The Short Story of the Day

The September Gale

The September Gale, published in 1836, was inspired by a tremendous hurricane that made landfall on September 23, 1815.

An illustration for the story The September Gale by the author Oliver Wendell Holmes

I’m not a chicken: I have seen
Full many a chill September;
And though I was a youngster then,
That gale I well remember.
The day before my kite-string snapped,
And, I my kite pursuing,
The wind whisked off my palm-leaf hat;
For me two storms were brewing!

It came as quarrels sometimes do,
When married folks get clashing:
There was a heavy sigh or two
Before the fire was flashing;
A little stir among the clouds
Before they rent asunder;
A little rocking of the trees,
And then came on the thunder.

Lord! how the ponds and rivers boiled!
They seemed like bursting craters!
And oaks lay scattered on the ground
As if they were p’taters;
And all above was in a howl,
And all below a clatter,—
The earth was like a frying-pan,
Or some such hissing matter.

It chanced to be our washing-day,
And all our things were drying:
The storm came roaring through the lines,
And sent them all a-flying;
I saw the shirts and petticoats
Go riding off like witches;
I lost, ah! bitterly I wept,—
I lost my Sunday breeches!

I saw them straddling through the air,
Alas! too late to win them;
I saw them chase the clouds as if
The Devil had been in them.
They were my darlings and my pride,
My boyhood’s only riches,—
“Farewell, farewell,” I faintly cried,
“My breeches! Oh my breeches!”

That night I saw them in my dreams;
How changed from what I knew them!
The dews had steeped their faded threads,
The wind had whistled through them;
I saw the wide and ghastly rents
Where demon claws had torn them;
A hole was in their amplest part,
As if an imp had worn them.

I have had many happy years,
And tailors kind and clever;
But those young pantaloons have gone
Forever, and forever!
And not till time has cut the last
Of all my earthly stitches,
This aching heart shall cease to mourn
My loved, my long-lost breeches.

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