What ho! sickly people of high and low degree

I think this is an appropriate posting for New Year’s Day, particularly for anybody who celebrated over-exuberantly on New Year’s Eve. It is a hybrid poem cum commercial jingle from the Scottish bard William McGonagall. The poem is written in praise of Beecham’s Pills an all purpose pick-me-up and cure. I assume these are a predecessor of Beecham’s Powder, which I have used myself many times, and which you can still by They dissolve in water and are great for colds, headaches and hangovers.
So I am in agreement with the poet about the benefits of his subject matter.
Beecham’s Pills

William McGonagall
What ho! sickly people of high and low degree
I pray ye all be warned by me;
No matter what may be your bodily ills
The safest and quickest cure is Beecham’s Pills.

They are admitted to be worth a guinea a box
For bilious and nervous disorders, also smallpox,
And dizziness and drowsiness, also cold chills,
And for such diseases nothing else can equal Beecham’s Pills

They have been proved by thousands that have tried them
So that the people cannot them condemn.
Be advised by me one and all
Is the advice of Poet McGonagall.

From <http://www.mcgonagall-online.org.uk/gems/beechams-pills&gt;

The opening of this poem, “What ho!” draws the reader in right away in conversational style, to hear the praises of Beecham’s Pills. We learn that they are an effective and accessible cure for all classes of people and for all ills. In the second stanza there is a bit of a conundrum, the poet states that the pills are held to be worth a guinea a box, This would be about ninety UK pounds or 125 US dollars in today’s money. Of course we do not know how many pills are in a box, but if this was a retail size it would be very expensive, contradicting the first line that they could be used by people of low degree. But perhaps the poet means that they are worth a lot because of their effectiveness, rather than this being the retail price, For after all, the stanza goes on to list the multiple illnesses which can be treated, from cold chills to smallpox (I don’t think I would take Beecham’s Powders today for smallpox.

The final stanza reinforces the recommendation by leaning on the authority and experience not only of thousands of users, but, perhaps more importantly, of the poet himself. I’m convinced.

Happy New Year 2016 to all readers of this blog.

The Poetry Dude

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