There’s a skin without and a skin within,
A covering skin and a lining skin;
But the skin within is the skin without,
Doubled inwards and carried completely throughout.
The palate, the nostrils, the windpipe and throat,
Are all of them lined with this inner coat;
Which through every part is made to extend —
Lungs, liver, and bowels from end to end.
The outside skin is a marvellous plan
For exuding the dregs of the flesh of man;
While the inner extracts from the food and the air
What is needed the waste of the flesh to repair.
While it goes well with the outside skin
You may feel pretty sure all’s right within;
For if anything puts the inner skin out
Of order it troubles the skin without.
The Doctor, you know, examines your tongue
To see if your stomach or bowels are wrong;
If he feels that your hand is hot and dry,
He is able to tell you the reason why.
Too much brandy, whiskey, or gin,
Is apt to disorder the skin within;
While, if dirty and dry, the skin without
Refuses to let the sweat come out.
Good people all! have a care of your skin,
Both that without and that within;
To the first give plenty of water and soap,
To the last little else but water, we’ll hope!
But always be very particular where
You get your water, your food, and your air;
For if these be tainted or rendered impure,
It will have its effect on the blood — be sure!
The food which will ever for you be the best
Is that you like most and can soonest digest;
All unripe fruit and decaying flesh
Beware of, and fish that is not very fresh.
Your water, transparent and pure as you think it,
Had better be filter’d and boil’d ere you drink it,
Unless you know surely that nothing unsound
Can have got to it over or under the ground.
But of all things the most that I would have you beware
Of breathing the poison of once breathed air;
When in bed, whether out or home you may be,
Always open the windows and let it go free.
With clothing and exercise keep yourself warm,
And change your clothes quickly if drench’d in a storm;
For a cold caught by chilling the outside skin
Flies at once to the delicate lining within.
All you, who thus kindly take care of your skin,
And attend to its wants without and within,
Need never of Cholera feel any fears,
And your skin may last you a hundred years!
A. Power, Sanitary Rhymes, London: T. Richards, 1871, pp. 2-3 [the title page notes that “The present series consists of personal precautions against cholera, and all kinds of fever”]
Hamilton Osgood, Winter and its Dangers, Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blakiston, 1879, p. 47
The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (Sydney, NSW), 28 November 1885, p. 1161 [which attributes the poem to “Joseph Power”, in the Pall Mall Gazette]
Notes by Andrew Guild:
This poem is by Sir Alfred Power, who was born in 1805 and died in 1888.