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The Storm


Against the stone breakwater,
Only an ominous lapping,
While the wind whines overhead,
Coming down from the mountain,
Whistling between the arbors, the winding terraces;
A thin whine of wires, a rattling and flapping of leaves,
And the small street-lamp swinging and slamming against
 the lamp pole.
Where have the people gone? There is one light on the mountain.
2 Along the sea-wall, a steady sloshing of the swell, The waves not yet high, but even, Coming closer and closer upon each other; A fine fume of rain driving in from the sea, Riddling the sand, like a wide spray of buckshot, The wind from the sea and the wind from the mountain contending, Flicking the foam from the whitecaps straight upward into the darkness.
A time to go home!-- And a child's dirty shift billows upward out of an alley, A cat runs from the wind as we do, Between the whitening trees, up Santa Lucia, Where the heavy door unlocks, And our breath comes more easy-- Then a crack of thunder, and the black rain runs over us, over The flat-roofed houses, coming down in gusts, beating The walls, the slatted windows, driving The last watcher indoors, moving the cardplayers closer To their cards, their anisette.
3 We creep to our bed, and its straw mattress.
We wait; we listen.
The storm lulls off, then redoubles, Bending the trees half-way down to the ground, Shaking loose the last wizened oranges in the orchard, Flattening the limber carnations.
A spider eases himself down from a swaying light-bulb, Running over the coverlet, down under the iron bedstead.
Water roars into the cistern.
We lie closer on the gritty pillow, Breathing heavily, hoping-- For the great last leap of the wave over the breakwater, The flat boom on the beach of the towering sea-swell, The sudden shudder as the jutting sea-cliff collapses, And the hurricane drives the dead straw into the living pine-tree.

by George Herbert
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