Evening News (London), March 26, 1903

In the Air.

(With apologies to Mr. W. S. Gilbert.)1

According to German experts the wind frequently acts as a means of conveying microbes of peculiar deadliness from one place to another.2


There are microbes in the bellow of the blast.

There is sickness in the growling of the gale.

   There are numerous diseases

   In the pleasantest of breezes,

Epidemics in the air that we inhale.

It is always most unpleasant to find out that germs are present,

And especially in air that we inhale.

Tornadoes are a vehicle for gout.

A cyclone brings you asthma while you wait.

   Every breath of air that blows is

   Fraught with “flu,” tuberculosis,

Scarlatina or sciatica, they state.

(If they terrify unduly, or are simply speaking truly,

I am personally not prepared to state.)

   But if it’s so, sing bury down bury,

    It’s evident, very, our days are done.

   Away we’ll go, and open our purses

    For mutes3 and hearses. Our course is run.

There is beauty in extreme old age, we know,

But that venerable beauty’s not for us.

   When what Romans called the Notus4

   In its deadly grip has got us,

We shall die without unnecessary fuss.

(Though it may seem strange and vexin’, we shall simply hand our checks in,

And expire without unnecessary fuss.)

Does the wind blow chill and biting from the East,

Is it wafted soft and balmy from the South,

   Be it sighing, be it brawling,

   It is equally appalling,

There is suicide in opening the mouth.

   Which being so, sing bury down bury, etc.

             P. G. W.




“According to German experts, winds have carried the germs of tropical diseases to islands ten miles or more from the mainland. Germs are carried by the wind high into the atmosphere, and reach the surface at a distance. The sunlight does not kill some of the worst disease germs. Warm, moist or ‘muggy’ weather is regarded as ‘disease-breeding’ in American cities, probably because it is favourable to the multiplication of germs in the air. Warm, dry weather, followed by wind, is also thought to favour the growth of germs. A snowstorm or heavy rain purifies the atmosphere.” (Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald, March 21, 1903)

John Dawson    


The poem’s form parodies W. S. Gilbert’s lyric “There is beauty in the bellow of the blast” from The Mikado.


Mutes were professional black-clad mourners at Victorian funerals who walked silently behind horse-drawn hearses.


Notus was the god of the South Wind, bringing stormy wet weather.

Neil Midkiff