In the poem, many symbolisms were used to show the impending death of humans. In the verse, “The coming of the demon pestilence, suddenly makes the lamp dim, then it is blown out,” symbolizes death. The dimming of the light indicates the creeping entrance of death which is frequently interpreted with a cold or harsh wind. Also, darkness is often equated with demise so Shi Daonan used this image to exhibit the feeling of grim or oblivion. In addition, the verse, “The crows caw incessantly, the dogs howl bitterly!
”, also demonstrate the coming of death. Crows are associated with death because they are believed to be symbols of death and conflict. Their dark plumage, their cawing and their habit of feeding on carrion are the characteristics that are connected with death. More so, when crows fly in circle around dead living things, many people consider that they are the incarnations of the Valkyries, Norse warrior goddesses, that roamed the battlefield searching for the souls of the dead (“Rooks and Crows,” 2001).
Furthermore, dogs howling is also a sign of bad omen. There are many superstitions regarding this. A dog howling means that anyone sick in the area would die or it would bring tragedy to the place ( “The Dark Companion,” 2005). Another verse that signifies an impending death is, “ A few days following the death of the rats, men pass away like falling walls! ”. This verse clearly shows that after the death of the rats, human death was sure to follow.
This was the poets depiction of the Barbary plague that was spread by rats in China, India and America. During the 19th century, rats were associated with filth and unsanitary housing conditions, whether they were infected along with their human counterparts just because they inhabited the same places (Starling, 2006, p. 163).
Black Dog Institute. (2005 January).The Dark Companion: The Origin of ‘Black Dog’ as a Description for Depression . Retrieved February 27, 2008, from www. blackdoginstitute. org. au/docs/Huet. pdf Chris Huet Bungalow – An XTC Resource. (30 June 2991). Rooks and Crows. Retrieved February 27, 2008, from http://website. lineone. net/~ssleightholm/dict/glossary/rook. htm Starling, A. E. (2006). Plague, SARS, and the Story of Medicine in Hong Kong. Hong Kong