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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Description of a Thunder-Storm in the Forest
By François-René vicomte de Chateaubriand (1768–1848)
 
From ‘Atala’

IT was the twenty-seventh sun since our departure from the Cabins: the lune de fer (month of July) had commenced its course, and all signs indicated the approach of a violent storm. Toward the hour when the Indian matrons hang up the plowshares on the branches of the junipers, and when the paroquets retire into the hollows of the cypress trees, the sky grew overcast. The vague sounds of solitude gradually ceased, the forests were wrapped in universal calm. Suddenly the pealing of distant thunder, re-echoing through these vast woods as old as the world itself, startled the ear with a diapason of noises sublime. Fearing to be overwhelmed in the flood, we hastily disembarked on the river’s bank and sought safety in the seclusion of one of the forest glades.  1
  The ground was swampy. We pressed forward with difficulty beneath a roof of smilax, among grape-vines and climbing plants of all kinds, in which our feet were continually entangled. The spongy soil trembled all around us, and every instant we were on the verge of being engulfed in the quagmires. Swarms of insects and enormous bats nearly blinded us; rattlesnakes were heard on all sides; and the wolves, bears, panthers, and badgers which had sought a refuge in this retreat filled the air with their roarings.  2
  Meanwhile the obscurity increased; the lowering clouds entered beneath the shadows of the trees. The heavens were rent, and the lightning traced a flashing zigzag of fire. A furious gale from the west piled up the angry clouds in heavy masses; the mighty trees bowed their heads to the blast. Again and again the sky was rent, and through the yawning crevices one beheld new heavens and vales of fire. What an awful, what a magnificent spectacle! The trees were struck by lightning and ignited; the conflagration spread like a flaming garland; the showers of sparks and the columns of smoke ascended to the very heavens, which vomited their thunders into the sea of fire.  3
  Then the Great Spirit enveloped the mountains in utter darkness; from the midst of this vast chaos came a confused roaring made by the tumult of many winds, the moaning of the trees, the howlings of ferocious beasts, the crackling of the flames, and the descent of balls of fire which hissed as they were extinguished in the water.  4
  The Great Spirit knows the truth of what I now say! At this moment I saw only Atala, I had no thought but for her. Beneath the bent trunk of a birch-tree, I succeeded in protecting her from the torrents of rain. Seated myself under the tree, supporting my well-beloved on my knees, and chafing her bare feet between my hands, I was even happier than the young wife who feels for the first time the consciousness of her motherhood.  5
 
 
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