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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Inundation

By James Thomson (1700–1748)

From ‘The Seasons’—Autumn

DEFEATING oft the labors of the year,

The sultry south collects a potent blast.

At first the groves are scarcely seen to stir

Their trembling tops, and a still murmur runs

Along the soft-inclining fields of corn;

But as the aerial tempest fuller swells,

And in one mighty stream, invisible,

Immense, the whole excited atmosphere

Impetuous rushes o’er the sounding world,

Strained to the root, the stooping forest pours

A rustling shower of yet untimely leaves.

High-beat, the circling mountains eddy in,

From the bare wild, the dissipated storm,

And send it in a torrent down the vale.

Exposed and naked to its utmost rage,

Through all the sea of harvest rolling round,

The billowy plain floats wide; nor can evade,

Though pliant to the blast, its seizing force—

Or whirled in air, or into vacant chaff

Shook waste. And sometimes too a burst of rain,

Swept from the black horizon, broad, descends

In one continuous flood. Still overhead

The mingling tempest weaves its gloom, and still

The deluge deepens; till the fields around

Lie sunk and flatted in the sordid wave.

Sudden, the ditches swell; the meadows swim.

Red, from the hills, innumerable streams

Tumultuous roar; and high above its bank

The river lift: before whose rushing tide,

Herds, flocks, and harvests, cottages and swains,

Roll mingled down; all that the winds had spared,

In one wild moment ruined,—the big hopes

And well-earned treasures of the painful year.

Fled to some eminence, the husbandman

Helpless beholds the miserable wreck

Driving along; his drowning ox at once

Descending, with his labors scattered round,

He sees; and instant o’er his shivering thought

Comes Winter unprovided, and a train

Of clamant children dear. Ye masters, then,

Be mindful of the rough laborious hand

That sinks you soft in elegance and ease;

Be mindful of those limbs, in russet clad,

Whose toil to yours is warmth and graceful pride;

And oh, be mindful of that sparing board

Which covers yours with luxury profuse,

Makes your glass sparkle, and your sense rejoice!

Nor cruelly demand what the deep rains

And all-involving winds have swept away.