Tag Archives: pandemic poetry

Pandemic poetry 5: A rhyme and a slogan from the Spanish flu


A cartoon published in “New York World” during the 1918 pandemic

During National Poetry Month, Glossophilia is posting poetry inspired by pandemics and virus outbreaks of yore. Today we bring you a public service slogan and a children’s rhyme.

During the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic, the Red Cross distributed gauze masks and enjoined the public to:

Obey the laws
And wear the gauze!
Protect your jaws
From septic paws!

And this children’s jump-rope rhyme was heard throughout the US during the height of the pandemic:

I had a little bird and its name was Enza
I opened the window and



Pandemic poetry 3: “The Influenza”, 1890

Winston Churchill in 1895

The Influenza (excerpt)

Yet Father Neptune strove right well
To moderate this plague of Hell,
And thwart it in its course;
And though it passed the streak of brine [the English Channel]
And penetrated this thin line,
It came with broken force.
For though it ravaged far and wide
Both village, town and countryside,
Its power to kill was o’er;
And with the favouring winds of Spring
(Blest is the time of which I sing)
It left our native shore.

    — by Winston Churchill, aged 15, affected by the pandemic known then as the Russian Flu in 1890