The atmosphere this morning in New Haven is eerily portentous. The birds are simply beside themselves, and four large hawks are wheeling high above me now, evidently taking advantage of eccentric rodent movements over the wooded hillside opposite. The sky has a weird pallor, a lowering carpet sullenness that I do not recall ever having seen before. The streets are almost empty. Were it not for a sense of overriding natural indifference, one might think of certain atmospherics in Guy Mannering or, come to think of it, Ivanhoe: “‘A murrain take thee,’ rejoined the swineherd; ‘wilt thou talk of such things, while a terrible storm of thunder and lightning is raging within a few miles of us? Hark, how the thunder rumbles! and for summer rain, I never saw such broad downright flat drops fall out of the clouds; the oaks too, notwithstanding the calm weather, sob and creak with their great boughs as if announcing a tempest. Thou can’st play the rational if thou wilt; credit me for once, and let us home ere the storm begins to rage, for the night will be fearful.’” On the other hand, Hurricane Sandy might fizzle but I rather doubt it. My money is with the swineherd.
A murrain, incidentally, is an archaic term for various infectious diseases affecting cattle and sheep, hence its use here as a curse.