Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
Pains of the Imagination
By Nathaniel H. Carter (1787–1830)
  ON ocean’s cliff, see beauty wild and pale,
Watching alone the fury of the gale:
Amid the dangers of the rugged coast,
She marks her sailor’s gallant vessel tost;
Frantic with grief, her sunny locks she tears,        5
As the red lightning on the breakers glares,
And o’er the tumult of the boiling deep,
Mad whirlwinds howl, and dark tornadoes sweep.
Shall she, delighted, hear the tempest rave,
And list the murmurs of the dashing wave!        10
Think ye the grandeur of the scene can charm
Her heart, that throbs at every gust alarm!
  Behold yon volumes of sulphureous smoke,
Roll in black wreaths, and heaven with vapor choke
The mountain trembles, and the earth afar        15
Feels the dread shock of elemental war;
Loud roars the ocean, and the mingled din
Breaks on the ear from rumbling caves within:
Then flames the crater: to the skies aspire
The liquid gushes of volcanic fire.        20
Aghast the peasant of Campania stands,
And mourns his ruin’d cot, his deluged lands,
Perchance his wife, his children’s hapless doom,
Buried in flame, and hurried to the tomb.
While his lorn bosom is with anguish wrung,        25
Cares he what bards the scene sublime have sung?
How many Plinies once admired the sight,
Its grandeur traced, then perish’d in delight?
  But hark!—in southern climes along the ground,
Like distant thunders, runs a hollow sound:        30
Wide and more wide extends the sullen jar,
As when conflicting chariots rush to war;
Rocks, woods, and plains the wild commotion feel,
And the tall Andes to their bases reel;
In mountain waves, the undulating lea        35
Heaves, like the tossings of a troubled sea;
Impending ruin mocks the force of art,
And ghastly terror seizes every heart.
Then yawns the fathomless abyss, and down
At once are hurl’d the works of old renown,        40
The monuments of ages; all that man,
His genius, taste, and luxury could plan:
All, all in one promiscuous grave repose,
O’er which the earth, and gushing waters close,
And hence along the stagnant lake and plain,        45
Shall solitude and desolation reign.
  Oh! who hath not in fancy trod alone,
The trackless deserts of the burning zone,
Nor felt a dreariness oppress his soul,
To mark the sands in eddies round him roll,        50
Like ocean’s billows, threatening to o’erwhelm,
His wilder’d march, through many a weary realm?
No verdure smiles, no crystal fountains play,
To quench the arrows of the god of day,
No breezy lawns, no cool, meandering streams,        55
Allay the fervor of his torrid beams;
No whispering zephyrs fan the glowing skies;
But o’er long tracts the mournful siroc sighs,
Whose desolating march, whose withering breath
Sweeps through the caravan with instant death;        60
The wandering Arab, startled at the sound,
Mantles his face, and presses close the ground,
Till o’er his prostrate, weary limbs hath pass’d,
In sullen gusts, the poison-wafting blast.
  ’T is night: but there the sparkling heavens diffuse        65
No genial showers, no soft-distilling dews;
In the hot sky, the stars, of lustre shorn,
Burn o’er the pathway of the wanderer lorn,
And the red moon, from Babelmandel’s strand,
Looks, as she climbs, through pyramids of sand,        70
That whirl’d aloft, and gilded by her light,
Blaze the lone beacons of the desert night.
From distant wilds is heard the dismal howl
Of hideous monsters, that in darkness prowl:
Urged by gaunt famine from his lair and home.        75
Along the waste, the tiger’s footsteps roam,
And from afar, the fierce hyena’s scream
At midnight breaks the traveller’s fitful dream.

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