Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. V. Nature
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume V. Nature.  1904.
 
III. The Seasons
Summer Storm
James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)
 
    UNTREMULOUS in the river clear,
Toward the sky’s image, hangs the imaged bridge;
    So still the air that I can hear
The slender clarion of the unseen midge;
  Out of the stillness, with a gathering creep,        5
Like rising wind in leaves, which now decreases,
Now lulls, now swells, and all the while increases,
  The huddling trample of a drove of sheep
Tilts the loose planks, and then as gradually ceases
  In dust on the other side; life’s emblem deep,        10
A confused noise between two silences,
Finding at last in dust precarious peace.
On the wide marsh the purple-blossomed grasses
  Soak up the sunshine; sleeps the brimming tide,
Save when the wedge-shaped wake in silence passes        15
  Of some slow water-rat, whose sinuous glide
  Wavers the long green sedge’s shade from side to side;
But up the west, like a rock-shivered surge,
  Climbs a great cloud edged with sun-whitened spray;
Huge whirls of foam boil toppling o’er its verge,        20
  And falling still it seems, and yet it climbs alway.
 
    Suddenly all the sky is hid
    As with the shutting of a lid,
  One by one great drops are falling
        Doubtful and slow;        25
  Down the pane they are crookedly crawling,
        And the wind breathes low;
  Slowly the circles widen on the river,
    Widen and mingle, one and all;
  Here and there the slenderer flowers shiver,        30
    Struck by an icy rain-drop’s fall.
 
Now on the hills I hear the thunder mutter,
    The wind is gathering in the west;
The upturned leaves first whiten and flutter,
    Then droop to a fitful rest;        35
Up from the stream with sluggish flap
  Struggles the gull and floats away;
Nearer and nearer rolls the thunder-clap,—
  We shall not see the sun go down to-day:
Now leaps the wind on the sleepy marsh,        40
  And tramples the grass with terrified feet,
The startled river turns leaden and harsh,
  You can hear the quick heart of the tempest beat.
 
    Look! look! that livid flash!
And instantly follows the rattling thunder,        45
As if some cloud-crag, split asunder,
    Fell, splintering with a ruinous crash,
On the Earth, which crouches in silence under;
    And now a solid gray wall of rain
Shuts off the landscape, mile by mile;        50
  For a breath’s space I see the blue wood again,
And, ere the next heart-beat, the wind-hurled pile,
  That seemed but now a league aloof,
  Bursts crackling o’er the sun-parched roof;
Against the windows the storm comes dashing,        55
Through tattered foliage the hail tears crashing,
        The blue lightning flashes,
        The rapid hail clashes,
      The white waves are tumbling,
        And, in one baffled roar,        60
      Like the toothless sea mumbling
        A rock-bristled shore,
      The thunder is rumbling
      And crashing and crumbling,—
    Will silence return nevermore?        65
      Hush! Still as death,
      The tempest holds his breath
    As from a sudden will;
The rain stops short, but from the eaves
You see it drop, and hear it from the leaves,        70
    All is so bodingly still;
        Again, now, now, again
    Plashes the rain in heavy gouts,
          The crinkled lightning
          Seems ever brightening,        75
            And loud and long
    Again the thunder shouts
            His battle-song,—
          One quivering flash,
          One wildering crash,        80
    Followed by silence dead and dull,
        As if the cloud, let go,
        Leapt bodily below
  To whelm the earth in one mad overthrow,
        And then a total lull.        85
 
        Gone, gone, so soon!
    No more my half-crazed fancy there
    Can shape a giant in the air,
    No more I see his streaming hair,
  The writhing portent of his form;—        90
        The pale and quiet moon
    Makes her calm forehead bare,
  And the last fragments of the storm,
Like shattered rigging from a fight at sea,
Silent and few, are drifting over me.        95
 
 
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