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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Kent Davis Is there Balm in Gilead? (29) RE: Is there Balm in Gilead? 04 Oct 10


When my father was a child, a tree with sticky buds grew in his yard. His family didn't use it for anything, but neighbors would gather the buds, and perhaps the sap, to make a salve. It was called a "Bamagilly" tree. This was in Kegley, Southern West Virginia, late 30's or early 40's. Eventually the tree died.

When my father met my mother, he mentioned the Bamagilly tree to her. She had never heard of one. She was always interested in science and nature, got her teaching degree, taught High School biology, earned her Master's, and took many more courses beyond that but, in spite of all her classes in dendrology, she never heard anything more about the mysterious Bamagilly tree.

It eventually occurred to her that the tree was more conventionally called the "Balm of Gilead".

I wondered if Dad's was the only family that used this pronunciation, until I found this
Beth is a friend of ours. Her soaps and salves are wonderful. The location of her Bamagilly trees is Southeastern Ohio. Anyone else familiar with this pronunciation?



To get back on topic, Poe turned the "balm of Gilead" reference on its head in the poem. Jeremiah's questions "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?" were rhetorical. The answer was, "Yes, of course, there is balm in Gilead, and of course there are physicians there! Gilead is famous for its balm!" Jeremiah then asks "Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?"   The wound was ultimately spiritual, and the balm (following the LORD) and the physician (the LORD) had been available, but the Israelites had refused the cure. Poe, on the other hand, has the raven given the OPPOSITE answer to "Is there no balm in Gilead?"

"'Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'"

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