Edward Jenner (1749 – 1833)

 

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