Pectoriloquy |

After MaimonidesTreatise on Poisons, c. 1198: Treatise on Poisons, c. 1198 FREE TO VIEW

Stephen Wilson, PhD
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Editor’s Note: Stephen Wilson is a retired psychiatrist turned poet and literary critic.“I wrote this poem after reading Fred Rosner’s Maimonides’ Medical Writings (Haifa: Maimonides’ Research Institute, 1984). The details are true to the translation.”

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians. See online for more details.

Chest. 2013;143(5):1511. doi:10.1378/chest.12-1856
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Your servant has examined the remedies
used by physicians for poisonous bites,
and found them to be generally warming.
Some are imbibed with wine,
others with water; if the patient is hot,
vinegar or milk should be used.
The scorpion’s sting chills a person
to the core; in this case ampelos
is the preferred decoction.
For those to whom it is forbidden,
anise will do; like the ethrog seed
it counteracts any fatal toxin.
It is better to avoid being bitten
and if a man is chased by a snake,
he should flee into a sandy place.
A woman, on the other hand,
should make herself naked
and cohabit (with her husband)
in front of the animal. Some say
this will only inflame the serpent’s
instinct. Rather she should
pull out a skein of hair,
gather a pile of nail parings
and hurl them at the attacker,
open her lips and shriek, ‘I am unclean’.
If this fails to deter and the bite is fatal,
the serpent should be put to death
by a court of twenty-three.
But according to Rabbi Akiba,
it should be killed without a trial.




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