1348 & Other Equations by Valeria Melchioretto (Eyewear Pamphlet Series)

Tears in the Fence

Poems about plagues have an understandable fascination nowadays, and this one, published in 2019, was ahead of the curve. 1348 was the Western European advent of the Black Death, and the title’s ‘equation’ here appears in its root sense of ‘making equal’ – not only in the irreparable way that death does, but also in terms of social re-stratification in the plague’s aftermath. Starting from England, and travelling with the Arthurian Prince Galehaut, the poem quickly reaches Italy, for 1348 is also the year The Decameron is set, its narrators wintering out from the carnage in Florence. Events in Boccaccio’s narrative and Pasolini’s film version are alluded to, but especially their themes: fortune, sex, trickery, mercantilism, class conflict and Church corruption. The poem has a lot of fun, too, with medieval numerology, expanding (or detouring) onto the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man.

Some readers might be…

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