London’s Lamentation

Or a fit admonishment for city and countrey, wherein is described certaine causes of this affliction and visitation of the plague, yeare 1641. which the Lord hath been pleased to inflict upon us, and withall what meanes must be used to the Lord, to gaine his mercy and favor, with an excellent spirituall medicine to be used for the preservative both of body and soule.

Printed in London 1641, this little book was an exhortation to the people of London to act more responsibly in view of another of the periodical visitations of the plague in London. The city had been free of the plague for eleven years and I suspect most people had though it had gone for good. What the text reveals is the deep seated belief that any natural disaster was as a direct result of a lack of piety in the populace. The remedy for making sure the disease didn’t return is particularly telling:

…let the Patient that is in danger of any infection or any other disease take and use this spiritual medicine, first in the morning when thou arisest out of thy bed, fall down on thy knees, and give God thanks, that he hath preserved thee the night past from all dangers, and desire him of his mercy, to preserve thee the day following, bless his holy name and magnify him, for her is thy maker, and thou art his creature, thus passé away the day in the service of the Lord and at night , when thou list down to sleep, desire the Lord be thy keeper and defender.

This is the picture on the front cover. The top image shows how London still honoured the dead, even during the plague; (the one at the top dressed only in his shirt) bodies being carried to the burial grounds in coffins by workmen in short doublets and breeches and followed by mourners, the men in cloaks, the women in waistcoats and petticoat skirts. Graves were still dug by grave diggers (wearing caps). The lower pane shows a more rough and ready method of disposing the dead possibly used outside the city, with the dead being dragged to a communal pit on sleds or just by their boots.

 

British Library   E 166  (10)    tp

 

Good people all pray, fast and pray,

That is the chief and only way,

’twill cause the Lord his wrath to stay,

Let this be done, use no delay

 

Now death doth play an envious part,

He strikes full many to the heart,

Yet from grim death ne’re seeme to start,

 ’tis God that may release our smart

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