Caroline Stockford Reads “The Plague in Bergamo”

Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior, Strandgade 30, 1906-8. Source: fr.phaidon.com


Old Bergamo lay on the summit of a low mountain, hedged in by walls and gates, and New Bergamo lay at the foot of the mountain, exposed to all winds.

One day the plague broke out in the new town and spread at a terrific speed; a multitude of people died and the others fled across the plains to all four corners of the world. And the citizens in Old Bergamo set fire to the deserted town in order to purify the air, but it did no good. People began dying up there too, at first one a day, then five, then ten, then twenty, and when the plague had reached its height, a great many more.

And they could not flee as those had done, who lived in the new town.

There were some, who tried it, but they led the life of a hunted animal, hid in ditches and sewers, under hedges, and in the green fields; for the peasants, into whose homes in many places the first fugitives had brought the plague, stoned every stranger they came across, drove him from their lands, or struck him down like a mad dog without mercy or pity, in justifiable self-defense, as they believed.

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Sara Elkamel: Two Poems

Alfred Wallis, St. Ives, 1928. Source: tate.org.uk

[Architecture]

To build something together one last time
there are so many questions,
like who would live there,
and if no one, why build it?

In our panic we make a house
that looks like a boat,
which reminds me of dreaming
both of us were angels, sleeping at sea.

When we lay the boat down
in the cemetery of love,
we squat over one of its three windows,
and wave to ourselves through the glass.

 

 

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