Hello readers. In what is the last of my Ovid in the Time of Covid blog posts, I wish to focus on looking ahead at the time of change. The Covid-19 pandemic is still in our midst, and despite the efforts of the medical and scientific community, it is mutating and spreading ever faster.
The Omicron variant is the latest challenge to our efforts in controlling the pandemic and too little is yet known about it. In the weeks and months ahead, we will be better equipped to fight it, but we must also be prepared for changes in the way we live, work, and interact with each other. Just as the world was beginning to emerge from lockdowns and ready to go back to work and the old life, we are being forced to scurry indoors and stay at home again.
In this last edition of Ovid in the Time of Covid, I use the story of the plague of Aegina from Ovid’s Metamorphoses as inspiration. In it, Cephalus recounts to Aecus and the people of Aegina how the plague ravaged the land and destroyed its population until ants transformed into people (the Myrmidons) in order to save it.
I hope we will heed the signs and look at the positive changes that might indeed emerge from this pandemic as well.
Time of change
And so it was that two years went by
With the pandemic showing little signs
Of slowing, but raging on high
Past the ever-watchful eyes of science
It almost seemed to cock a snook at them
Saying catch me if you can
Oblivious to all the mayhem
It had already caused and fanned.
With direful plague
The wrath of Juno smote the isle that bears
Her hated Rival’s name. While yet the ill
Seemed such as man might cope with, nor its cause
Was known, with all resource of healing art
We met it; but its deadly force o’erpowered
All skill, and baffled Medicine fled the field.
The story of the plague of Aegina from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book VII, Lines 645-651
Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Lambda
We might soon run out of letters in our lexicon
As the coronavirus dares us
Delta and now, the Omicron
How many more aliases will it take
For us to find a proven cure?
How many more disguises can it make
Before we call it out for sure?
Two years of this never-ending ordeal
We can count them simply as 730 days
Or 300 million worldwide as ill as they feel
And over 5 million deaths
Whichever way one looks at it
It is laying too many lives to waste
We can’t choose to ignore it
Act, and we can never be accused of doing so in haste.
When care might naught avail, the multitude
Gave licence to the burning thirst that raged
Within them: prostrate by the founts and streams
Or round the wells they grovelled, swilling Death
In greedy draughts, and, impotent to rise,
Died in the wave they drank, that not, even so
Polluted, scared fresh thirsters from its flood!
The story of the plague of Aegina from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book VII, Lines 692-699
Medicines, they’re being invented every day
The vaccines too are having their effect
However, too few are making their way
To the poorest people to make any impact
Africa is once again the continent
That the world is forgetting to include
In the vaccination footprint
And we know the results of that can be rude.
In a globalized world, it takes nothing
For a virus to travel the world
And everyone in its path, it is infecting
Spreads it to everyone else they spoke to, or heard
Right now, it is believed that Omicron
Is highly transmissible
If Africa is where it came from
Should vaccine inequity be permissible?
The new-born subjects hailed their King! To Jove,
Due thanks I paid; —my desolate town, my fields
Untilled, were stocked afresh: —and Myrmidons,
In memory of their origin, I named
The race. Thyself hast marked their port: —they keep
The habits of their birth, a frugal tribe,
Inured to toil, that wastes not what it wins,
But stores it, provident of future need.
The story of the plague of Aegina from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book VII, Lines 795-802
Like the plague of Aegina
We too need myrmidons among us
Who will step forth and endeavour
Through care and thoughtfulness
To spread the benefits of medicine
Equally across the world
For each plague and pandemic has its lesson
To teach and to unfurl.
The featured image at the start of this post uses The Plague of Rome by Jules Elie Delaunay courtesy the Minneapolis Institute of Arts on Wikimedia Commons