Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
The Conflagration
By Mather Byles (1706–1788)
IN some calm midnight, when no whispering breeze
Waves the tall woods, or curls the undimpled seas,
Lull’d on their oozy beds, the rivers seem
Softly to murmur in a pleasing dream;
The shaded fields confess a still repose,        5
And on each hand the dewy mountains drowse:
Meantime the moon, fair empress of the night!
In solemn silence sheds her silver light,
While twinkling stars their glimmering beauties shew,
And wink perpetual o’er the heavenly blue;        10
Sleep, nodding, consecrates the deep serene,
And spreads her brooding wings o’er all the dusky scene;
Through the fine ether moves no single breath;
But all is hushed as in the arms of death.
  At once, great God! thy dire command is given,        15
That the last tempest shake the frame of heaven.
Straight thickening clouds in gloomy volumes rise,
Gather on heaps, and blacken in the skies;
Sublime through heaven redoubling thunders roll;
And gleaming lightnings flash from pole to pole.        20
Old ocean with presaging horror roars,
And rousing earthquakes rumble round the shores;
Ten thousand terrors o’er the globe are hurl’d,
And general dread alarms a guilty world.
  But Oh! what glory breaks the scattering glooms?        25
Lo! down the opening skies, he comes! he comes!
The Judge descending flames along the air;
And shouting myriads pour around his car:
Each ravish’d seraph labors in his praise,
And saints, alternate, catch the immortal lays:        30
Here in melodious strains blest voices sing,
Here warbling tubes, and here the vocal string,
Here from sweet trumpets silver accents rise,
And the shrill clangor echoes round the skies.
  And now, O earth! thy final doom attend,        35
In awful silence meet thy fiery end.
Lo! rising radiant from his burning throne,
The Godhead, thundering, calls the ruins on.
“Curst earth! polluted with the prophets’ blood,
Thou, the vile murderer of the Son of God,        40
Full ripe for vengeance, vengeance be thy due,
Perish in flames, refine, and rise anew!”
Thus as he speaks, all nature owns the God,
Quiver the plains, the lofty mountains nod.
The hollow winding caverns echo round,        45
And earth, and sea, and air, and heaven resound.
  Now rattling on, tremendous thunder rolls,
And loudly crashing, shakes the distant poles;
O’er the thick clouds amazing lightnings glare,
Flames flash at flames, and vibrate through the air        50
Roaring volcanoes murmur for their prey,
And from their mouth curls the black smoke away;
Deep groans the earth, at its approaching doom,
While in slow pomp the mighty burnings come.
As when dark clouds rise slowly from the main,        55
Then, in swift sluices, deluge all the plain,
Descending headlong down the mountain’s sides,
A thousand torrents roll their foamy tides,
The rushing rivers rapid roar around,
And all the shores return the dashing sound:        60
Thus awful, slow, the fiery deluge lowers,
Thus rushes down, and thus resounding roars.
  But O! what sounds are able to convey
The wild confusions of the dreadful day!
Eternal mountains totter on their base,        65
And strong convulsions work the valley’s face;
Fierce hurricanes on sounding pinions soar,
Rush o’er the land, on the toss’d billows roar,
And dreadful in resistless eddies driven,
Shake all the crystal battlements of heaven.        70
See the wild winds, big blustering in the air,
Drive through the forests, down the mountains tear,
Sweep o’er the valleys in their rapid course,
And nature bends beneath the impetuous force.
Storms rush at storms, at tempests tempests roar,        75
Dash waves on waves, and thunder to the shore.
Columns of smoke on heavy wings ascend,
And dancing sparkles fly before the wind.
Devouring flames, wide-waving, roar aloud,
And melted mountains flow a fiery flood:        80
Then, all at once, immense the fires arise,
A bright destruction wraps the crackling skies;
While all the elements to melt conspire,
And the world blazes in the final fire.
  Yet shall ye, flames, the wasting globe refine,        85
And bid the skies with purer splendor shine,
The earth, which the prolific fires consume,
To beauty burns, and withers into bloom;
Improving in the fertile flame it lies,
Fades into form, and into vigor dies:        90
Fresh-dawning glories blush amidst the blaze,
And nature all renews her flowery face.
With endless charms the everlasting year
Rolls round the seasons in a full career;
Spring, ever-blooming, bids the fields rejoice,        95
And warbling birds try their melodious voice;
Where’er she treads, lilies unbidden blow,
Quick tulips rise, and sudden roses glow:
Her pencil paints a thousand beauteous scenes,
Where blossoms bud amid immortal greens;        100
Each stream, in mazes, murmurs as it flows,
And floating forests gently bend their boughs.
Thou, autumn, too, sitt’st in the fragrant shade,
While the ripe fruits blush all around thy head:
And lavish nature, with luxuriant hands,        105
All the soft months, in gay confusion blends.
  The holy nation here transported roves
Beneath the spreading honors of the groves,
And pleased, attend, descending down the hills,
The murmuring music of the running rills.        110
Anthems divine by every harp are played,
And the soft music warbles through the shade.
  Hither, my lyre, thy soft assistance bring,
And let sweet accents leap from string to string:
Join the bright chorus of the future skies,        115
While all around loud Hallelujah’s rise,
And to the tuneful lays the echoing vault replies.
This blessed hope, my ravish’d mind inspires,
And through my bosom flash the sacred fires:
No more my heart its growing joy contains,        120
But driving transports rush along my veins;
I feel a paradise within my breast,
And seem already of a heaven possess’d.

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