Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
 
Appendix I. Early and Uncollected Verses
The Earthquake
 
CALMLY the night came down
  O’er Scylla’s shatter’d walls;
How desolate that silent town!
  How tenantless the halls,
Where yesterday her thousands trod,        5
And princes graced their proud abode!
 
Low, on the wet sea sand,
  Humbled in anguish now,
The despot, midst his menial band,
  Bent down his kingly brow;        10
And prince and peasant knelt in prayer,
For grief had made them equal there.
 
Again as at the morn,
  The earthquake roll’d its car:
Lowly the castle-towers were borne,        15
  That mock’d the storms of war;
The mountain reeled, its shiver’d brow
Went down among the waves below.
 
Up rose the kneelers then,
  As the wave’s rush was heard:        20
The horror of those fated men
  Was uttered by no word.
But closer still the mother prest
The infant to her faithful breast.
 
One long, wild shriek went up,        25
  Full mighty in despair;
As bow’d to drink death’s bitter cup,
  The thousands gathered there;
And man’s strong wail, and woman’s cry
Blent as the waters hurried by.        30
 
On swept the whelming sea;
  The mountains felt its shock,
As the long cry of agony
  Thrills thro’ their towers of rock;
An echo round that fatal shore,        35
The death wail of the sufferers bore.
 
The morning sun shed forth
  Its light upon the scene,
Where tower and palace strew’d the earth
  With wrecks of what had been.        40
But of the thousands who were gone,
No trace was left, no vestige shown.

  1828.
 
 
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