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Third Place Bust-a-Rhyme Poetry Contest Winner, 2009



by Grace Collins

Listen, listen well, my child,
as I sit here by this fire,
and share this story of Hydrargyrum, 1
until the late nighttime hour.

A Heavy Silver slowly flows, 2
through a thousand years,
silently unknown in the Vermillion stone, 3
until the rise of old Rome.

Slowly it flows, into ancient times
to be found in Egyptian sands,
in the Pharaoh’s hands and a river in Chinese lands. 4

It comes from Italian and Spanish mines,
it was a death sentence for your crimes,
in ancient Roman times. 5

Its fumes of the deadly kind,
makes one crazy in his mind
until Morta cuts his Line. 6

When Alchemists found this precious Stone, 7
The danger and the glory of it unknown.
And from the stone came the First matter,
that was held above the other Four. 8
One of Seven it became, 9

Until on that day, upon the Table, it was laid. 10
In between the Green and the Shine,
that would always be remembered though out time. 11

Listen well my child,
as Eighty on the Table it was laid. 12
Hydrargyrum is the Hermes’s secret name. 13



1. Hydrargyrum Hydrargyrum (hahy-drahr-jer-uh m.*) in the Latinized name that came from the Greeks. Meaning ‘Quick or Liquid Silver. ‘Quick Silver’ was the name given by the medieval Alchemists.

2. A Heavy Silver Mercury (Hg) is a very heavy metal and is a liquid at room temperature.

3. The Vermillion stone …the rise of Rome Cinnabar is the mineral in which mercury resides and was mined by Roman Prisoners back in the time of the Empire as a punishment and death sentence since most miners became poisoned by the vapors.

4. into ancient lands… Egyptian time. Presence of mercury goes way back to Ancient China and has been found in Egyptian tombs. One of the China’s Emperors, Qin Shi Huang was supposedly buried in a tomb with rivers of mercury along with his Terracotta soldiers.

5. It comes from Italy and …in ancient Roman times. Back during the Roman Empire, They used mercury in cosmetics and they sent criminals into the mines as a death sentence since most who went in did not live more then a year or two.

6. Its fumes of the deadly… steals his time. Back in the mid-1800’s to the mid-1900’s felt hats where dipped in Mercury(II) nitrate. (Mercuric nitrate) The workers who were around it would develop mental problems due to the mercury they were around and inhaling while in the factories. And that is where we get the term ‘As mad as a Hatter.’ Most who worked in a hat factory were not expected live very long lives. Morta is the Roman goddess of Death and one of the Three Fates or Parcae. She cuts a mortal’s thread of life.

7. When Alchemists…Stone. Cinnabar as mentioned above.

8. the stone came the First matter…. the other Four The medieval alchemists believed that mercury was the first matter, from it everything else came. The other four matters: Earth, Air, Water and Fire were all believed to have come from the first matter.

9. One of seven it became. The Seven magical metals for the Alchemists that were, Silver (The Moon), Mercury (Mercury), Copper (Venus) Gold (Sun) Iron (Mars) Tin ( Jupiter) and Lead for Saturn. In those times, Neptune, Uranus and Pluto had not been discovered yet and the Earth was the center of the universe.

10. on the Table the Periodic Table of Elements.

11. Between the Green and the Shine On the Table, mercury, (Hg) is between gold (Au) To the right and thallium (Tl) on the left. Thallium name come from the Greek word, “Thallos.” Meaning, Green twig.

12. as Eighty it was laid mercury’s atomic number 80 and is 80 on the Periodic Table of Elements.

13. Hermes’s secret name. Mercury is the name of the ancient Roman, god of messages and communication. He wears winged sandals and runs very swiftly in them to deliver messages. Also known as Hermes by the Greeks.

( * Pronunciation thanks to )


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