Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
Echo No. 14
By Theodore Dwight (1764–1846)
        “Our song resounds a thunder storm once more—
“But Norwich’ far transcends Bostonia’s roar.”

  ON 1 Monday last, the sun with scorching ray,
Pour’d down on Norwich rocks a red hot day,
Along the streets no verdant weeds appear’d,
No blades of grass the geese and goslings cheer’d,
No brook, nor pond, mud-puddle, slough, nor pool,        5
Where ducks might paddle, and where pigs might cool:
But all was so completely burnt and bare,
That had old Babel’s king been pastured there,
On such short feed, (I do not mean to joke)
He never would have staid without a poke.        10
At length, slow rising up north-western skies,
Some little clouds about Elijah’s size,
Told us in hints and indications plain,
That they were sensible we wanted rain.
At first the teazing showers our patience tried,        15
By sailing northerly at distance wide,
Till three o’clock—when lo! a wondrous cloud,
Full dress’d in sable black like funeral shroud,
Rose in the west, and climb’d its awful way,
In proud defiance of the god of day,        20
Who soon perceived his rays were vainly shed,
And therefore rashly stripp’d, and went to bed.
But not much used to blankets in the heat
Of June, his godship soon began to sweat,
And snore, and puff, and piteously complain,        25
Which we mistook for thunder, wind and rain.
This reverend cloud came on with dreadful rumpus,
Wafted by winds which blew all round the compass,
And to the mind (the medium of sight)
A scene presented pregnant with affright.        30
For overcharged with true electric shot,
(Which all who ’ve felt, well know are rather hot)
As musket loaded deep on training day,
When Captain Flip commands to “bouze away,”
From breech to muzzle splits in splinters dire—        35
The cloud incessant burst in streams of fire;
While o’er the inky vault the lustre spread,
And streak’d the concave with surprising red.
Some of these streaks were follow’d by a roar,
Which came so near the streak that went before,        40
That if the first the earth did ever find,
The latter surely was not far behind.
And though we have not heard which way they went,
What place they stopp’d at, where their fury spent,
Whene’er they ’re found, like birds of equal feather,        45
I ’ll lay my ears you ’ll find them both together.
The ardent cloud continued to unlade,
Like sea-sick man in violent cascade,
Till evening shades, afraid to see the light,
Took care to spread the curtains of the night,        50
But all in vain—old Sol, his sweating o’er,
Kick’d off the clothes, and still’d his tuneful snore,
Just raised his head and oped his drowsy eyes,
And gave one flash of lightning through the skies,
When lo! the stars who thought the night begun,        55
In wild amazement started back and run;
While nodding Phœbus, trimm’d in slumbering cap,
Yawn’d out a smile and took his evening nap.
But Luna, somewhat wiser than the rest,
Stepp’d softly out, in pink and silver dress’d,        60
And trode with cautious step the western way,
To see if all were safe where Phœbus lay:
For well she knew if Sol again should rise,
And catch her idly flaunting round the skies,
He’d make her strip to gratify his ire,        65
And dress herself in every day’s attire.
But when she found he certainly reposed,
His lamp in truth burnt out, his eye-lids closed,
Round heaven’s high arch her car celestial roll’d,
O’er starry pavements gemm’d with living gold,        70
From orb to orb her fiery coursers flew,
And new born splendors clothed the etherial blue.
The feather’d tribe o’erjoy’d to lose the storm,
Now ventured forth in many a cackling swarm.
And fill’d with noise upraised the plumy wing,        75
And stretch’d on tiptoe oped their throats to sing,
And all around, from every stump and tree,
Proceeded songs of praise, and songs of glee;
While men and beasts stood staring all the while,
To see creation ope her mouth and smile.        80
The earth has got of rain a good supply,
And everything is wet that late was dry—
Now nature’s self with mighty legs and voice,
May skip in earthquakes and in songs rejoice,
While man, the master of the tuneful throng,        85
Shall sound the pitch, and lead the choral song.
    P. S.  As such a storm does rarely fly
    For nought across the azure sky,
    ’T is said that on the self-same night
    Three cows were kill’d at Bolton by ’t!        90
    Poor Mr Wythe two years ago,
    Had his barn burnt exactly so.
Note 1.
From the Norwich Packet, of June 20, 1793.
“MONDAY the 27th inst. being very warm, there appeared in the N. W. several small clouds, which indicated what the earth greatly stood in need of, viz. showers of rain, which afterwards collected and directed their course to the northward of this place, till about three o’clock, when a cloud clothed in sable black gathered in the west, arose and passed in a direct line over this city: wafted with uncommon violence by the wind fluctuating in various directions, presented to the human mind a spectacle alarming to behold: it was highly charged with electric fluid, and almost incessantly burst in streams of crimson fire, which streaked the heavens with astonishing lustre; several of which, from the near connexion between the blaze and report, must have reached the earth not far distant, though we do not learn of any consequential damages sustained. It continued to disburden itself of its contents with unremitted ardor and violence until the shades of evening had spread around us the curtains of the night, when it gradually disappeared; and the horizon shone again clear and bright. Gay Luna who in majestic sway was now travelling the downward skies shone with unusual splendor, and the star bespangled canopy of heaven furnished a scene at once beautiful to the eye of the beholder. The feathered tribe who during the storm were hushed in silence, now erected their plumy wings, as one, attuned to the God of nature their feeble songs of praise, and the neighboring groves amidst creation’s smiles, harmonized music echoed through the skies! the earth has received a goodly supply of rain, and the works of nature, undisturbed, laugh and rejoice; let audible gratitude awake the voice of man on this occasion for one of the choicest of heaven’s blessings.
  “We hear that three cows were killed at Bolton last Monday evening, by the lightning.” [back]

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