Archive for March 7th, 2022

Monday, 7 March 2022

Epitaph On a Patient killed by a Cancer Quack by Lemuel Hopkins

Here lies a fool flat on his back,
The victim of a Cancer Quack;
Who lost his money and his life,
By plaister, caustic, and by knife.
The case was this—a pimple rose,
South-east a little of his nose;
Which daily reden’d and grew bigger,
As too much drinking gave it vigour:
A score of gossips soon ensure
Full three score diff’rent modes of cure:
But yet the full-fed pimple still
Defied all petticoated skill;
When fortune led him to peruse
A hand-bill in the weekly news;
Sign’d by six fools of diff’rent sorts,
All cur’d of cancers made of warts;
Who recommend, with due submission,
This cancer-monger as magician;
Fear wing’d his flight to find the quack,
And prove his cancer-curing knack;
But on his way he found another,—
A second advertising brother:
But as much like him as an owl
Is unlike every handsome fowl;
Whose fame had rais’d as broad a fog,
And of the two the greater hog:
Who us’d a still more magic plaister,
That sweat forsooth, and cur’d the faster.
This doctor view’d, with moony eyes
And scowl’d up face, the pimple’s size;
Then christen’d it in solemn answer,
And cried, “This pimple’s name is CANCER.”
“But courage, friend, I see you’re pale,
“My sweating plaisters never fail;
“I’ve sweated hundreds out with ease,
“With roots as long as maple trees;
“And never fail’d in all my trials—
“Behold these samples here in vials!
“Preserv’d to shew my wond’rous merits,
“Just as my liver is—in spirits.
“For twenty joes the cure is done—”
The bargain struck, the plaister on,
Which gnaw’d the cancer at its leisure,
And pain’d his face above all measure.
But still the pimple spread the faster,
And swell’d, like toad that meets disaster.
Thus soil’d, the doctor gravely swore,
It was a right rose-cancer sore;
Then stuck his probe beneath the beard,
And shew’d them where the leaves appear’d;
And rais’d the patient’s drooping spirits,
By praising up the plaister’s merits.—
Quoth he, “The roots now scarcely stick—
“I’ll fetch her out like crab or tick;
“And make it rendezvous, next trial,
“With six more plagues, in my old vial.”
Then purg’d him pale with jalap drastic,
And next applies th’ infernal caustic.
But yet, this semblance bright of hell
Serv’d but to make the patient yell;
And, gnawing on with fiery pace,
Devour’d one broadside of his face—
“Courage, ’tis done,” the doctor cried,
And quick th’ incision knife applied:
That with three cuts made such a hole,
Out flew the patient’s tortur’d soul!
Go, readers, gentle, eke and simple,
If you have wart, or corn, or pimple;
To quack infallible apply;
Here’s room enough for you to lie.
His skill triumphant still prevails,
For DEATH’s a cure that never fails.

From: Smith, E. H. (ed.), American Poems, Selected and Original. Vol. I, 1793, Collier and Buel: Litchfield, pp. 137-139.

Date: 1793

By: Lemuel Hopkins (1750-1801)