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A Storm At Hastings, And The Little Unknown
by [?]

But watched the surly advent of the storm,
Much as the brown-cheeked planters of Barbadoes
Must watch a rising of the Negro swarm:
Meantime it steered, like Odin’s old Armadas,
Right on our coast;–a dismal, coal-black form;
Many proud gaits were quelled–and all bravadoes
Of folly ceased–and sundry idle jokers
Went home to cover up their tongs and pokers.

So fierce the lightning flashed. In all their days
The oldest smugglers had not seen such flashing,
And they are used to many a pretty blaze,
To keep their Hollands from an awkward clashing
With hostile cutters in our creeks and bays:
And truly one could think, without much lashing
The fancy, that those coasting clouds, so awful
And black, were fraught with spirits as unlawful.

The gay Parade grew thin–all the fair crowd
Vanished–as if they knew their own attractions,–
For now the lightning through a near-hand cloud
Began to make some very crooked fractions–
Only some few remained that were not cowed,
A few rough sailors, who had been in actions,
And sundry boatmen, that with quick yeo’s,
Lest it should blow,–were pulling up the Rose:

(No flower, but a boat)–some more were hauling
The Regent by the head:–another crew
With that same cry peculiar to their calling
Were heaving up the Hope:–and as they knew
The very gods themselves oft get a mauling
In their own realms, the seamen wisely drew
The Neptune rather higher on the beach,
That he might lie beyond his billows’ reach.

And now the storm, with its despotic power,
Had all usurped the azure of the skies,
Making our daylight darker by an hour,
And some few drops–of an unusual size–
Few and distinct–scarce twenty to the shower,
Fell like huge teardrops from a giant’s eyes–
But then this sprinkle thickened in a trice
And rained much harder–in good solid ice.

Oh for a very storm of words to show
How this fierce crash of hail came rushing o’er us!
Handel would make the gusty organs blow
Grandly, and a rich storm in music score us:–
But ev’n his music seemed composed and low,
When we were handled by this Hailstone Chorus;
Whilst thunder rumbled, with its awful sound,
And frozen comfits rolled along the ground–

As big as bullets:–Lord! how they did batter
Our crazy tiles:–and now the lightning flashed
Alternate with the dark, until the latter
Was rarest of the two!–the gust too dashed
So terribly, I thought the hail must shatter
Some panes,–and so it did–and first it smashed
The very square where I had chose my station
To watch the general illumination.

Another, and another, still came in,
And fell in jingling ruin at my feet,
Making transparent holes that let me win
Some samples of the storm:–Oh! it was sweet
To think I had a shelter for my skin,
Culling them through these “loopholes of retreat”–
Which in a little we began to glaze–
Chiefly with a jacktowel and some baize!

But which, the cloud had passed o’erhead, but played
Its crooked fires in constant flashes still,
Just in our rear, as though it had arrayed
Its heavy batteries at Fairlight Mill,
So that it lit the town, and grandly made
The rugged features of the Castle Hill
Leap, like a birth, from chaos into light,
And then relapse into the gloomy night–

As parcel of the cloud;–the clouds themselves,
Like monstrous crags and summits everlasting,
Piled each on each in most gigantic shelves,
That Milton’s devils were engaged in blasting.
We could e’en fancy Satan and his elves
Busy upon those crags, and ever casting
Huge fragments loose,–and that we felt the sound
They made in falling to the startled ground.