As you may have noticed (if you pulled yourself away from your work at all during daylight hours), we’ve been treated to one of the wettest summers in New York history. And for those of us who react to Vitamin D deficiency with extreme depression, lethargy, and feelings of isolation, it could be good to recall another Year Without Summer: 1816.

Following the largest volcanic eruption in 1,600 years, dust prevented sunlight from reaching the earth, lowering temperatures globally. The season’s uncharitable weather (frost killed crops across the northern hemisphere, leading to widespread starvation; Quebec City got a foot of snow in June) is associated with contemporary events and movements including the formation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the dusty tinge of the sky in Turner’s paintings.

More relevant to us literary folks, however, is the doom-and-gloom writing associated with the year, including Byron’s “Darkness” and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (begun in 1816). Is it possible that Romanticism is just the 19th century’s grunge period, a meteorological depression affecting a generation? Have I just traded one Seattle for another?

I will leave you with the Rogue Poem of the Week:


I had a dream, which was not all a dream. 
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars 
Did wander darkling in the eternal space, 
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth 
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air; 
Morn came and went–and came, and brought no day, 
And men forgot their passions in the dread 
Of this their desolation; and all hearts 
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light: 
And they did live by watchfires–and the thrones, 
The palaces of crowned kings–the huts, 
The habitations of all things which dwell, 
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consumed, 
And men were gathered round their blazing homes 
To look once more into each other’s face; 
Happy were those who dwelt within the eye 
Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch: 
A fearful hope was all the world contain’d; 
Forests were set on fire–but hour by hour 
They fell and faded–and the crackling trunks 
Extinguish’d with a crash–and all was black. 
The brows of men by the despairing light 
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits 
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down 
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest 
Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smiled; 
And others hurried to and fro, and fed 
Their funeral piles with fuel, and looked up 
With mad disquietude on the dull sky, 
The pall of a past world; and then again 
With curses cast them down upon the dust, 
And gnash’d their teeth and howl’d: the wild birds shriek’d, 
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground, 
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes 
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl’d 
And twined themselves among the multitude, 
Hissing, but stingless–they were slain for food. 
And War, which for a moment was no more, 
Did glut himself again;–a meal was bought 
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart 
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left; 
All earth was but one thought–and that was death, 
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang 
Of famine fed upon all entrails–men 
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh; 
The meagre by the meagre were devoured, 
Even dogs assail’d their masters, all save one, 
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept 
The birds and beasts and famish’d men at bay, 
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead 
Lured their lank jaws; himself sought out no food, 
But with a piteous and perpetual moan, 
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand 
Which answered not with a caress–he died. 
The crowd was famish’d by degrees; but two 
Of an enormous city did survive, 
And they were enemies: they met beside 
The dying embers of an altar-place 
Where had been heap’d a mass of holy things 
For an unholy usage; they raked up, 
And shivering scraped with their cold skeleton hands 
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath 
Blew for a little life, and made a flame 
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up 
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld 
Each other’s aspects–saw, and shriek’d, and died– 
Even of their mutual hideousness they died, 
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow 
Famine had written Fiend. The world was void, 
The populous and the powerful–was a lump, 
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless– 
A lump of death–a chaos of hard clay. 
The rivers, lakes, and ocean all stood still, 
And nothing stirred within their silent depths; 
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp’d 
They slept on the abyss without a surge– 
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave, 
The moon their mistress had expir’d before; 
The winds were withered in the stagnant air, 
And the clouds perish’d; Darkness had no need 
Of aid from them–She was the Universe.