There were many factors in the time and setting that likely would have had an effect on Bróccan the Bard’s poetry, and not smallest among them was a plague that devastated nearly 20% of the population of the Saibhread Isles, spreading to many cities in Caelon as well, before it ultimately subsided. The toll it took on the people in that day was extraordinary. Statistically speaking, nearly everybody lost someone they loved, and not least among them was Bróccan, who lost an older sister when he was just a child to the disease.
The plague, called Cold Death by islanders because it caused extremities to appear cold and lowered blood circulation, also had other names such as Brittle Skin Disease or the Saibhrean Flu, as many people believed that the disease originated on the islands before traveling to the mainland. While the exact source of the disease is unknown and its path of destruction was immense, scholars have attributed much of the development of the bard’s work to the pain he must have felt living there in that time, losing someone for whom he truly cared deeply.
His sonnet “Warm Your Cold Arms” appears to be his only near direct ode to his sister. The song’s subject is more ambiguous when taken out of context, but can be found in the theatrical work Ships of Ire near the end of his life, giving the sonnet to a character in a play whose wife, not sister, was experiencing hypothermia after she had fallen out at sea. Many scholars believe that indeed Bróccan’s words here included were likely derived from his feelings from his childhood when his sister caught the infection. However, this was never something admitted publicly in Bróccan’s life, and he only lived three years after the play’s original run.
Warm Your Cold Arms
How can they keep you from my embrace?Bróccan the Bard
Your affliction has taken us all by alarm.
Oh, that I could bring back the lovely color to your face
And with my own, I could warm your cold arms.
How can it be that you, once so fine and fair
Are now held pris’ner to some sightless grasp?
How can something as invisible as the air
Keep your fingers out of my hands’ clasp?
Not spear nor saber nor executioner’s axe
Shall halt me from pulling you from all that harms.
And if death itself my will attacks
I, too, will die, oh but for sake to warm your cold arms.
For though all the world may scorn my selfish deed,
I will not forsake you in your greatest need.