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

And so the tempest scowled away,–and soon
Timidly shining through its skirts of jet,
We saw the rim of the pacific moon,
Like a bright fish entangled in a net,
Flashing its silver sides,–how sweet a boon
Seemed her sweet light, as though it would beget,
With that fair smile, a calm upon the seas–
Peace in the sky–and coolness in the breeze!

Meantime the hail had ceased:–and all the brood
Of glaziers stole abroad to count their gains;
At every window there were maids who stood
Lamenting o’er the glass’s small remains,–
Or with coarse linens made the fractions good,
Stanching the wind in all the wounded panes,–
Or, holding candles to the panes, in doubt
The wind resolved–blowing the candles out.

No house was whole that had a southern front,–
No greenhouse but the same mishap befell;
Bow-windows and bell-glasses bore the brunt,–
No sex in glass was spared!–For those who dwell
On each hill-side, you might have swum a punt
In any of their parlors;–Mrs. Snell
Was slopped out of her seat,–and Mr. Hitchin
Had a flower-garden washed into a Kitchen.

But still the sea was mild, and quite disclaimed
The recent violence.–Each after each
The gentle waves a gentle murmur framed,
Tapping, like woodpeckers, the hollow beach.
Howbeit his weather eye the seaman aimed
Across the calm, and hinted by his speech
A gale next morning–and when morning broke,
There was a gale–“quite equal to bespoke.”

Before high water–(it were better far
To christen it not water then, but waiter,
For then the tide is serving at the bar)
Rose such a swell–I never saw one greater!
Black, jagged billows rearing up in war
Like ragged roaring bears against the baiter,
With lots of froth upon the shingle shed,
Like stout poured out with a fine beachy head.

No open boat was open to a fare,
Or launched that morn on seven-shilling trips;
No bathing woman waded–none would dare
A dipping in the wave–but waived their dips;
No seagull ventured on the stormy air,
And all the dreary coast was clear of ships;
For two lea shores upon the River Lea
Are not so perilous as one at sea.

Awe-struck we sat, and gazed upon the scene
Before us in such horrid hurly-burly,–
A boiling ocean of mixed black and green,
A sky of copper color, grim and surly,–
When lo, in that vast hollow scooped between
Two rolling Alps of water,–white and curly!
We saw a pair of little arms a-skimming,
Much like a first or last attempt at swimming!

Sometimes a hand–sometimes a little shoe–
Sometime a skirt–sometimes a hank of hair
Just like a dabbled seaweed rose to view,
Sometimes a knee–sometimes a back was bare–
At last a frightful summerset he threw
Right on the shingles. Any one could swear
The lad was dead–without a chance of perjury,
And battered by the surge beyond all surgery!

However, we snatched up the corse thus thrown,
Intending, Christian-like, to sod and turf it,
And after venting Pity’s sigh and groan,
Then curiosity began with her fit;
And lo! the features of the Small Unknown!
‘Twas he that of the surf had had this surfeit!
And in his fob, the cause of late monopolies,
We found a contract signed with Mephistopheles!

A bond of blood, whereby the sinner gave
His forfeit soul to Satan in reversion,
Providing in this world he was to have
A lordship over luck, by whose exertion
He might control the course of cards and brave
All throws of dice,–but on a sea excursion
The juggling demon, in his usual vein,
Seized the last cast–and Nicked him in the main!