Adapted from “Whether One May Flee the Plague” by Martin Luther, from Luther’s Works, Vol. 43, translated by Carl J. Schindler, pp. 131-2
“No, my dear friends, that is no good.
Use medicine; take potions, too,
As every able person should,
For all these surely can help you.
Go fumigate your house and yard,
Your street and distance from others,
And places that do not regard
Your presence from needful neighbors;
Act like a man who wants to aid
A city that has caught on fire.
What else are epidemics made,
But like a burning blaze entire
Instead of burning up some wood
Devours life and body all?
This way your current thinking should:
‘This poison and deadly offal
The enemy has sent to us
Has been allowed by God’s decree.
I shall ask God to protect us
Therefore by His divine mercy.
And then I’ll fumigate anew,
Help purify the deadly air,
Give medicine and take it, too.
I shall avoid all places there
And persons where my self is not
Required so I shall not be
Contaminating without thought,
Infecting others carelessly.
If God should take me then despite,
He’ll find that I’ve done ardently
Within this sad and deadly plight
What He expected all of me.
So I won’t be responsible
For my own death or others, too.
And if my neighbors come to call,
I won’t neglect a rendezvous.
I won’t flee person or a place
But, as before, will freely go,
To meet that person face to face,
To do all goodly things I know.’
See, this is fearing-faith from God,
That’s neither brash nor foolhardy,
For it does not try to defraud
Or test our Lord God shamefully.”
* Image by Anna Shvets