Sunday, 24 February 2019

On Doctors - Letters

I start to write, and the candle flutters.

"To Rosianus Geminus, Good Health!"

I pause and turn to you, "My problem, dear Calpurnia, is that Geminus is ill, and may not make it this time. How can I start with "Good Health!" when.."

You interrupt, "He only writes to you when he is ill. Don't hesitate over the salutation, write him something light and cheery. Threaten him with a visit. Or tell him one of your stories about doctors. That will get him out of bed."

I sigh, "I would rather listen to you read than struggle though correspondence with my..." 

You supply the words I would not say myself, "Your less successful friends? Or is that too harsh? Perhaps it should be those who only think to write to you when they are on their back drinking foul mixtures from their quacks."

I shake my head and gently remonstrate, "I do not think of friends in such a manner, and not all doctors are frauds. Some are well versed in lore and..."

You put your hands over my eyes, "It is not mere chance that the God Apollo, the patron god of medical practitioners, is known for deceit. He tricked his sister, the hunter Artemis, into killing her lover Orion."

You whisper,
"She raises the sights to her eye once more
Holding her breath against the cold night air
Her love, and the stars that turn above her
Slowly dim as pale light crowds the near horizon

Close by, on water's edge, shadows start to move
Ice cracks on water's edge, sharp light creases forest edge
Alone in the cold, she feels old age stalking her"

You hold me tight against the night, candle smoke drifting through my open study, until I ask, "What will become of us? The Gods will look askance at you remembering their Grecian forms."

You laugh, "Scribble my love. Tell Geminus about the time you had a mild cold, and planned a hot bath."

I took a deep breath and remembered the fever laying heavy on my heart.

"I wanted that bath. Until I saw the doctors mumbling between themselves. I asked them to explain themselves, but shuffling feet and looking sideways they all conceded eventually that it was probably quite ok for me to have the bath. But, instead of lowering myself into the water, I bent to self doubt, and ignorance."

You let out a high delighted giggle, "Suggest through your example, Geminus exercises a little more self-control, less Apollo's glance causes yet another misfortune."

Geminus was one of Pliny's legal advisors when Pliny held office as Consul in 100AD and remained in Pliny's circle of friends, although the tone of the letters (especially the one being constructed in this vignette) remains one of instruction.

(This is part of a novel under construction based on Pliny the Younger's Letters. (Book 7, 1))

No comments: