When the going gets tough, the tough keep their chin up and write a poem
BETWEEN JANUARY 1918 and December 1920, the “Spanish flu” infected 500 million people worldwide. Between 17 and 50 million died. Spread of the H1N1 influenza virus around the globe has been attributed to military troop movements as World War I came to an end.
On November 3, 1918, Victoria’s Daily Colonist published a poem written by Mrs. A. Wilson of 549 Connaught Road in Victoria West. Mrs. Wilson was fed up with the disease and the many ways in which it had impacted her community. She poetically shook her fist in the face of the flu and “skidooed” it away.
Mrs. Wilson's poem from 102 years ago shows us that our ancestors met fear and adversity with courage and creativity. And we will too.
The 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion marches up Yates Street as the troops returned to Victoria in April 1919. (Photo Courtesy of the City of Victoria Archives)
The Spanish Flu
Oh, the grippe; this terrible grip.
Thro’ country and town it is taking a trip;
Bringing to all a most fearful attack
Of billiousness, headache and pains in the back.
Its victims are many, its ravages grave;
Its “grip” is like iron, we lie and we rave,
Groaning and moaning with exquisite pain,
And praying we never may have it again.
Where does it come from, this wonderful grip,
So powerful that no one can give it the slip?
It comes and it brings with it doses of chills,
And then you must take for it doses of pills.
You shiver and sneeze and your head’s like a tap,
For you’ve got the grip and the grip’s got you, nap;
But it’s got a new name, ’tis the “Spanish Flu.”
But one thing I’ve noticed that this “Spanish Flu”
Is not a respector of persons—have you?
It visits the homes of the humble and great,
And travels at will over country and state.
Brave men fall before it, proud women as well,
And children have also been smitten and fell.
For one who has come, saw, and conquered all through,
We take off our hats to you, “Conquering Flu.”
But we don’t bid you welcome; Oh, you Mighty Flu,
There’s nobody wants you, so kindly skidoo.
At your word of command we have closed every door,
Of theatres, movies and places galore.
You’ve shut down our meetings and even our schools,
You’ve treated us just like a parcel of fools.
And even our churches and Sunday schools, too,
You have closed with a bang, oh, you wonderful Flu!
Still, altho’ you have made us obey every whim,
We rise up in defiance, your chance is now slim.
We’ll chase you before us, grim spectre, away!
We’ll fear you no longer, we’ll rout you today.
You’ve stalked through our midst like a fiend seeking prey.
’Till you quite overpowered our brightest and gay.
But your day is near over, you’ve had us, ’tis true,
And we are the conquerers, oh, Great Spanish Flu.
—Mrs. A. Wilson
549 Connaught Road, Victoria W.