The Comet

The eye of the demon on Albion was turned,
And, viewing the happy, with envy he burned;
He snarled at the churches, the almshouse he cursed,
Till hate of their virtue his silence had burst:
“Why waves yonder harvest? why glitters yon tower?
My hate they despise, and they scoff at my power.
Then lend me assistance, ye elements dire,
Attend at my call, air, earth, water, and fire.”
He spoke; and, lo! pregnant with flame and with pest,
The scorch of the blast his rough mandate confessed,
The flame of the typhus, the stifling damp,
And there rode the blast that will smother the lamp.
“In vain you command us; the heart-easing prayer,
And the sounds of the hymn, as they wind through the air,
Blunt the arrows of sickness which pestilence bear.”

Then loud was the roar as the wind fled away,
Till earth trembled, and spoke from the regions of day:
“The shocks of my mountains roll cataracts back,
And from north to the south could the universe crack,
But the heart of the ocean I may not attack.”

The thunder was o’er and the motion was still,
But the god of the waters thus murmured his will:
“All Europe my waves in a moment shall hide,
And the old world, and new, be swallowed by tide,
But the Albion isle shall my prowess deride.”

The waves had sunk down, and the billows were hushed,
Ere the flame of destruction before him had rushed.
“Whole cities and empires have died at my blast,
So strong is my power, my rapine so fast;
But Britain, unhurt, shall endure to the last.”

In vain frowned the demon: “Still terror I’ll try,
And the envoy of Yamen shall fleet through the sky.”
But while virtue and justice in Britain remain,
The fire-brand of Yamen shall dazzle in vain.

[Gosse, 1890]