccine slaying Gorgon pox
circled the globe on urgent wings
making a deep cut in death’s heavy takings.
* * *
To beat the Reaper down on such a scale
deserved not just gold rings from the Tsarina
or a silver medal from the Empéreur
or many thousand pounds from Parliament
or a panegyric from the US President –
mankind can never forget that you have lived .
It lifted fear, a global timor mortis,
and left the whole world in his debt.
– David Morphet 2014