“A Remedy for Heartache”

We begin our weekly postings for the tenth volume of Heron Tree with “A Remedy for Heartache,” which M. E. Goelzer created from the Complete Herbal by Nicholas Culpeper (1653). Please click here to read.

About the poem and the process of composing it, M. E. Goelzer writes:

“Regard the heart, keep that upon the wheels, because the sun is the foundation of life, and therefore those universal remedies … cure all diseases by fortifying the heart.” – from Culpeper’s Complete Herbal

As I began to read Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, I became curious to learn something about Nicholas Culpeper himself. I found that his life was marked by a series of tragedies and hardships, and also that he showed great generosity in the ways he shared and practiced his knowledge of herbal medicine. As I read pieces of the Complete Herbal, thinking of how much heartache was inherent in the circumstances that surrounded Nicholas Culpeper, I was repeatedly struck by ways in which he sought to offer comfort. I chose to write this sestina, using sentences and phrases from the text (rearranged, with words sometimes erased, but not added, and with just a few tweaks for subject-verb agreement), as if Nicholas Culpeper had written it—for himself, perhaps, as well as for others—as a way to suggest a general remedy for both universal and personal heartache.