Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE EARTHQUAKE AT CALLAO, by AGNES STRICKLAND

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE EARTHQUAKE AT CALLAO, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Along the vast pacific day's last smile
Last Line: O'er his last home, and his loved kindred's graves.
Subject(s): Callao, Peru; Disasters; Earthquakes

Along the vast Pacific day's last smile
Reflected many a bay and verdant isle,
And spicy grove that from its rocky steep
Stretched its luxuriant branches o'er the deep,
And softly shadowed in the waters blue,
In mirror'd landscapes met the downward view;
The billows, sleeping on the ocean's breast,
Forgot to murmur in their placid rest;
The languid breeze was lulled on vale and hill,
And every leaf lay motionless and still;
The flowers, from blossomed boughs to lowly beds,
Had closed their bells and hung their beauteous heads;
And Nature, plunged in lethargy profound,
Seemed as when in primeval slumbers bound,
Ere o'er her silent bosom void and vast
The quickening spirit of creation past.
The lonely watcher on the flagstaff's height
With musing eye surveyed the lovely sight,
When the departing sun shed glory down
On tranquil ocean, convent, tower, and town;
And then his task resuming, half unfurl'd
Spain's haughty standard to the watery world;
But ere the dull and languid air could raise
One drooping fold, his desultory gaze
Returns where, in the splendour of Peru,
A moment back the town had met his view,
With domes, and palaces, and walls of might,
Reposing in a flood of rosy light.
But like the fading of a meteor's beam,
Or the delusive pageant of a dream,
'Tis gone! and ere mute Wonder can demand
The how? or when? or Reason understand
The awful change—the reeling mountains swim
Before his dizzy sight, confused and dim;
Dense clouds obscure the sunset—and that sound
Which bursts from the cavernous depths profound
Of earth's rent bosom, with terrific roar,
Tells the appalling tale from shore to shore.
Mixed with the sullen echoes of the bells,
Tolling from crashing towers their own deep knells;
And, oh! in that last dismal clangour rings
The fearful dirge-note of all living things.
Within that fated town, united there
In one dread gulph of ruin and despair,
The grave hath oped its jaws, and young and old,
And high and low, in its insatiate fold
Are mingling crushed.—The hopes and cares of life,
Its busy projects and its restless strife,
And all its social joys, with them are o'er,
And they have left no mourner to deplore
Their general doom, save that unhappy one
Who, of its breathing thousands, was alone
Spectator of that town's sad overthrow;
The only victim conscious of his woe,
Preserved by cruel miracle of Fate,
To see his native land made desolate,
And all he ever loved, on that dread day,
Pass like a drama's shifting scene away,
And his whole race in one tremendous doom
Involved, and hurried living to the tomb.

Heartstruck, he drops from his relaxing hands
The useless ensign—and bewildered stands,
With glazing eyeballs and with stiffened neck,
A living statue gazing on the wreck
Of all his joys—nor now discerns the spot
Where once arose in peace his humble cot,
Endeared by every tender spell that lies
In home's sweet bound, and love's delightful ties;
But wife and children, happiness and home,
For him exist no longer—he must roam
Through the wide world in utter loneliness,
Without one friend to sooth, one hope to bless.
All, all are strangers now—there is no face
To him familiar of the human race;
Nor aught remains to charm, to cheer, or throw
A ray of interest on his path of woe.

Yet months shall pass, and spring restore again
The flowers and blighted verdure of the plain;
Another town in time's due course shall rise,
And prouder structures greet the morning skies;
Long silent echoes shall again rejoice
To hear gay childhood's shout and silvery voice;
The smiling bridegroom and the flower-crowned bride
Shall tread new streets adorned in nuptial pride;
Arts bloom afresh, and commerce bring once more
The flush of wealth and plenty to the shore;
And busy population, far and wide
Extend an eager and increasing tide.
But he, lone relic of a vanished race,
Shall flee like troubled spirit from the place,
To pore in cureless anguish on the flood
That flows where once the town in splendour stood,
And rolls its sullen, melancholy waves
O'er his last home, and his loved kindred's graves.

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