Seven Guesses of What ‘The Last Cries of Men’ Could Mean as a Title for Strike6

Yesterday Nick Jeffery discovered a potential title for the sixth Cormoran Strike novel, hereafter ‘Strike6,’ by following the trail of trademarks made by an agent of Rowling, Inc. Patricio Tarantino had found the agent’s name when he searched for the trademarking of The Christmas Pig and Nick traced all the agent’s trademarks, two of which were the Christmas Pig and The Ickabog. The most likely of the remaining trademarks for a Strike book title was The Last Cries of Men. See ‘Is Strike6’s Title ‘The Last Cries of Men’?‘ for the details of the discovery.

Nick explains there, too, that the line and possible title is from the 17th Century divine John Donne and his Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. Friend of this weblog Beatrice Groves, Research Fellow at Oxford University, is hard at work writing up what we need to know about Donne the Metaphysical Poet — please let her be discussing the alchemy — as well as this specific book, most famous today, alas, because it provided an epigraph for For Whom the Bell Tolls. While we wait for the proper and rigorous treatment, though, join me after the jump for a hasty grabbing at some low hanging fruit.

What could The Last Cries of Men mean as a title for Strike6? If you’re like me, you’re still trying to figure out what Career of Evil or Troubled Blood told us about those books. On the chance that Rowling-Galbraith is giving us a title that helps understanding the novel or is a clue with what it is about, a chance on top of the possibility that Nick Jeffery has scored again with IDing a title and its epigraph source (he did that with Spenser, too, immediately after the title of Strike5 was announced), I’m going to make some guesses and ask you to join in after a cursory look at the passage in question. 

Below is the full meditation in Devotions upon Emergent Occasions from which the line “The Last Cries of Men” is taken. It has modernized spelling and I have highlighted parts and changed the paragraphing for easier reading. For the purists out there who want the original spelling (‘The Phisician is afraid’) and the essay as one paragraph, see this wikisource copy.

Meditation VI from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions (1624)

The Physician Is Afraid

I OBSERVE the physician with the same diligence as he the disease; I see he fears, and I fear with him; I overtake him, I overrun him, in his fear, and I go the faster, because he makes his pace slow; I fear the more, because he disguises his fear, and I see it with the more sharpness, because he would not have me see it.

He knows that his fear shall not disorder the practice and exercise of his art, but he knows that my fear may disorder the effect and working of his practice. As the ill affections of the spleen complicate and mingle themselves with every infirmity of the body, so doth fear insinuate itself in every action or passion of the mind; and as wind in the body will counterfeit any disease, and seem the stone, and seem the gout, so fear will counterfeit any disease of the mind.

It shall seem love, a love of having; and it is but a fear, a jealous and suspicious fear of losing. 

It shall seem valour in despising and undervaluing danger; and it is but fear in an overvaluing of opinion and estimation, and a fear of losing that.

  • A man that is not afraid of a lion is afraid of a cat;
  • not afraid of starving, and yet is afraid of some joint of meat at the table presented to feed him;
  • not afraid of the sound of drums and trumpets and shot and those which they seek to drown, the last cries of men, and is afraid of some particular harmonious instrument; so much afraid as that with any of these the enemy might drive this man, otherwise valiant enough, out of the field.

I know not what fear is, nor I know not what it is that I fear now; I fear not the hastening of my death, and yet I do fear the increase of the disease; I should belie nature if I should deny that I feared this; and if I should say that I feared death, I should belie God. My weakness is from nature, who hath but her measure; my strength is from God, who possesses and distributes infinitely.

As then every cold air is not a damp, every shivering is not a stupefaction; so every fear is not a fearfulness, every declination is not a running away, every debating is not a resolving, every wish that it were not thus, is not a murmuring nor a dejection, though it be thus; but as my physician’s fear puts not him from his practice, neither doth mine put me from receiving from God, and man, and myself, spiritual and civil and moral assistances and consolations.

I think we can agree that, as a statement of faith and trust in God while ill, this is edifying as all get out.

What, though, could all that possibly mean as a title for the sixth Cormoran Strike mystery?

Let’s break down the relevant parts, beginning with the Latin in the title. Not all of the meditations begin with Latin; of the ten available of Donne’s twenty-three via Wikisource, only one other has a Latin epigraph in its title.

Meditation VI, as with all the meditations, is an essay by a man on a sickbed seeking consolation from God and thinking about his state. Its Latin title is Metuit which means ‘He feared,’ simple past, or ‘He has feared/is afraid,’ present perfect (completed action now).

There are 43 uses of the verb metuo in the Latin Bible Donne would have probably known by heart, but only one use of metuit; Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 26:5, A tribus timuit cor meum, et in quarto facies mea metuit: “Of three things my heart hath been afraid, and at the fourth my face hath trembled.”

The Sirach verses that follow name the four things — “The accusation of a city, and the gathering together of the people, And a false calumny, all are more grievous than death. (4) A jealous woman is the grief and mourning of the heart.” The seven subsequent verses explain just how dangerous this woman is. Your face better be trembling with fear when confronted by a jealous woman.

That’s a long way to go on a narrow path to get from ‘The Last Cries of Men’ to Charlotte Campbell, but there it is.

The English title of the Meditation in the original spelling is ‘The Phisician is afraid.” The Meditation that follows, appropriately enough, is a reflection on fear, one inspired by the patient’s awareness of his doctor’s concern that he may die.

Donne opens with his observation that his doctor has been frightened by his condition but is doing his best not to show it. It leads to Donne’s realizing the absurdity of his own thinking and fears in light of Christ’s victory over death. “I know not what fear is, nor I know not what it is that I fear now; I fear not the hastening of my death, and yet I do fear the increase of the disease.” In loose translation, “I do not fear death, but am afraid that my illness is going to grow worse.”

The passage in question, the potential title ‘The Last Cries of Men,’ is part of his brilliant set of three conceits or metaphors for this upside-down fearing of the lesser thing yet not fearing the much greater threat.

  • A man that is not afraid of a lion is afraid of a cat;

  • not afraid of starving, and yet is afraid of some joint of meat at the table presented to feed him;

  • not afraid of the sound of drums and trumpets and shot and those which they seek to drown, the last cries of men, and is afraid of some particular harmonious instrument; so much afraid as that with any of these the enemy might drive this man, otherwise valiant enough, out of the field.

“The last cries of men” refers specifically to the screams of men dying on the field of battle which the Army band music of “drums and trumpets” not to mention the roaring cannons and guns is supposed to “drown” out lest a soldier become a coward and be driven “out of the field.” Donne likens his fear of his illness progressing while not fearing death the illness may cause to a man who is not unsettled by the battleground music drowning out the death agonies of dying soldiers but who fears “some particular harmonious instrument,” say, a flute or violin played in a drawing room in peace, instead.

What do we think may happen in the sixth Strike novel that would line up with this title?

For starters, there is the illness and death angle.  We have several characters not in very good shape at the end of Troubled Blood who may wind up in a bed like the one Donne was sleeping in.

Jonny Rokeby has prostate cancer, for example, and Strike spent Book 5 yelling at him and fuming about his absence from his life; the rock star, consequently, is in the Dumbledore Hot Seat for Book 6. Stay away from those high towers, Jonny!

Uncle Ted was a train wreck at Joan’s death if he seemed much stronger at Easter, the last time we saw him. Death of a spouse is said to be the most stressful emotional event there is and it often takes away the widow or widower.

And everyone is noting how much Cormoran smokes and the effect it is having on his health. You need to be worried when Janice Beattie is telling you to stop smoking. Next thing you know, she might be helping you to the exit with a boom-boom bon-bon or delicious date.

Then there is the battle-field parallel. The title, after all, is lifted from a sentence about “the last cries of men” in war having been shot but not yet dead.

We have not heard much of what happened to Strike when the IED exploded or what he heard except that his driver was blown in half. Perhaps the “last cries of men” refers to his own existence, having been blown up in battle but living on. It would be a nice parallel with the Pensieve trips in Half-Blood Prince if we get some battleground back-story in Strike6.

We have not been told, either, any details about the military decoration Strike received while in the SIB. Forgive me for assuming this was not a Good Conduct Medal or Oversea Service Badge but recognition of some heavy-duty merit for his saving a soldier or a civilian’s life at the risk of his own. Prepare to be impressed by his derring-do — and horrified. Bosnian sex traffickers and child pornographers? What horrors hasn’t Sgt Strike seen?

It could be that Strike and Robin wind up in some kind of civilian battlefield, too, one between citizen killers rather than military personnel.  If the Harringay Crime Syndicate learn that Strike was responsible for Digger Malley’s doing time or the Riccis find out that Robin visited their dad at St Peter’s, we could have a real dust-up.

Something like what I predicted years ago in ‘Heroin Dark Lord 2.0

And how about the Forgotten Person possibility?

Remember Kara Wolfson? Cormoran and Robin learned that Muccy Ricci had her gang-raped and knifed to death and that he filmed it. Her cries were unheard, too, in the short term because there was no audio on the film and forever after because her killers escaped accountability. She has been forever silenced.

The Cries of Men, from this perspective, are the voices we do not hear because of the noise meant to distract us, to keep us from being horrified by the madness of the world in which we live. The din of social media, the pleasures of film and fiction, the cacophony of gossip, blacklisting slander, and innuendo — everything that keeps us from hearing the suffering at our feet.

I think Rowling-Galbraith may be ‘going there’ because she has already taken us there, for women mostly but Donne’s “of men” is about all humanity I think. And Rowling taking us to hear the cries of the unheard and forgotten would be quite like her, especially if along the way we were taught to recognize the sounds to edit out and the voices to audit, to hear and to heed, for a greater empathy with all those for whom the bell tolls.

Donne’s much more famous devotion is the one right after the one quoted in the potential title and perhaps its point is the one Rowling-Galbraith will be making, too:

No man is an iland entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.




  1. Interesting as always. However, is there reason to assume “The Last Cries of Men” will be the next book, assuming it’s a Strike book at all? Didn’t Rowling say she had the ideas for the epigraphs used in Deathly Hallows well before she started writing it? Wasn’t it about the time of the second book? She knew where she wanted to go with Harry’s story and the epigraphs gave her a point of reference. A book about fear and facing death would be a very Book 7 kind of thing to write about if Strike and Potter have a similar arc.

  2. Good point! It could be Strike7 as easily as Strike6. I am assuming that it is the next book in the series but as Nick Jeffery has already noted, two other titles, ‘Ink Black Heart’ and ‘Love Stories for the Rich and Desperate’ are also on the trademark lists.

    Which is not to mention that they could be titles for the Fantastic Beasts movies, video games, or Rowling’s Mary Westmacott novels.

    We’re a long, long way from any surety here; the seven guesses above were made in a burst of wish fulfillment hope that we will get a Donne-epigraph-laden Strike novel sooner rather than later.

  3. Louise Freeman says

    If we are looking for another candidate for the Deathwatch of Book 6, another possibility is Pat Chauncey. Virtually every mention brought up her smoking and her rasping voice. I think it is possible she will go the way of the first two Night Court baliffs (see

    I am also wondering if there will be more to the story of her first husband, and why Strike’s resemblance to him caused her to “make assumptions.”

    In any case, her developing lung cancer or emphysema might inspire Strike to reconsider his own cigarette habit.

  4. Strike Fan says

    Hello Mr.Granger,

    If you do not mind a bit of directness, both the very good posts on this site, regarding probable titles of Strike 6, deliberately skip the “Leda Strike: Mistress of the Salmon Salt” theory.

    Both ‘The Ink Black Heart’ and ‘The Last Cries of Men’ could expound on the “Leda Strike: Mistress of the Salmon Salt” theory.

    I am interested to know why you think this does not deserve your attention? I understand the subject matter is unpleasant and the music from Blue Oyster Cult apart from one or two songs is designed to shock and intrigue the audience than of any other values attributed to music in general. Yet, we know that Miss.Rowling went all the way to include them and make them a plot point of a book which could be called foundational for the Robin and Strike series.

    Hoping for a considered response from you.
    Strike Fan

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