Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tuesday's Poem, v.2: The Old Oaken Bucket as Revised by the Board of Health

The Old Oaken Bucket
(As revised by the Board of Health)

With what anguish of mind I remember my childhood,
Recalled in the light of knowledge since gained,
The malarious farm, the wet fungus-grown wildwood,
The chills then contracted that since have remained;
The scum-covered duck-pond, the pig-sty close by it,
The ditch where the sour-smelling house drainage fell,
The damp, shaded dwelling, the foul barnyard nigh it —
But worse than all else was that terrible well,
And the old oaken bucket, the mold-crusted bucket,
The moss-covered bucket that hung in the well.

Just think of it! Moss on the vessel that lifted
The water I drank in the days called to mind;
Ere I knew what professors and scientists gifted
In the waters of wells by analysis find;
The rotting wood-fiber, the oxide of iron,
The algae, the frog of unusual size,
The water as clear as the verses of Byron,
Are things I remember with tears in my eyes.

Oh, had I but realized in time to avoid them —
The dangers that lurked in that pestilent draft —
I’d have tested for organic germs and destroyed them
With potassic permanganate ere I had quaffed.
Or perchance I’d have boiled it, and afterwards strained it
Through filters of charcoal and gravel combined;
Or, after distilling, condensed and regained it
In potable form with its filth left behind.

How little I knew of the enteric fever
Which lurked in the water I ventured to drink,
But since I’ve become a devoted believer
In the teachings of science, I shudder to think.
And now, far removed from the scenes I’m describing,
The story of warning to others I tell,
As memory reverts to my youthful imbibing
And I gag at the thought of that terrible well,
And the old oaken bucket, the fungus-grown bucket,
In fact, the slop-bucket — that hung in the well.

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