A periodic state of revolt

The provinces of his body revolted.
W.H. Auden
“In Memory of W.B. Yeats”

After feeling kind of down the last couple of days, I woke up sick yesterday. Headache, fever, sore throat, the beginnings of sinus congestion. The usual cold symptoms that I get several times each winter. I took it easy most of the day, but I had to work in the afternoon and then I’d planned a get-together with friends in Manhattan to celebrate my birthday. Some friends were here from out of town and I couldn’t bail out — and beer and scotch eased my pain.

This morning I woke up feeling much worse. When I’m sick like this, lying in bed in a half-conscious stupor, my body separates into different principalities and kingdoms. The Land of My Achey Head thinks it’s in charge, but it ends up fighting skirmishes with other places, the twin Baronies of the Legs, the Duchies of the Arms, the provinces of Upper and Lower Chest, the all-important Borderlands of Throat, which are particularly resistant to control from above and are often the scenes of peasant conflagrations and uprisings.

These fights usually involve ranks and ranks of red- or blue-coated soldiers with muskets and those x-shaped white bandoliers, like they wore during the 18th century. Since, like I said, these insurrections are periodic, the general populace doesn’t get too alarmed: “Oh, it’s just Groin and Thigh going at it again over some little piece of real-estate, Martha. Let’s get back to the potato pickin’.” But they still hurt. I expect I’ll spend all day in bed or on the couch watching the Olympics, trying to keep myself correctly dosed and keep the rebellions relatively calm. They’ll play themselves out, and eventually the duchies will again submit to central authority and stop aching.

It’s weird to be alienated from parts of your own body, isn’t it? When things are going well, I think of the whole thing as “me,” but that can change quickly, whether I catch a cold or my leg just falls asleep. As usual, Auden nails it when he uses this metaphor to describe Yeats’s death. Revolts that turn out to be successful, impossible to put down; the system of the whole breaking out into anarchy.

Luckily, I just have a cold.

3 responses to “A periodic state of revolt”

  1. G-Lock says:

    Remember another classic adage as you suffer through your cold (*cough* hangover *cough*): Have a little hair of the dog that bit you …

    Happy Birthday!!

  2. Lisa Parrish says:

    Is it just me, or does “groin and thigh going at it again” sound like something the principalities should attempt only when you’re feeling better?

  3. site says:


    will read it later…