The physicians consider the root and occasion, the embers, and coals, and lug of the disease, and seek to purge or correct that

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

The physicians consider the root and occasion, the embers, and coals, and lug of the disease, and seek to purge or correct that

Sit Morbi Fomes Tibi Cura


John Donne

HOW ruinous a farm hath man taken, in taking himself! How ready is the house every day to fall down, and how is all the ground overspread with weeds, all the body with diseases; where not only every turf, but every stone bears weeds; not only every muscle of the flesh, but every bone of the body hath some infirmity; every little flint upon the face of this soil hath some infectious weed, every tooth in our head such a pain as a constant man is afraid of, and yet ashamed of that fear, of that sense of the pain. How dear, and how often a rent doth man pay for his farm! He pays twice a day, in double meals, and how little time he hath to raise his rent! How many holidays to call him from his labour! Every day is half holiday, half spent in sleep. What reparations, and subsidies, and contributions he is put to, besides his rent! What medicines besides his diet; and what inmates he is fain to take in, besides his own family; what infectious diseases from other men!

Adam might have had Paradise for dressing and keeping it; and then his rent was not improved to such a labour as would have made his brow sweat; and yet he gave it over; how far greater a rent do we pay for this farm, this body, who pay ourselves, who pay the farm itself, and cannot live upon it!

Neither is our labour at an end when we have cut down some weed as soon as it sprung up, corrected some violent and dangerous accident of a disease which would have destroyed speedily, nor when we have pulled up that weed from the very root, recovered entirely and soundly from that particular disease; but the whole ground is of an ill nature, the whole soil ill disposed; there are inclinations, there is a propenseness to diseases in the body, out of which, without any other disorder, diseases will grow, and so we are put to a continual labour upon this farm, to a continual study of the whole complexion and constitution of our body.

In the distempers and diseases of soils, sourness, dryness, weeping, any kind of barrenness, the remedy and the physic is, for a great part, sometimes in themselves; sometimes the very situation relieves them; the hanger of a hill will purge and vent his own malignant moisture, and the burning of the upper turf of some ground (as health from cauterizing) puts a new and a vigorous youth into that soil, and there rises a kind of phoenix out of the ashes, a fruitfulness out of that which was barren before, and by that which is the barrenest of all, ashes. And where the ground cannot give itself physic, yet it receives physic from other grounds, from other soils, which are not the worse for having contributed that help to them from marl in other hills, or from slimy sand in other shores, grounds help themselves, or hurt not other grounds from whence they receive help.

But I have taken a farm at this hard rent, and upon those heavy covenants, that it can afford itself no help (no part of my body, if it were cut off, would cure another part; in some cases it might preserve a sound part, but in no case recover an infected); and if my body may have had any physic, any medicine from another body, one man from the flesh of another man (as by mummy, or any such composition), it must be from a man that is dead, and not as in other soils, which are never the worse for contributing their marl or their fat slime to my ground. There is nothing in the same man to help man, nothing in mankind to help one another (in this sort, by way of physic), but that he who ministers the help is in as ill case as he that receives it would have been if he had not had it; for he from whose body the physic comes is dead.

When therefore I took this farm, undertook this body, I undertook to drain not a marsh but a moat, where there was, not water mingled to offend, but all was water; I undertook to perfume dung, where no one part but all was equally unsavoury; I undertook to make such a thing wholesome, as was not poison by any manifest quality, intense heat or cold, but poison in the whole substance, and in the specific form of it. To cure the sharp accidents of diseases is a great work; to cure the disease itself is a greater; but to cure the body, the root, the occasion of diseases, is a work reserved for the great physician, which he doth never any other way but by glorifying these bodies in the next world.