Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

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.


  1. Murrain in Reformation versions of the English Bible is the fifth of the ten plagues of Egypt. The very sound of the word must have sent a chill through rural listeners sitting in their pews on Sunday.

  2. This morning while re-reading that lasting and great work of Edwardian literature, ‘The Wind in the Willows’, I came across this piece of peerless mock Shakespearean invective, directed at the hapless Mr Toad, who has just been sent to “the grimmest dungeon that lay in the heart of the innermost keep,” for pranging one too many shiny new motor cars. Neither Badger nor Water Rat (Ratty) could equal this kind of attack, though they did everything to warn Mr Toad of the Consequences of his Actions. ‘”Oddsbodikins!” said the sergeant of police, taking off his helmet and wiping his forehead. “Rouse thee, old loon, and take over from us this vile Toad, a criminal of deepest guilt and matchless artfulness and resource. Watch and ward him with all thy skill; and mark thee well, grey-beard, should aught untoward befall thee, thy old head shall answer for this –and a murrain on both of them!”’ (Chapter 6, Mr Toad)