The Vyrus

2020

Vyrus Vyrus, binding tight,
To our tissue day and night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

And what bellows, & what wants,
Could twist thine host’s primed response?
A gentle furnace, why require
Such sight unkind, a storm of fire?

Whence thy bloom, pressed to select
A deathless force to infect?
What dread hand? & Who to blame?
As thou on parting, spark host to flame.

What the template? what dread grasp,
As breath gives way to final gasp?
Did she smile her work to see?
Did she who blew Spirit make thee?

Vyrus Vyrus spiking tight,
To our tissue day and night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Notes: See the template, Blake’s The Tyger, below. Vocabulary is limited to that of Blake’s time. The “cytokine storm” that has been understood as the final, excessive, and lethal response of the immune sytem to a Cov-2 infection is echoed by “sight unkind, a storm.” This is one of about a dozen allusions to the technical terms and phrases of the Cov-2 infection cycle and viral evolution. The metaphor of the blacksmith’s forge is adapted to the fever induced by the infection. Blake’s concern with the problem of evil is copied, except with the evocation of a female deity.

“The Vyrus” was one of five winners of a Covid related poetry contest offered in the podcast This Week in Virology. Winners announced and poems read in a episode in December 2020.

The Tyger
William Blake, 1794

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

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