Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
Echo No. 1
By Richard Alsop (1761–1815)
  ON 1 Tuesday last great Sol, with piercing eye,
Pursued his journey through the vaulted sky,
And in his car effulgent roll’d his way
Four hours beyond the burning zone of day;
When lo! a cloud, o’ershadowing all the plain,        5
From countless pores perspired a liquid rain,
While from its cracks the lightnings made a peep,
And chit-chat thunders rock’d our fears asleep.
But soon the vapory fog dispersed in air,
And left the azure blue-eyed concave bare:        10
Even the last drop of hope, which dripping skies
Gave for a moment to our straining eyes,
Like Boston rum, from heaven’s junk bottles broke,
Lost all the corks, and vanish’d into smoke.
  But swift from worlds unknown, a fresh supply        15
Of vapor dimm’d the great horizon’s eye;
The crazy clouds, by shifting zephyrs driven,
Wafted their courses through the high-arch’d heaven,
Till piled aloft in one stupendous heap,
The seen and unseen worlds grew dark, and nature ’gan to weep.        20
Attendant lightnings stream’d their tails afar,
And social thunders waked ethereal war,
From dark deep pockets brought their treasured store,
Embattled elements increased the roar—
Red crinkling fires expended all their force,        25
And tumbling rumblings steer’d their headlong course.
Those guarded frames by thunder poles secured,
Though wrapp’d in sheets of flame, those sheets endured;
O’er their broad roofs the fiery torrents roll’d,
And every shingle seem’d of burning gold.        30
Majestic thunders, with disploding roar,
And sudden crashing, bounced along the shore,
Till, lost in other lands, the whispering sound
Fled from our ears and fainted on the ground.
Rain’s house on high its window sashes oped,        35
And out the cataract impetuous hopp’d,
While the grand scene by far more grand appear’d,
With lightnings never seen and thunders never heard.
  More salutary showers have not been known,
To wash dame Nature’s dirty homespun gown—        40
For several weeks the good old Joan’s been seen,
With filth bespatter’d like a lazy quean.
The husbandman fast travelling to despair,
Laid down his hoe and took his rocking chair:
While his fat wife, the well and cistern dried,        45
Her mop grown useless, hung it up and cried.
  Two rainbows fair that Iris brought along,
Pick’d from the choicest of her color’d throng;
The first born deck’d in pristine hues of light,
In all its native glories glowing bright,        50
The next adorn’d with less refulgent rays,
But borrowing lustre from its brother’s blaze;
Shone a bright reflex of those colors gay
That deck’d with light creation’s primal day,
When infant Nature lisp’d her earliest notes,        55
And younker Adam crept in petticoats:
And to the people to reflection given,
“The sons of Boston, the elect of heaven,”
Presented Mercy’s angel smiling fair,
Irradiate splendors frizzled in his hair,        60
Uncorking demi-johns, and pouring down
Heaven’s liquid blessings on the gaping town.
  N. B. At Cambridge town, the selfsame day,
A barn was burnt well fill’d with hay.
Some say the lightning turn’d it red,        65
Some say the thunder struck it dead,
Some say it made the cattle stare,
And some it kill’d an aged mare;
But we expect the truth to learn,
From Mr Wythe, who own’d the barn.        70
Note 1. In order that this piece may be understood, the newspaper paragraph which furnished the occasion for it is here subjoined.
  “On Tuesday last, about four o’clock, P. M. came on a smart shower of rain, attended with lightning and thunder, no ways remarkable. The clouds soon dissipated, and the appearance of the azure vault, left trivial hopes of further needful supplies from the uncorked bottles of heaven. In a few moments the horizon was again overshadowed, and an almost impenetrable gloom mantled the face of the skies. The wind frequently shifting from one point to another, wafted the clouds in various directions, until at last they united in one common centre and shrouded the visible globe in thick darkness. The attendant lightning, with the accompanying thunder, brought forth from the treasures that embattled elements to awful conflict, were extremely vivid, and amazing loud. Those buildings that were defended by electric rods, appeared to be wrapped in sheets of livid flame, and a flood of the pure fire rolled its burning torrents down them with alarming violence. The majestic roar of disploding thunders, now bursting with a sudden crash, and now wasting the rumbling Echo of their sounds in other lands, added indescribable grandeur to the sublime scene. The windows of the upper regions appeared as thrown wide open, and the trembling cataract poured impetuous down. More salutary showers, and more needed, have not been experienced this summer. Several previous weeks had exhibited a melancholy sight: the verdure of fields was nearly destroyed; and the patient husbandman almost experienced despair. Two beautiful rainbows, the one existing in its native glories, and the other a splendid reflection of primitive colors, closed the magnificent picture, and presented to the contemplative mind, the angel of mercy, clothed with the brilliance of this irradiated arch, and dispensing felicity to assembled worlds. It is not unnatural to expect that the thunder storm would be attended with some damage. We hear a barn belonging to Mr Wythe of Cambridge caught fire from the lightning, which entirely consumed the same, together with several tons of hay, &c.” [back]

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