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With boisterous sweep, I raise my voice to you.
Where are your stores, ye powerful beings! say
Where your aërial magazine reserved
To swell the brooding terrors of the storm ?
In what far-distant region of the sky,
Hushed in deep silence, sleep you when 'tis calm ?
When from the pallid sky the sun descends,
With many a spot that o'er his glaring orb
Uncertain wanders, stained—red fiery streaks
120 Begin to flush around. The reeling clouds Stagger with dizzy poise, as doubting yet Which master to obey; while rising slow, Blank, in the leaden-coloured east, the moon Wears a wan circle round her blunted horns. Seen through the turbid, fluctuating air, The stars obtuse emit a shivering ray; Or frequent seem to shoot athwart the gloom, And long behind them trail the whitening blaze. Snatched in short eddies, plays the withered leaf; And on the flood the dancing feather floats. With broadened nostrils to the sky upturned, The conscious heifer snuffs the stormy gale, Even as the matron, at her nightly task, With pensive labour draws the flaxen thread,
135 The wasted taper, and the crackling flame, Foretel the blast. But chief the plumy race, The tenants of the sky, its changes speak. Retiring from the downs, where all day long They picked their scanty fare, a blackening train Of clamorous rooks thick urge their weary flight, And seek the closing shelter of the grove. Assiduous, in his bower, the wailing owl Plies his sad song. The cormorant on high Wheels from the deep, and screams along the land. 145 Loud shrieks the soaring hern; and with wild wing The circling sea-fowl cleave the flaky clouds. Ocean, unequal pressed, with broken tide And blind commotion heaves; while from the shore, Eat into caverns by the restless wave, And forest-rustling mountain, comes a voice, That solemn-sounding, bids the world prepare. 1 The cause of " falling stars ” has They are observed in great numbers not yet been satisfactorily explained. about the early part of August.
Then issues forth the storm with sudden burst,
And hurls the whole precipitated air
Down in a torrent. On the passive main
Descends the ethereal force, and with strong gust,
Turns from its bottom the discoloured deep.
Through the black night that sits immense around,
Lashed into foam, the fierce conflicting brine
Seems o'er a thousand raging waves to burn.
Meantime the mountain-billows, to the clouds
In dreadful tumult swelled, surge above surge,
Burst into chaos with tremendous roar,
And anchored navies from their stations drive,
Wild as the winds across the howling waste
165 Of mighty waters : now the inflated wave Straining they scale, and now impetuous shoot Into the secret chambers of the deep, The wintry Baltic thundering o'er their head. Emerging thence again, before the breath
Of full-exerted heaven they wing their course,
And dart on distant coasts ; if some sharp rock,
Or shoal insidious, break not their career,
And in loose fragments fling them floating round.
Nor less at land the loosened tempest reigns.
The mountain thunders; and its sturdy sons
Stoop to the bottom of the rocks they shade.
Lone on the midnight steep, and all aghast,
The dark wayfaring stranger breathless toils,
And, often falling, climbs against the blast.
Low waves the rooted forest, vexed, and sheds
What of its tarnished honours yet remain ;
Dashed down, and scattered by the tearing wind's
Assiduous fury, its gigantic limbs.
Thus struggling through the dissipated grove,
The whirling tempest raves along the plain ;
And on the cottage thatched, or lordly roof,
Keen-fastening, shakes them to the solid base.
Sleep frighted flies; and round the rocking dome,
For entrance eager, howls the savage blast.
Then too, they say, through all the burdened air
Long groans are heard, shrill sounds, and distant sighs,
That, uttered by the demon of the night,
Warn the devoted wretch of woe and death.1
1 See “ Macbeth,” act ii. scene 3.“ Lamentings heard in the air,” &c.
Huge uproar lords it wide. The clouds, commixed With stars swift-gliding, sweep along the sky,
All nature reels: till nature's King, who oft
Amid tempestuous darkness dwells alone,
And on the wings of the careering wind
Walks dreadfully serene, commands a calm;
Then straight air, sea, and earth are hushed at once.
As yet 'tis midnight deep. The weary clouds,
Slow-meeting, mingle into solid gloom.
Now, while the drowsy world lies lost in sleep,
Let me associate with the serious night,
And contemplation, her sedate compeer;
Let me shake off the intrusive cares of day,
And lay the meddling senses all aside.
Where now, ye lying vanities of life!
Ye ever-tempting, ever-cheating train!
Where are you now? and what is your amount?
Vexation, disappointment, and remorse.
Sad, sickening thought! and yet deluded man,
A scene of crude, disjointed visions past,
And broken slumbers, rises still resolved,
With new-flushed hopes, to run the giddy round.
Father of light and life! thou Good supreme !
O teach me what is good ! teach me Thyself!
Save me from folly, vanity, and vice,
From every low pursuit ; and feed my soul
With knowledge, conscious peace, and virtue pure
Sacred, substantial, never-fading bliss !
The keener tempests come; and fuming dun ?
From all the livid east, or piercing north,
Thick clouds ascend-in whose capacious womb 225
A vapouring deluge lies, to snow congealed.
Heavy they roll their fleecy world along;
And the sky saddens with the gathered storm.
Through the hushed air the whitening shower descends,
At first thin wavering; till at last the flakes
Fall broad, and wide, and
fast, dimming the day With a continual flow. The cherished fields Put on their winter robe of purest white. 'Tis brightness all: save where the new snow melts Along the mazy current. Low the woods
Bow their hoar head; and, ere the languid sun
Faint from the west emits his evening ray,
Earth's universal face, deep-hid and chill,
Is one wild dazzling waste, that buries wide
The works of man. Drooping, the labourer-ox
Stands covered o'er with snow, and then demands
The fruit of all his toil. The fowls of Heaven,
Tamed by the cruel season, crowd around
The winnowing store, and claim the little boon
Which Providence assigns them. One alone,
The red-breast, sacred to the household-gods,
Wisely regardful of the embroiling sky,
In joyless fields and thorny thickets leaves
His shivering mates, and pays to trusted man
His annual visit. Half-afraid, he first
Against the window beats; then, brisk, alights
On the warm hearth ; then, hopping o'er the floor,
Eyes all his smiling family askance,
And pecks, and starts, and wonders where he is -
Till, more familiar grown, the table crumbs
Attract his slender feet. The foodless wilds
Pour forth their brown inhabitants. The hare,
Though timorous of heart, and hard beset
By death in various forms, dark snares and dogs,
And more unpitying men, the garden seeks,
Urged on by fearless want. The bleating kind
Eye the bleak heaven, and next the glistening earth,
With looks of dumb despair; then sad-dispersed,
Dig for the withered herb through heaps of snow.
Now, shepherds, to your helpless charge be kind;
Baffle the raging year, and fill their pens
With food at will; lodge them below the storm,
And watch them strict : for from the bellowing east,
In this dire season, oft the whirlwind's wing
Sweeps up the burden of whole wintry plains
In one wide waft, and o'er the hapless flocks,
Hid in the hollow of two neighbouring hills,
The billowy tempest whelms; till, upward urged,
The valley to a shining mountain swells,
Tipped with a wreath high-curling in the sky.
As thus the snows arise, and foul and fierce,
All Winter drives along the darkened air,
In his own loose-revolving fields the swain
Disastered stands ; sees other hills ascend,
Of unknown joyless brow ; and other scenes,
Of horrid prospect, shag' the trackless plain ;
Nor finds the river, nor the forest, hid
Beneath the formless wild ; but wanders on
From hill to dale, still more and more astray-
Impatient flouncing through the drifted heaps,
285 Stung with the thoughts of home : the thoughts of home Rush on his nerves, and call their vigour forth In many a vain attempt. How sinks his soul! What black despair, what horror fills his heart ! When for the dusky spot which fancy feigned His tufted cottage, rising through the snow, He meets the roughness of the middle waste, Far from the track, and blest abode of man ; While round him night resistless closes fast, And every tempest, howling o'er his head,
295 Renders the savage wilderness more wild. Then throng the busy shapes into his mind Of covered pits, unfathomably deep, A dire descent! beyond the power of frost ; Of faithless bogs ; of precipices huge,
up with snow; and what is land unknown, What water, of the still unfrozen spring, In the loose marsh or solitary lake, Where the fresh fountain from the bottom boils. These check his fearful steps ; and down he sinks 305 Beneath the shelter of the shapeless drift, Thinking o'er all the bitterness of death, Mixed with the tender anguish Nature shoots Through the wrung bosom of the dying manHis wife, his children, and his friends unseen. In vain for him the officious wife prepares The fire fair-blazing, and the vestment warm ; In vain his little children, peeping out Into the mingling storm, demand their sire, With tears of artless innocence. Alas!
315 Nor wife, nor children more shall he behold, Nor friends, nor sacred home. On every nerve The deadly Winter seizes ; shuts up sense ; And, o'er his inmost vitals creeping cold,