Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Black Death, Part 4 (of 4)

Friar Clynn looks beyond the present

Friar Clynn was a Franciscan living in Kilkenny in western Ireland at the time of the Bubonic Plague. He wrote a work called "The Annals of Ireland," largely a history of military engagements. From what little we know, we assume he was writing it on behalf of a particular family, the de la Freignes.

The only reason we know his name is because he attached it to the following entry at the end of the Annals. (I quote from the translation found in T.H.White's Book of Merlyn.)

Seeing these many ills, and as it were the whole world thrust into malignancy, waiting among the dead for death to come to me, I have put into writing what I have faithfully heard and examined; and, lest the writing perish with the writer, or the work fail with the workman, I am leaving some pages for the continuation of it, in case any man may remain alive in the future, or any person of the race of Adam may escape this pestilence, to carry on the labors begun by me.

The entry is followed only by blank pages.

We do not know the date of this entry.

We do know that he made an entry dated in June of 1349. By that time, the Pestilence would have swept through and been done with. There is, however, no evidence of his survival past this date. Did he survive the Plague and die from old age or some other cause? We don't know. What is interesting on a human level, however, is that he saw what looked like the end of the known world coming. A disease was sweeping through every country and devastating the population with no successful treatment. By the time it reached Ireland, the stories of massive loss of population in Europe would have added a level of horrifying inevitability to the experience. Here, however, was a man who looked beyond the despair around him and his own terror, who turned his thoughts not to his own salvation, but to an unknown future and the uncertain hope that somehow mankind would persevere.

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