When ocean-clouds over inland hills
Sweep storming in late autumn brown,
And horror the sodden valley fills,
And the spire falls crashing in the town,
I muse upon my country’s ills—
The tempest bursting from the waste of Time
On the world’s fairest hope linked with man’s foulest crime.
Nature’s dark side is heeded now—
(Ah! optimist-cheer disheartened flown)—
A child may read the moody brow
Of yon black mountain lone.
With shouts the torrents down the gorges go,
And storms are formed behind the storm we feel:
The hemlock shakes in the rafter, the oak in the driving keel.
This poem is dated 1860, just prior to the Civil War. He sees a great cloud overshadowing the land. He refers to is coming as producing a “horror” in the valleys. The Spire, the highest point in the village is now crashing down.
The trouble is the paradox in American society: On one had here is the “fairest hope” of the world, freedom, self-government. On the other hand the country permit “man’s foulest crime”, slavery.
The trouble before the country is so obvious, that even a child can see it coming. A storm is coming.