History Through Literature: Hieronymus Fracastorius, Syphilis or a Poetical history of the French disease. (1686)

European Exploration, Perception of the Other, and the Columbian Exchange 

How did the Columbian exchange link worlds?

Hieronymus Fracastorius was a physician and professor of medicine in the University of Padua in the early 1500s. His poem Syphilis sive morbus gallicus written in three books in 1530 was the first to name the disease (after a Greek myth of a shepherd named Syphilis who was cursed with a disease by the gods). His poem attributes the disease to the discovery of the New World.

Say, Goddess, to what Cause we shall at last
Assign this Plague, unknown to Ages past;
If from the Western Climes 'twas wasted o'er,
When daring Spaniards left their Native shore;
Resolv'd beyond th' Atlantick to descry,
Conjectur'd Worlds, or in the search to dye.
For Fame Reports this Grief perpetual there,
From Skies infected and polluted Air:
From whence 'tis grown so Epidemical,
Whole Cities Victims to its Fury fall;
Few scape, for what relief where vital Breath,
The Gate of Life, is made the Road of death?
If then by Traffick thence this Plague was brought,
How Dearly Dearly was that Traffick bought!
This Prodigy of sickness, weak at first,
(Like Infant Tyrants and in secret Nurst)
When once confirm'd, with sudden rage breaks forth
And scatters dessolation through the Earth.
So while the Shepherd travelling through the dark
Strikes his dim Torch, some unsuspected Spark
Falls in the Stubble, where it smothers long
But by degrees becomes at last so strong,
That now it spreads o'er all the Neighbouring soil,
Devours at once the Plowmans hope and Toil;
The sacred Grove next Sacrifice must be,
Nor Iove can save his dedicated Tree;
The Grove Foments its Rage from whence it flies
In curling flames and seems to fire the Skies.

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