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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Last Tempest

By Mather Byles (1707–1788)

[“The Conflagration.” Poems on Several Occasions. 1744.]

IN some calm midnight, when no whispering breeze

Waves the tall woods, or curls the undimpled seas,

Lulled on their oozy beds, the rivers seem

Softly to murmur in a pleasing dream;

The shaded fields confess a still repose,

And on each hand the dewy mountains drowse:

Meantime the moon, fair empress of the night!

In solemn silence sheds her silver light,

While twinkling stars their glimmering beauties show,

And wink perpetual o’er the heavenly blue;

Sleep, nodding, consecrates the deep serene,

And spreads her brooding wings o’er all the dusky scene;

Through the fine ether moves no single breath;

But all is hushed as in the arms of death.

At once, great God! thy dire command is given,

That the last tempest shake the frame of heaven.


Eternal mountains totter on their base,

And strong convulsions work the valley’s face;

Fierce hurricanes on sounding pinions soar,

Rush o’er the land, on the tossed billows roar,

And dreadful in resistless eddies driven,

Shake all the crystal battlements of heaven.

See the wild winds, big blustering in the air,

Drive through the forests, down the mountains tear,

Sweep o’er the valleys in their rapid course,

And nature bends beneath the impetuous force.

Storms rush at storms, at tempests tempests roar,

Dash waves on waves, and thunder to the shore.

Columns of smoke on heavy wings ascend,

And dancing sparkles fly before the wind.

Devouring flames, wide-waving, roar aloud,

And melted mountains flow a fiery flood:

Then, all at once, immense the fires arise,

A bright destruction wraps the crackling skies;

While all the elements to melt conspire,

And the world blazes in the final fire.

Yet shall ye, flames, the wasting globe refine,

And bid the skies with purer splendor shine,

The earth, which the prolific fires consume,

To beauty burns, and withers into bloom;

Improving in the fertile flame it lies,

Fades into form, and into vigor dies:

Fresh-dawning glories blush amidst the blaze,

And nature all renews her flowery face.

With endless charms the everlasting year

Rolls round the seasons in a full career;

Spring, ever-blooming, bids the fields rejoice,

And warbling birds try their melodious voice;

Where’er she treads, lilies unbidden blow,

Quick tulips rise, and sudden roses glow:

Her pencil paints a thousand beauteous scenes,

Where blossoms bud amid immortal greens;

Each stream, in mazes, murmurs as it flows,

And floating forests gently bend their boughs.

Thou, autumn, too, sitt’st in the fragrant shade,

While the ripe fruits blush all around thy head:

And lavish nature, with luxuriant hands,

All the soft months in gay confusion blends.