The Bombardment

by Amy Lowell

Amy Lowell

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 firelight.

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 brought 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 dishevelled 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 is 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, zigzagging 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 night.

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 petalled flower

flickering at the window. The little red lips of flame

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 the 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!