Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Children's Games and other trivia

Imagine, if you can, what a child's life was like in the early 1300's. The Black Plague has struck Europe and everyone is dying. This plague will kill almost half the people in Europe, alone. Still, a child is a special kind of person and they need only little things to bring out their natural resiliency, like games.

One game, which you almost certainly have played, dates back to those days. A group of children will join hands in a circle and, rotating their circle, they recite a short poem until, upon reaching the last word of the poem, they simultaneously drop to the ground. In my old neighborhood we called it 'Ring around the Rosy'. It goes like this:

Ring around the Rosy!
Pocket full of posies!
Upstairs! Downstairs!
We all fall DOWN!

The game is the story of the plague, from a child's view. One symptom of the plague was buboes.
That is a swelling in the lymph glands that was particularly painful. They could be recognized by the red, or 'rosy' central swollen area surrounded by (a ring) of blanched skin.

Strangely, it was thought that the inhalation of 'bad air' caused the plague, hence, special masks were often worn, incense burned, or, one might carry flowers to provide 'good air', a 'pocket full of posies'.

The plague respected not rank. Both nobles and peasants were afflicted. Rich, poor, high, low, upstairs(the wealthy), downstairs(the servants), all were struck down impartially(we all fall DOWN).

Interesting, no? It occurs to me that, when I was small, we called out little injuries 'boboes'. Coincidence?

While we're on the subject of olden times, I know you've heard of small pox. That also goes way back. There was also a 'large pox' in those days. We now call it syphilis. Going yet farther afield, did you know that syphilis was EXTREMELY common in the 1700-1800's? I was reading about the Lewis and Clark expedition in which virtually everyone on it suffered from syphilis. It was considered just one of life's miseries, like the common cold.

Lastly, the yoke harnessed animal power to the plow and made it possible for one to farm five times as much land and pull much heavier loads. When they took the yoke off the animal's neck to lower on its chest, and stopped choking off its wind, they doubled their productivity. A little thing, but, very important.


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