THE HOUSE-TOP A Night Piece (July 1863) By Herman Melville (1819-1891)

No sleep. The sultriness pervades the air And blinds the brain--a dense oppression, such As tawny tigers feel in matted shades, Vexing their blood and making apt for ravage. Beneath the stars the roofy desert spreads Vacant as Libya. All is hushed near by. Yet fitfully from far breaks a mixed surf Of muffled sound, the Atheist roar of riot. Yonder, where parching Sirius set in drought, Balefully glares red Arson--there--and there. The town is taken by its rats--ship-rats And rats of the wharves. All civil charms And priestly spells which late held hearts in awe-- Fear-bound, subjected to a better sway Than sway of self; these like a dream dissolve And man rebounds whole aeons back in nature. Hail to the low dull rumble, dull and dead, And ponderous drag that jars the wall. Wise Draco comes, deep in the midnight roll Of black artillery; he comes, though late; In code corroborating Calvin's creed And cynic tyrranies of honest kings; He comes, nor parlies; and the Town, redeeemed, Gives thanks devout; nor, being thankful, heeds The grimy slur on the Republic's faith implied, Which holds that man is naturally good, And--more--is Nature's Roman, never to be scourged.

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