This Old Bank Of Sand is a weekly poem feed. Add your email address to the Follow by Email link on the right and you will receive one poem a week (usually on Monday morning). If you have suggestions for poems or poets, or any other suggestions, please use the comments facility at the bottom of each poem (public), or email them to (private). To leave a public comment, click on the word comments which you can find just below each poem.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Meeting the British by Paul Muldoon

 We met the British in the dead of winter.
 The sky was lavender

 and the snow lavender-blue.
 I could hear, far below,

 the sound of two streams coming together
 (both were frozen over)

 and, no less strange,
 myself calling out in French

 across that forest-
 clearing. Neither General Jeffrey Amherst

 nor Colonel Henry Bouquet
 could stomach our willow-tobacco.

 As for the unusual
 scent when the Colonel shook out his hand-

 kerchief: C'est la lavande,
 une fleur mauve comme le ciel.

 They gave us six fishhooks
 and two blankets embroidered with smallpox.

Note on the poem.

Pontiac's Rebellion (1763).
Chief Pontiac of Ottawa led loose confederation of Native American tribes in an uprising against British rule in the North American Territories.  British officers at Fort Pitt attempted to turn the tide of the battle by infecting the besieging Native Americans with smallpox. They used blankets riddled with the virus. Estimated Native American losses were 200 in battle, with additional war-related deaths from disease.

1 comment:

  1. Spooky choice! Just watched an art program on BBC4, I think, about early American art and the narrator spoke of these smalllpox infected blankets as the first instance of "germ warfare" - I'd never realised it went that far back. Good choice and I like the context paragraph at the bottom : ) Go MSE!