donderdag 26 mei 2016

Bread of Dreams - Digest: '7. 'Famine of Living' and 'Times of Suspicion''

"the micro-society of the family [...] explodes like a crazed cell[:]
Aberrant frenzies ignited by hunger [dissolve] every emotional and social bond.
'Hunger is crueller than the plague, because man is in need for much more time, but the plague is more abominable because as soon as it gives us time to catch our breath, it takes away our memory, removes every thought of repentance, and causes the confessors to be absent; the notaries no longer come to write the testaments, the doctors flee, the fathers are sick and tired of their sons, who turn their backs on their fathers, the mothers abandon their daughters and they shun their mothers, one relative does not recognize the other, friends become enemies.'
[Giovan Battista Segni, Discorso sopra la carestia, e fame (Ferrara: B. Mamarello, 1591), p. 46]

The testaments to which Segni refers pertain to the death ritual of the rich: they were the 'passports to the world beyond' (Jacques Le Goff) which foresaw vast endowments to churches and convents, so that the dying passed away with a peaceful conscience, socially and religiously relieved of every  misdeed. The poor amused themselves, in the absence of goods and the difficulties arising because of them, by enacting parodies of testaments, in order to laugh a little at this act sacred to the religion of things'"
(Camporesi 1996, '7. 'Famine of Living' and 'Times of Suspicion'', pp. 87-88)

Anonymus, s.n., 1578, schilderij, Leuven, Sint-Jacobskerk
"Une intense agitation s'observe devant l'église : des prêtres en surplis sortent pour aller donner la communion aux malades et aux mourants; des tombes sont hativement creusees dans l'enclos paroissial, autour des cercueils prêts ii à y être enfouis. Une charrette passe dans la rue, chargée de cercueils ; à droite, un malade est conduit en chaise au lazaret; au premier plan, un cadavre presque nu a été jeté dans une fosse béante, hors de la terre consacrée de la paroisse; au coin de l'enclos, un oratoire abrite !es statues de saint Sébastien et de saint Roch devant lesquelles un couple prie. Cette toile (véritable instantané pris sur le vif) illustre le moment où la mortalité croit tellement qu'il ne sera bientôt plus possible d'enterrer !es morts individuellement : ils seront alors déversés, sans même un linceul, dans des fosses ouvertes n'importe oú." (Jacqueline Brossollet et Henri Mollaret, Pourquoi la peste? le rat, la puce et le bubon (Découvertes Gallimard Sciences), Paris (Gallimard), 1994, pp. 42-43

"The strong passions of the heart, ruling Contagion, can be called the first grave-diggers of man. All the doctors proclaim with one voice that especially Rage, Melancholy, and Terror are cause for flight as much as the Plague itself . . . Thucydides recounts that in the very serious plague which he describes, the melancholic and fearful fell dead more than the others. Various doctors have observed likewise in their own times, and among others Sennerto attests that not a few have been taken by this disease from just the Terror conceived observing from afar, or even without seeing but only hearing that the funeral Cart was passing under their windows, on which were carried the corpses of the dead.
Others, frightened only by a funereal Dream, have so lost heart that, once fallen ill, they have eluded all treatment ... Once the imagination is wounded and the spirits and humours put into disordered
movement by some frightening spectacle, the pestilential poison is all too easily taken, and even without the plague people sometimes die of pure Consternation and Black Humour."
[L.A. Muratori, Li tre governi, politico, medico ed ecclesiastico, utilissimi, anzi necessari in tempo di peste, 3rd edn (Milan: Vigoni & Cairolo, 1721), p. 119] (Camporesi 1996, '7. 'Famine of Living' and 'Times of Suspicion'', p. 89)

Pieter Bruegel, Triomf van de dood [detail], 1562, schilderij, 160 x 120 cm, Madrid, Prado

"But in times of Suspicion - when one hears of 'cases of the plague far away, yes, but which necessitate the precautions of health observances, and of railings or gates, when one must force out of the City as from the State, within a few days, the beggars, vagabonds, gypsies, mendicants, lepers, invalids and similar sorts of people not engaged in some trade and without the will to procure their bread, if not by the all too comfortable begging for it' [Muratori, Li tre governi, p. 23] - the entire variegated universe of those on the margins of society, always and everywhere watched with suspicion and fear, became the potential vehicle of contagion and carrier of epidemics. And on the twelfth day of May, 1498, the Officials of Disease went around the hospitals, chased [them]  out [...], and wherever they were found throughout the city they sent them out of Florence.' [Luca Landucci, Diario fiorentino, dal 1450 al 1516, continued by an anonymus writer till 1542 (Florence: Sansoni, 1883), pp. 299-300] The pestilential disease reaped most of its victims from among the poorest people - labourers, small artisans[...]; among those who did not have the necessary means to leave the inhabited centres rapidly."

'Where the cities are of a large population and the families, mostly of the poor, live in close and crowded houses, the plague causes incredible slaughter . . . [F]or this reason in the quarters most
crowded and overflowing with poor inhabitants, when the disease has entered therein, a frightening desolation is seen in a short time. ' [Muratori, Li tre governi, p. 23] The conditions of those who were forced by indigence to remain in the city [...] became most difficult; the 'poor people' risked 'the manifest danger of dying then from hunger and hardship' [Muratori, Li tre governi, p. 22]: [...]
the poor of the city are without those people who could give them alms or provide them with work, and as a result every day they receive less from the granary and storehouse, so that they remain exposed to the daily risk of dying from hunger, not less than that of the plague. [Muratori, Li tre governi, p. 25]

Anonymus (German), 16th century, woodcut. © Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Jörg P. Anders

"In the 'afflicted city', dominated by the nightmare of the 'lazaret/slaughter house', [Muratori, Li tre governi, p. 96] smokey and malodorous from the vapours of sulphur, pitch, animals' horns (especially birds' beaks), old shoes, hair, nails and cattle manure, 'it is too easy for one to lose courage and die of fear, on seeing and hearing the ministers of the lazarets and grave-diggers go around with  horrible faces, odd clothes and frightening voices and carry away the sick and the healthy, the dead and the living, as long as there is something to pilfer. Nor can it be said what horror is inspired by the frequent  sound of their bells. ' [Muratori, Li tre governi, p. 97]

Johannes De Ketham, Fasciculus Medicine Antwerpen, Antwerpen (Claes De Grave), 1512
2 personnages sluiten hun neus af, de dokter draagt een spons, gedoopt in azijn
 om de veronderstelde geïnfecteerde lucht te filteren

In a world where the sad winds of Insecurity, Fear and Suspicion blew, the terror of the plague - multiplying the 'antidotes', internal and external 'preservatives', 'pouches', and 'amulets of arsenic', poisonous or innocuous - had as an unfailing consequence the realization of the 'great Chaos of Pharmaceutical Preservatives'. In this dance of prescriptions containing arsenic, sublimate, quicksilver, and of 'curative or preservative aromatic pouches', magic, superstitious practices and apotropaic astrology re-emerged - if ever they had been renounced - with unusual popularity and desperate impetus. The 'archaic attitudes' of the popular world and the magical base of its culture
shattered even the inconsistent rational barriers of a medical science more unsteady and contradictory than ever, groping in the dark.
'The astrologers and the superstitious have inverted many seals, medals, bulletins, rings, cards and similar things with figures, signs, numbers and even sacred words. Some, and mostly in Germany,
exalt and call a marvellous preservative the wearing of a dried toad hung from the neck - or burned and reduced to ash and enclosed in a pouch - during times of contagion. Others in the same manner recommend the wearing of Quicksilver, well closed and sealed with wax inside a walnut ... and they tell of its wonderful effect. According to others, Emerald, Sapphire, Hyacinth and other gems hung from the neck, in such a way that they touch the external regions of the heart, so frightens the plague that it dares not approach.' [Muratori, Li tre governi, p.128]
(Camporesi 1996, '7. 'Famine of Living' and 'Times of Suspicion'', pp. 89-91)

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