Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BOMBARDMENT, by AMY LOWELL

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE BOMBARDMENT, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Slowly, without force, the rain drops into the city
Last Line: Roars and mutters. Boom!
Subject(s): Bombs; Rain; Storms

Slowly, without force, the rain drops into the city. It stops a moment on the
carved head of Saint John, then slides on again, slipping and trickling over his
stone cloak. It splashes from the lead conduit of a gargoyle, and falls from it
in turmoil on the stones in the Cathedral square. Where are the people, and why
does the fretted steeple sweep about in the sky? Boom! The sound swings against
the rain. Boom, again! After it, only water rushing in the gutters, and the
turmoil from the spout of the gargoyle. Silence. Ripples and mutters. Boom!

The room is damp, but warm. Little flashes swarm about from the fire-light.
The lustres of the chandelier are bright, and clusters of rubies leap in the
Bohemian glasses on the etagere. Her hands are restless, but the white
masses of her hair are quite still. Boom! Will it never cease to torture, this
iteration! Boom! The vibration shatters a glass on the etagere. It lies
there formless and glowing, with all. its crimson gleams shot out of pattern,
spilled, flowing red, blood-red. A thin bell-note pricks through the silence.
A door creaks. The old lady speaks: "Victor, clear away that broken glass."
"Alas! Madame, the Bohemian glass!" "Yes, Victor, one hundred years ago my
father bought it --" Boom! The room shakes, the servitor quakes. Another goblet
shivers and breaks! Boom!

It rustles at the window-pane, the smooth, streaming rain, and he is shut
within its clash and murmur. Inside is his candle, his table, his ink, his pen,
and his dreams. He is thinking, and the walls are pierced with beams of
sunshine, slipping through young green. A fountain tosses itself up at the blue
sky, and through the spattered water in the basin he can see copper carp, lazily
floating among cold leaves. A wind-harp in a cedar-tree grieves and whispers,
and words blow into his brain, bubbled, iridescent, shooting up like flowers of
fire, higher and higher. Boom! The flame-flowers snap on their slender stems.
The fountain rears up in long broken spears of disheveled water and flattens
into the earth. Boom! And there is only the room, the table, the candle, and
the sliding rain. Again, Boom! -- Boom! -- Boom! He stuffs his fingers into his
ears. He sees corpses, and cries out in fright. Boom! It is night, and they
are shelling the city! Boom! Boom!

A child wakes and is afraid, and weeps in the darkness. What has made the bed
shake? "Mother, where are you? I am awake." "Hush, my Darling, I am here."
"But, Mother, something so queer happened, the room shook." Boom! "Oh! What
is it? What is the matter?" Boom! "Where is Father? I am so afraid." Boom!
The child sobs and shrieks. The house trembles and creaks. Boom!

Retorts, globes, tubes, and phials lie shattered. All his trials oozing across
the floor. The life that was his choosing, lonely, urgent, goaded by a hope,
all gone. A weary man in a ruined laboratory, that was his story. Boom! Gloom
and ignorance, and the jig of drunken brutes. Diseases like snakes crawling
over the earth, leaving trails of slime. Wails from people burying their dead.
Through the window he can see the rocking steeple. A ball of fire falls on the
lead of the roof, and the sky tears apart on a spike of flame. Up the spire,
behind the lacings of stone, zig-zagging in and out of the carved tracings,
squirms the fire. It spouts like yellow wheat from the gargoyles, coils round
the head of Saint John, and aureoles him in light. It leaps into the night and
hisses against the rain. The Cathedral is a burning stain on the white, wet

Boom! The Cathedral is a torch, and the houses next to it begin to scorch.
Boom! The Bohemian glass on the etagere is no longer there. Boom! A stalk
of flame sways against the red damask curtains. The old lady cannot walk. She
watches the creeping stalk and counts. Boom! -- Boom! -- Boom!

The poet rushes into the street, and the rain wraps him in a sheet of silver.
But it is threaded with gold and powdered with scarlet beads. The city burns.
Quivering, spearing, thrusting, lapping, streaming, run the flames. Over roofs,
and walls, and shops, and stalls. Smearing its gold on the sky the fire dances,
lances itself through the doors, and lisps and chuckles along the floors.
The child wakes again and screams at the yellow-petaled flower flickering at
the window. The little red lips of flames creep along the ceiling beams.

The old man sits among his broken experiments and looks at the burning
Cathedral. Now the streets are swarming with people. They seek shelter, and
crowd into cellars. They shout and call, and over all, slowly and without
force, the rain drops into the city. Boom! And the steeple crashes down among
the people. Boom! Boom, again! The water rushes along the gutters. The fire
roars and mutters. Boom!

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