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Description Of A Conflagration

Thomas Oldham 1816 (Dublin,) – 1878 (Rugby, )



'Tis night: the busy, ceaseless noise of day
No more is heard; the now-deserted-streets
Lie dark and silent; London's weary swarms
Rest in profound repose. Hark! a loud cry
Frightens the silence; 'tis the cry of fire!
I hear the dissonance of rattling wheels,
The tread of hasty feet, the doleful sigh
Of sympathy, and terror's thrilling shriek:
O mercy heaven!
 
Behold the fiery Pest!
See, how the flames climb up the lofty walls,
Involve their prey, and greedily devour:
The crowd exert their efforts to controul
The spreading bane; some labour to supply
The numerous engines; others bear aloft
The pliant tubes, guiding their watery store
Amid the fiercer fire; on ladders some
Ascending, scale the walls, and undeterr'd,
Their dangerous office ply; some wildly haste
To save their properties: 'tis bustle all,
And noisy tumult. Doubtful for a time
The strife remains; where'er the Burning winds
His flamy spires, the well-directed streams,
Incessant spouting, damp the sickening flames,
Repelling their advance; but, oft repulsed,
As oft they rally with recruited strength:
Alternate in the mind rise hope and fear.
Tumbles a roof with clattering noise, the sky
Lightens, a burst of clamour! all is hush'd
In awful stillness, save that from beneath
The ruins fall'n is heard a muttering sound,
As if the Demon of the element
In indignation menaced dire revenge.
Ah! now, unchain'd by some mysterious Power,
Some Fiend of air, in league with That of fire,
The wind begins to howl; its breath awakes
The sleepy flames; loud and more loud it howls,
And rushes on them with collected might;
Before the driving spirit burst the flames
In a redoubled tempest, and deride
Opposing man. See! how they proudly toss
Their many heads on high, and through the vault
Of darkness fling a sad, malignant day:
Look! with what fury, what resistless rage,
From street to street the fiery Deluge pours
His rapid billows, swallowing everything
In horrible destruction; lowly roofs,
And gorgeous mansions, lofty spires and domes
Capacious, on whose fair, majestic tops,
As on her throne exalted, Art assumed
Her noblest honours, whose firm pillars braved
Storms, and the still-corroding course of years;
These, these with all their wealth, the various stores
Of luxury and commerce, to the flames
Abandon'd, sink an undefended prey,
Swelling the general wreck; unheeded sink
By their possessors, flying for their lives:
Cries, groans, laments, on every side resound.
 
Sudden a magazine of nitrous grain
Bursts in a blazing column to the clouds;
The dread explosion shakes the solid ground,
And through the skies in lengthening thunder rolls:
Driven by the furious overwhelming blast
To distance round, the burning fragments fall
On every side; see, see, yon ships catch fire,
Their rigging's in a blaze; affrighted Thames
Shrinks from the sight; his waters cast a gleam
Portentous, dismal, like the light of hell.
 
Before the Conflagration numbers fly
Frighted, in throngs precipitate, to seek
A refuge in the distant fields secure,
Which, cover'd thick with victims of distress,
Present a wretched world. There Youth, surprised
By hard experience, learns, alas! too soon
The destiny of Man; and from those eyes
Where expectation and unclouded joy
Serenely shone, the streams of sorrow flow:
There helpless Age, robb'd of the scanty means
A life of labour earn'd, driven from his home
To wander, destitute, the vale of years,
Yields to despondence, tears his hoary locks,
Falls on the ground, and eagerly implores
Rest in the grave: there, gazing on the fires,
The tender Mother stands, her frenzied soul
Glares from her look, her bosom heaves a groan,
She hugs her crying infant to her heart,
Despairing, lost: what countless forms of wo!
Lethargic some, and mute; some, giving loose
To their distracted feelings, rave aloud
In all the clamorous vehemence of grief.
 
The din subsides; a voice, distinctly heard,
A frantic voice exclaims, my child! my child!
My child is in the flames! Oh! horrible!
What succour? what resource? the roaring wind
More fiercely blows, the Burning pours along,
The skies are lighten'd, Uproar opens wide
His thousand mouths, Danger and Ruin prowl
At large with boundless license, all is doubt
And consternation, one tempestuous sea
Of wretchedness, one chaos of despair.
 
Seized with wild fear Imagination sees
The elements broke loose, Time on the brink
Of dread Eternity, with all the signs
Of that tremendous period when the dead
Shall rise to judgment hush'd in solemn awe
Listening the trump of doom.
 
Thus raged the storm,
Till the great God of heaven in mercy bade
The wind be silent, bade the gathering clouds
Pour down abundant rain; the raging Fires,
In prompt obedience to the sovereign will
Of their Creator, dwindled and expired.
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Submitted on August 03, 2020

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Thomas Oldham

Thomas Oldham (4 May 1816, Dublin – 17 July 1878, Rugby) was an Anglo-Irish geologist. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and studied civil engineering at the University of Edinburgh as well as geology under Robert Jameson. In 1838 he joined the ordnance survey in Ireland as a chief assistant under Joseph Ellison Portlock who was studying the geology of Londonderry and neighbourhood. Portlock wrote of him whenever I have required his aid … I have found him possessed of the highest intelligence and the most unbounded zeal He discovered radiating fans shaped impressions in the town of Bray in 1840. He showed this to the English palaeontologist Edward Forbes, who named it Oldhamia after him. Forbes declared them to be bryozoans, however later workers ascribed it to other plants and animals. For a while these were considered the oldest fossils in the world. He became Curator to the Geological Society of Dublin, and in 1845 succeeded John Phillips, nephew of William Smith, in the Chair of Geology at Trinity College, Dublin. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in June 1848. He married Louisa Matilda Dixon of Liverpool in 1850. He resigned in November that year and took a position as the first Superintendent of the Geological Survey of India. He was to be the first of the Irish geologists to migrate to the Subcontinent. He was followed by his brother Charles, William King Jr., son of William King the Professor of Geology at Queen's College, Galway; Valentine Ball and more than 12 other Irish geologists. In India he oversaw a mapping program that focussed on coal bearing strata. The team of geologists made major discoveries. Henry Benedict Medlicott coined the term "Gondwana Series" in 1872. Oldham's elder son Richard Dixon Oldham distinguished three types of pressure produced by earthquakes: now known as P (compressional), S (shear), and L (Love)-waves, based on his observations made after the Great Assam Earthquake of 1897. Richard showed in 1906 the arrival patterns of waves and suggested that the core of the earth was liquid. His younger son Henry became a reader in geography at Kings College, Cambridge. He also started the Paleontologia Indica, a series of memoirs on the fossils of India. For this work he recruited Ferdinand Stoliczka from Europe. Oldham resigned from his position in India in 1876 on the grounds of poor health and retired to Rugby in England. In recognition of his lifetime's "long & important services in the science of geology", including Palaeontographica Indica, he was awarded the Royal Society's Royal Medal. He died on 17 July 1878.  more…

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