Selected writings of John M. Scudder.
Dr. Scudder was an inveterate reader and well grounded in the best of English literature. His knowledge of the classics was broad, and while more given to Scriptural passages as a text for some lesson in medicine, he frequently courted the great thoughts of great authors for inspiration. His adaptations of Shakespeare's lines to his purpose in this paper reveals the fullness of his analytic understanding, which he applied to every work in hand. His views on the use of hypnotics are suggestions for thought, from which many of the present generation may derive profit.—Ed. Gleaner.
"Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast."
Shakespeare was a most wonderful observer, and an unrivaled reader of facts. He puts paragraphs in a word or line, pages in a couplet, sometimes an entire treatise in a very brief space, as in the few lines which I have used as a heading to this article. Another consideration of the value of sleep, of the necessity for sleep, of the doctor's bounden duty to see that his patient has sleep and rest, may seem useless to many, but my experience proves that we can not learn these lessons too often. Within the month I have seen two cases where the lesson renewed might have saved life. The physicians knew it once, knew it then, but the lessons had lapsed, gone to sleep, as so many things received do.
What a striking expression this is— "the raveled sleeve of care." It is the history of many lives— "the carking care that wears the life away." Men and women in every condition, in every employment—you, I, our patrons, all—meet the "raveled sleeve of care" at every turn, and it is a prime factor in many diseases. What is it that gives relief? Sleep—"sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care."
"The death of each day's life, sore labor's bath." Can you see the wonderful power of the line— "the death of each day's life?" The day must die, as all days must die in sleep, or other days could not live. It is the prime necessity of life, quite as much as food, more than clothing or shelter. "Sore labor's bath" tells the histories of laboring men and women from the beginning of time. It removes the burden and gives strength for the coming struggle. Like the bath it rests and freshens the body.
"Balm of hurt minds" brings a weird conception of the struggle of life, which is not only "sore labor," but causes "hurt minds," which is many times the heavier of the two. One may work, be obliged to work to the extreme limit of the strength, and go on for many years, even a lifetime if the mind is free from care or trouble; but the "hurt mind" wears strength and life away rapidly. But the good God has furnished the remedy in sleep— "balm of hurt minds."
Truly it is the "chief nourisher in life's feast," and one to be regarded always and at all times by those who look after people's health. Shakespeare is speaking of such people, and it is our business to teach them lessons which keep people well, and I do not think the physician should lose any opportunity of impressing the lesson of these four lines.
But in the treatment of disease the necessity of this "chief nourisher in life's feast" is still greater, and we can not expect the best success unless we look to it. I have called attention many times to the necessity of seeing that patients have sleep in every form of disease. Not by the use of nacotics. O, no! Narcotism is not the sleep that "knits up the raveled sleeve" or is "sore labor's bath" or "balm of hurt minds" any more than whisky is gold and silver, even though it makes men feel rich for a few hours. There are other and better means of procuring the sleep which is so necessary.
We all appreciate the well made bed, the comfortable position, the hush and quiet of night, the darkness, when we want to sleep. The sick require the same conditions for restful sleep. They may need more, as the sponging of the face and hands, or the entire body, heat to the feet, something pleasant in the stomach in the shape of drink or liquid food. The fussing which many people misname nursing, the continuous taking of medicine which is misnamed treatment, do not favor sleep.
I do not believe I will be saying anything new to you when I recommend the right remedy as a sleep producer. How often have you seen aconite and veratrum pave the way to sleep by lessening vascular excitement and bringing down the temperature. Have you not seen sleep, natural sleep, that came with the kind action of gelsemium and rhus? or from the antiseptics, from quinine when indicated, even from a cathartic or lobelia emetic?
I tell you I do not believe there is the necessity for the use of opium, morphine, chloral, or sulfonal, that the books teach or many people believe. If we think of these things, and put them in practice early, we will find the necessity for narcotics growing less and less, until after a time we will hardly use them at all. They have a place, but we want to know, in every case, that they are just in the right place, and we do not want to feel responsibility for present injury, or for the growth of a future intemperance of use.—SCUDDER, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1892.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.