Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VI. Fancy: Sentiment
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VI. Fancy.  1904.
Poems of Sentiment: II. Life
Quack Medicines
George Crabbe (1754–1832)
From “The Borough”

BUT now our Quacks are gamesters, and they play
With craft and skill to ruin and betray;
With monstrous promise they delude the mind,
And thrive on all that tortures human-kind.
  Void of all honor, avaricious, rash,        5
The daring tribe compound their boasted trash,—
Tincture or syrup, lotion, drop or pill;
All tempt the sick to trust the lying bill;
And twenty names of cobblers turned to squires
Aid the bold language of these blushless liars.        10
There are among them those who cannot read,
And yet they ’ll buy a patent, and succeed;
Will dare to promise dying sufferers aid,
For who, when dead, can threaten or upbraid?
With cruel avarice still they recommend        15
More draughts, more syrup, to the journey’s end.
“I feel it not.” “Then take it every hour.”
“It makes me worse.” “Why, then it shows its power.”
“I fear to die.” “Let not your spirits sink,
You ’re always safe while you believe and drink.”
*        *        *        *        *
  Troubled with something in your bile or blood,
You think your doctor does you little good;
And, grown impatient, you require in haste
The nervous cordial, nor dislike the taste;
It comforts, heals, and strengthens; nay, you think        25
It makes you better every time you drink;
Who tipples brandy will some comfort feel,
But will he to the medicine set his seal?
*        *        *        *        *
No class escapes them—from the poor man’s pay
The nostrum takes no trifling part away;        30
See! those square patent bottles from the shop
Now decoration to the cupboard’s top;
And there a favorite hoard you ’ll find within,
Companions meet! the julep and the gin.
*        *        *        *        *
  Observe what ills to nervous females flow,        35
When the heart flutters and the pulse is low;
If once induced these cordial sips to try,
All feel the ease, and few the danger fly;
For, while obtained, of drams they ’ve all the force,
And when denied, then drams are the resource.        40
  Who would not lend a sympathizing sigh,
To hear yon infant’s pity-moving cry?
Then the good nurse (who, had she borne a brain,
Had sought the cause that made her babe complain)
Has all her efforts, loving soul! applied        45
To set the cry, and not the cause, aside;
She gave her powerful sweet without remorse,
The sleeping cordial,—she had tried its force,
Repeating oft; the infant, freed from pain,
Rejected food, but took the dose again,        50
Sinking to sleep, while she her joy expressed,
That her dear charge could sweetly take his rest.
Soon may she spare her cordial; not a doubt
Remains but quickly he will rest without.

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