The Beira Malaria

Original Text: 
Thomas Craig, Beira Ballads and Rhodesian Rhymes, &c. (Salisbury, Rhodesia: the Author, 1901): 48-49. X.908/19443 British Library
2    And your temples throb and threaten straight to burst;
3When your tongue feels like a doormat and your eyelids feel like lead,
4    And your throat is dry and parched with burning thirst;
5        When your eyeballs shun the light;
6        And the sunshine seems a blight,
7You may moan your luck, and wish you'd ne'er been weaned,
8        For your star is unpropitious
9        And the Fates have hit you "vicious,"
11        For he's a "daisy" -- he's a "lamb" --
13Seems gurgling baby-prattle meant to grieve you,
14        While the curs'd malaria rages
15        Through it's flaming fiery stages --
16Only scientific swearing will relieve you.
17When the Fever Fiend has gripped you, and your vitals seem a-fire,
18    Sure, the devil gets possession of your brain;
19Temptations you're resisted crowd amain to feed your ire,
20    And you pine to have such chances once again.
21        Then the doctor fills you up,
22        As per tabloid, pill, or cup,
23With foul remedies designed to kill or cure;
24        And the martyrdom you suffer
25        From the dire diploma'd duffer
26Tests the limit human nature can endure.
27        And he's a "daisy" -- he's a "lamb" --
28        And Kipling's childish "damn"
29Seems silly baby-prattle meant to grieve you,
30        When the doctor stirs your liver,
31        And your nerves are all a-quiver --
32Only scientific praying will relieve you.
36    And you wonder if this bout will be your last --
37        Then some stranger turns and stares,
39Bear a coffin to its final place of rest --
40        But 'tis just some comrade strong,
41        Gone to join the angel throng
42With a shovelful of quicklime on his chest.
43        Oh! it's a "daisy" -- it's a "lamb,"
44        And Rudyard's weary "damn"
45Seems only baby-prattle meant to grieve you;
46        For the Beira Cemetery
47        Makes you feel so grimly merry,
48Only scientific laughing will relieve you.


1] Phœbus: sun. Back to Line
10] Beira: the second largest city in Mozambique, on the east coast of Africa, and today still contagious with malaria. A road-railway line, the so-called 'Beira Corridor,' connecting Zimbabwe and the sea gives the city its importance. Back to Line
12] Rudyard's kippered "damn": Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), a Nobel prize-winning poet who visited South Africa and "swore" occasionally in poems celebrating the English stiff upper lip in calamity. Back to Line
33] miasmatic: malarial, characterized by poisonous vapors. Back to Line
34] Pungwe: the river by which Beira stands. Back to Line
35] drabs and dagoes: prostitutes and Spaniards. Back to Line
38] kafirs: Bantus. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.