Behold the gloomy tyrant's awful form
Binding the captive earth in icy chains;
His chilling breath sweeps o'er the watery plains,
Howls in the blast, and swells the rising storm.
See from its centre bends the rifted tower,
Threat'ning the lowly vale with frowning pride,
O'er the scared flocks that seek its sheltering side,
A fearful ruin o'er their heads to pour.
While to the cheerful hearth and social board
Content and ease repair, the sons of want
Receive from niggard fate their pittance scant;
And where some shed bleak covert may afford,
Wan poverty, amidst her meagre host
Casts round her haggard eyes, and shivers at the frost.
Anne Hunter gives us this masterful account of the wrath of a pending winter storm, and how its effects will be felt throughout different parts of society. Those in the countryside, the "scared flocks" both sheep and man, seek the shelter of the valley, as a "fearful ruin" brews overhead. Those who have a life of ease relax by the "cheerful hearth" as the storm approached, unaware that there are others, those "sons of want" who have to seek some small shelter from the storm. Niggard (one who is not generous) fate gives them almost no pity. Poverty, here personified as a woman, "shivers at the frost."
Through the first stanza you can really feel the fearful force of the incoming storm. It is a "gloomy tyrant" with "chilling breath." In so few lines, Hunter does a wonderful job making us feel for all of the characters in her poem. Reading it, we want to share the warmth of the hearth with poverty. I think that's her intent, to make us think about how things affect others, particularly those less fortunate. It would have been easy to ignore them and write a poem just about the storm, but in this case, I am glad she didn't.