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

Charles de Kay (1848–1935)

The Tornado

WHOSE eye has marked his gendering? On his throne

He dwells apart in roofless caves of air,

Born of the stagnant, blown of the glassy heat

O’er the still mere Sargasso. When the world

Has fallen voluptuous, and the isles are grown

So bold they cry, God sees not!—as a rare

Sun-flashing iceberg towers on high, and fleet

As air-ships rise, by upward currents whirled,

Even so the bane of lustful islanders

Wings him aloft. And scarce a pinion stirs.

There gathering hues, he stoopeth down again—

Down from the vault. Locks of the gold-tipped cloud

Fly o’er his head; his eyes, St. Elmo flames;

His mouth, a surf on a red coral reef.

Embroidered is his cloak of dark-blue stain

With lightning jags. Upon his pathway crowd

Dull Shudder, wan-faced Quaking, Ghastly-Dreams.

And after these, in order near their chief,

Start, Tremor, Faint-Heart, Panic, and Affray,

Horror with blanching eyes, and limp Dismay,

Unroll a gray-green carpet him before

Swathed in thick foam: thereon adventuring, bark

Need never hope to live; that yeasty pile

Bears her no longer; to the mast-head plunged

She writhes and groans, careens, and is no more.

Now, prickt by fear, the man-devourer shark,

Gale-breasting gull, and whale that dreams no guile

Till the sharp steel quite to the life has lunged,

Before his pitiless, onward-hurling form

Hurry toward land for shelter from the storm.

In vain. Tornado and his pursuivants,

Whirlwind of giant bulk, and Water-Spout,—

The grewsome, tortuous devil-fish of rain,—

O’ertake them on the shoals and leave them dead.

Doomsday has come. Now men in speechless trance

Glower unmoved upon the hideous rout,

Or shrieking, fly to holes, or yet complain

One moment to that lordly face of dread

Before he quits the mountain of his wave,

And strews for all impartially their grave.

And as in court-yard corners on the wind

Sweep the loose straws, houses and stately trees

Whirl in a vortex. His unswerving tread

Winnows the island as a thresher’s floor.

His eyes are fixed; he looks not once behind,

But at his back fall silence and the breeze.

Scarce is he come, the lovely wraith is sped.

Ashamed, the lightning shuts its purple door,

And heaven still knows the robes of gold and dun,

While placid Ruin gently greets the sun.