32. The Phlegm Pot

      No. 32     The Phlegm Pot.

A world of joys, I’ll now complete, a winter’s frost and summer heat,
With, kibey1 heels or sweaty feet, but whoring brings the pox;
Each buck each blood, that shines so fine, each showy fop or grave divine
May brighter than the day light shine, yet have the same mischance.

There’s many a fine and flashy beau, that’s taking pills for what you know.
They are all beshit from top to toe, tho they strut St James’s Mall;
There’s many a lady at Vauxhall, to go to stool must have a call,
Then up in a corner she lets it fall where it stinks as strong as Hell.

And when this way you have done your best, and your rotten corps won’t let you rest,
At St. Thomas’ Hospital you are carest,2 where you spit the phlegm pot ore’;
And as the phlegm begins to rise, and the fever works out at your eyes
And the death stool from your arse gut3 flies, Oh, then you feel no more.


Editor's Notes:

1. Kibes: chilblains, a crack in the skin

2. Carest: caressed

3. Arse gut: rectum

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I haven't been able to find much on the history of this song but a transcription in included in Kevin Patrick Siena's Venereal Disease, Hospitals, and the Urban Poor (University of Rochester Press, 2004). Siena points out that the song satirizes one who is suffering from the pox, and who, in the final verse, is subjected to mercury therapy -- one of many treatments available for venereal disease in the eighteenth century.

Phlegm was one of the four humours developed in ancient times and still widely current in the early nineteenth century until displaced by germ theory. The humours were Phlegm, Blood, Black Bile, and Yellow Bile Choler each of which corresponded to particular dispositions: Phlegmatic, Sanguine, Choleric, and Melancholy. The ideal was to keep these humour in balance, though they varied with age and according to the seasons. An excess of phlegm produced cowards and was associated with apathy.