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Quotations about Lightning,
Thunder, & Thunderstorms


That purple Passion-flower of the skies, the summer lightning, whose shining petals fade and fall to earth even as they unfold against the dark foliage of the clouds. ~Coulson Kernahan, "Jottings from a Nature-Lover's Note-Book: Summer Lightning," Begging the Moon's Pardon, 1930

Now and then a faint thunder-whisper is heard. The cloud masses gather like revolutionary armies marching up to battle. Volleys tell when divisions join, and the lightning that announces them is as if the adamantine arch were riven, disclosing dread splendors unspeakable. Most grand, most beautiful storm! Then new music — that of the delicious rain, and in such abundance that it washes away the very memory of the parched and burning day. ~Caroline M. Kirkland, "June Twenty-Ninth, Eighteen Fifty-Nine," 1859

Against the windows the storm comes dashing,
Through tattered foliage the hail tears crashing,
The blue lightning flashes,
The rapid hail clashes...
The thunder is rumbling
And crashing and crumbling...
~James Russell Lowell, "Summer Storm," 1839

A bright flash of lightning streamed down and a peal of thunder followed, which shook the crazy building to its centre. "Hear it!" he cried, shrinking back, "Rolling and crashing on as if it echoed through a thousand caverns where the devils were hiding from it!" ~Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, 1837–1839  [a little altered –tg]

On the horizon a cloud of a peculiar shape may be seen banking itself up like a huge puff of steam. The thunder-cloud is a dense black, and forms overhead. If you watch it, you can see it growing like an army preparing for battle. ~William S. Walsh, "Lightning," A Handy Book of Curious Information: Strange Happenings in the Life of Men and Animals, Odd Statistics, Extraordinary Phenomena and Out of the Way Facts Concerning the Wonderlands of the Earth, 1913

There was a crash of thunder, the sky shattering right above our heads. ~Abby Geni, The Wildlands, 2018

Far out in the west a peculiar cloud had thrust itself up... and it grew before his very eyes. Well, let cloud be cloud—he was by no means the chap to go gazing at clouds; he had something else to do... But when he happened to look up a few moments later, the cloud had spread itself across the entire western sky, and head of it rolled a billowy mass, which instantly drew his attention. Never had he seen anything of the kind. It rolled, twisted, heaved itself—boiled—; it was cloud, yet it likened rather a sea in uproar... lightning flashed suddenly across the dark background. He became conscious that he heard something like a broad rumbling, which did not cease until again a flash of lightning cut through the air, followed by a pealing clap of thunder. ~Simon Johnson, From Fjord to Prairie, translated from the Norwegian by C. O. Solberg, 1916

Now and then there comes a crash of thunder in a storm, and we look up with amazement when [God] sets the heavens on a blaze with his lightning. ~C. H. Spurgeon (1834–1892)

The clouds were flying fast, the wind was coming up in gusts, banging some neighbouring shutters that had broken loose, twirling the rusty chimney-cowls and weathercocks, and rushing round and round a confined adjacent churchyard as if it had a mind to blow the dead citizens out of their graves. The low thunder, muttering in all quarters of the sky at once, seemed to threaten vengeance for this attempted desecration, and to mutter, "Let them rest! Let them rest!" ~Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, 1855–1857

Sudden, on the dazzled sight,
Darts the keen electric light;
Shooting from the lurid sky,
Quick as thought, it mocks the eye:
Rolling thunder rends the ear,
Seems to shake earth's solid sphere;
Hill and dale prolong the sound,
Echoes deep, each cavern round,
Till afar, in distant skies,
Fainter still, it fades and dies...
~Alexander Balfour, "Contemplation," 1820

Pulling my son out of the bath, I urge him, "Hurry, put on your piyamas. Come outside and watch the thunderstorm." And in the twenty minutes before a relentless downpour, he, his sister... and I pull out the folding chairs and watch the better-than-fireworks lightning storm. The sky splits open. Crack! The kids jump up from their seats, grab hands, and dance to bring the rain down. Nobody's dollars bought this moment. The sky's for free. ~Cherríe L. Moraga, "From Inside the First World: On 9/11 and Women-of-Color Feminism," 2001

The air suddenly cracked with thunder, and all three of us stopped in the middle of the road to listen as a rumble played across the miles. ~Craig Childs, House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization across the American Southwest, 2006

The heavy rain beat down the tender branches of vine and jessamine, and trampled on them in its fury; and when the lightning gleamed, it showed the tearful leaves shivering and cowering together at the window, and tapping at it urgently, as if beseeching to be sheltered from the dismal night. ~Charles Dickens, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, 1842–1844

Lightning dances —
Thunder applauds her!
~Terri Guillemets, "Excite," 1995

Rumbling of passing thunderstorms at nightfall. The first cool gusts blow through windows left open until the last possible moment... ~David J. Beard (1947–2016), tweet, 2011

Louder and louder the deep thunder rolled, as through the myriad halls of some vast temple in the sky; fiercer and brighter came the lightning; more and more heavily the rain poured down... The eye, partaking of the quickness of the flashing light, saw in its every gleam a multitude of objects which it could not see at steady noon in fifty times that period... in a trembling, vivid, flickering instant, everything was clear and plain: then came a flush of red into the yellow light; a change to blue; a brightness so intense that there was nothing else but light; and then the deepest and profoundest darkness. ~Charles Dickens, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, 1842–1844

Now on the hills I hear the thunder mutter...
Nearer and nearer rolls the thunder-clap,—
You can hear the quick heart of the tempest beat...
Look! look! that livid flash!
And instantly follows the rattling thunder,
As if some cloud-crag, split asunder,
Fell, splintering with a ruinous crash,
On the Earth, which crouches in silence under;
And now a solid gray wall of rain
Shuts off the landscape, mile by mile...
~James Russell Lowell, "Summer Storm," 1839

Lightning sprang from one cloud to another, nimbler than a squirrel, faster than a splinter cat, quicker than any human thing, excepting maybe a thought in a man's mind. ~Cid Ricketts Sumner, Tammy Out of Time, 1958

I love the thunder rumbling, crashing,
      Peal after peal along the skies;
While from the clouds the lightning flashing
      In deathful splendour, strikes, destroys.
~Jane Welsh, "I Love," 1822

It was one of those hot, silent nights, when people sit at windows, listening for the thunder which they know will shortly break; when they recall dismal tales of hurricanes and earthquakes; and of lonely travellers on open plains, and lonely ships at sea struck by lightning. Lightning flashed and quivered on the black horizon even now; and hollow murmurings were in the wind, as though it had been blowing where the thunder rolled, and still was charged with its exhausted echoes... It was very dark; but in the murky sky there were masses of cloud which shone with a lurid light, like monstrous heaps of copper that had been heated in a furnace, and were growing cold. ~Charles Dickens, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, 1842–1844  [Boz sure could write up a storm. —tg]

Then Father Wind had it all his own way, and he worked himself into a towering rage. Snake-like flashes of flame dripped from his finger-tips, darting back and forth till the whole sky was lighted up like a great furnace. ~Sarah Noble Ives, The Key to Betsy's Heart, 1916

Listen. The wind is still,
      And far away in the night—
      See! The uplands fill
      With a running light.
Open the doors. It is warm;
      And where the sky was clear—
      Look! The head of a storm
      That marches here!
Come under the trembling hedge—
      Fast, although you fumble…
      There! Did you hear the edge
      Of winter crumble?
~Mark Van Doren, "Spring Thunder," Spring Thunder and Other Poems, 1924 the electricity of August storms, drawn down by the thousand glittering turrets of a city. ~Ik Marvel (Donald Grant Mitchell, 1822–1908), Dream Life: A Fable of the Seasons

It had been gradually getting overcast, and now the sky was dark and lowering, save where the glory of the departing sun piled up masses of gold and burning fire, decaying embers of which gleamed here and there through the black veil, and shone redly down upon the earth. The wind began to moan in hollow murmurs, as the sun went down carrying glad day elsewhere; and a train of dull clouds coming up against it, menaced thunder and lightning. Large drops of rain soon began to fall, and, as the storm clouds came sailing onward, others supplied the void they left behind and spread over all the sky. Then was heard the low rumbling of distant thunder, then the lightning quivered, and then the darkness of an hour seemed to have gathered in an instant. ~Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop, 1840–1841

The lightning streaked across the sky like the heated hands of a skeleton... Thunder roared in the distance... ~Cynthia Ellingsen, The Lighthouse Keeper, 2017

Now a golden flash of lightning
The darkened sky is gashing!
And rumbling thunder fills the air,
Harsh clouds together clashing!
~Sara L. Vickers Oberholtzer, "The Summer Rain," Violet Lee, and Other Poems, 1873

The heavens and the earth were breaking up. Wild, forked lightnings played about the mountain side. Sudden thunder boomed like musketry. Jasper felt the electric thrill in all his blood: every flash and every peal went through him. He had felt it coming all day, as if a brooding horror were over him. Storm after storm came hurtling down from the heights till night fell and when at last the noise sank into stillness, the great diamond stars hung trembling in the wide arch of deep stainless sapphire. ~Elizabeth Godfrey (Jessie Bedford), The Winding Road, 1902  [a little altered —tg]

A somber dragon,
      Eyes agleam,
A baleful creature
      Out of dream,
Crept over the mountain
      Flashing flame
As down through the darkening
      Sky he came.
Over a cliff
      In coils of cloud,
Through winds that whistled
      Long and loud,
He dropped his scaly
      Carcass down
With a crash of thunder
      Across the town!...
~Harry Behn (1898–1973), "Thunder Dragon," The Golden Hive, 1966

The thunder rolled heavily, and the forked lightning seemed to make jagged rents in every part of the vast curtain without... ~Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend, 1864–1865

Lightnings flash across the heavens;
Thunders shake the gloomy sky;
While the sweeping whirlwind uttereth
Dirges as it passeth by.
~Edward George Kent, "The Storm at Sea," Lindum Lays and Legends, 1861

LIGHTNING  One of the current events in heaven. ~Charles Wayland Towne, The Altogether New Foolish Dictionary, by Gideon Wurdz, 1914

A thunder-storm!—the eloquence of heaven,
When every cloud is from its slumber riven,
Who hath not paused beneath its hollow groan,
And felt Omnipotence around him thrown?
With what a gloom the ush'ring scene appears!
The leaves all shiv'ring with instinctive fears,
The waters curling with a fellow dread,
A veiling fervour round creation spread,
And, last, the heavy rain's reluctant shower,
With big drops patt'ring on the tree and bower,
While wizard shapes the bowing sky deform,—
All mark the coming of the thunder-storm!
~Robert Montgomery, The Omnipresence of the Deity, 1828–1831

Upon the Saturday we sat here, until we heard thunder muttering in the distance, and felt the large rain-drops rattle through the leaves. The weather had been all the week extremely sultry; but, the storm broke so suddenly. We ran out of the wood and to the keeper's lodge. We sat watching the storm. It was grand to see how the wind awoke, and bent the trees, and drove the rain before it like a cloud of smoke; and to hear the solemn thunder, and to see the lightning; and, while thinking with awe of the tremendous powers by which our little lives are encompassed, to consider how beneficent they are, and how upon the smallest flower and leaf there was already a freshness poured from all this seeming rage, which seemed to make creation new again. ~Charles Dickens, Bleak House, 1852–1853

Beyond the dark trees
lightning flashes on water,
bright, like a vision.
~Shiki, translated by Harry Behn, 1964

We had a thunder shower that was so terrible we locked the doors and the clock stopped — it was like Judgment day. ~Emily Dickinson, 1876  [a little altered —tg]

Rain is beautiful when it comes hurried and passionate, fleeing from the storm wind, hurled, like a volley of small musketry, against your streaming panes... It is beautiful in the Midsummer, when it comes in light, soft showers, or, more in earnest, accompanied with thunder-music, straight and heavy; when, as the poet says—
      "Rolling as in sleep,
      Low thunders bring the mellow rain."
~John Richard Vernon, "The Beauty of Rain," 1863  [Vernon is quoting Tennyson, from "The Talking Oak." –tg]

      ...lightning began to flash over the forest. One massive, rumbling peal of thunder rolled away, and a wind sighed, a cool wind smelling of rain... When the storm broke... she knew that the heart of the sky had burst. Violet and green flashes lit up the veils of rain, and now and then a dull smoky red tinged the darkness as a tree was struck and blazed up...
      At last the clouds smoldered to ashes, and the storm moved on. Thunder sounded farther and farther away, and then was silent. Outside the cave, drops pattered and spattered, until they simply dripped, fewer and fewer, like small tinkling bells, and Heather fell asleep.
      When she awoke, the sun was shining. Not only one sun, but many small suns, glinting and glistening in the jewels of water drops that fringed the stone entrance to the cave. As she crept out into the morning light, the drops fell sparkling about her... She smelled the rain-washed air and heard birds singing as they flew across the sky. It seemed as if it had wept all sorrow away. She had not forgotten the storm. But this sunny, golden morning was more real... ~Harry Behn (1898–1973), The Faraway Lurs, 1963

Ceraunoscopy, n.  Divination by thunder and lightning. ~The Century Dictionary, 1909

The flashes of lightning followed so swiftly upon one another that perpetual illumination lit the hills and the valleys. ~Jeanie Gwynne Bettany Kernahan, The Sinnings of Seraphine, 1906

      They all moved to one of the windows, and looked out into the heavy twilight. The curtains were long and white, and some of the thunder-gusts that whirled into the corner, caught them up to the ceiling, and waved them like spectral wings. "The rain-drops are still falling, large, heavy, and few," said Doctor Manette. "It comes slowly."
      "It comes surely," said Carton. They spoke low, as people watching and waiting mostly do; as people in a dark room, watching and waiting for Lightning, always do.
      There was a great hurry in the streets, of people speeding away to get shelter before the storm broke. "A multitude of people, and yet a solitude!" said Darnay.
      Suddenly there was a rush and roar of rain. A memorable storm of thunder and lightning broke with that sweep of water, and there was not a moment's interval in crash, and fire, and rain, until after the moon rose at midnight. "What a night it has been! Almost a night," said Mr. Lorry, "to bring the dead out of their graves." ~Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859  [a little altered –tg]

After sunset, the wind had fallen asleep in the pinelands and lurid sheets of heat-lightning flickered across the northern skies. ~L. M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island, 1915

Again, now, now, again
Plashes the rain in heavy gouts,
The crinkled lightning
Seems ever brightening...
And loud and long
Again the thunder shouts
His battle-song,—
One quivering flash,
One wildering crash,
Followed by silence dead and dull,
As if the cloud, let go,
Leapt bodily below
To whelm the earth in one mad overthrow,
And then a total lull...
~James Russell Lowell, "Summer Storm," 1839

Every bolt, as it burst with the roar of a cannon, seemed to awaken a series of distinct echoes on every side, and you heard them bandied from crag to crag as they rushed along the wadis; while they swept like a whirlwind among the higher mountains, becoming faint as some mighty peak intervened, and bursting again with undiminished volume through some yawning cleft, till the very ground trembled with the concussion. Such sounds it is impossible ever to forget; it seemed as if the whole mountains of the peninsula were answering one another in a chorus of the deepest bass. Ever and anon a flash of lightning dispelled the pitchy darkness, and lit up the tent as if it had been day; then, after the interval of a few seconds, came the peal of thunder, bursting like a shell to scatter its echoes to the four quarters of the heavens, and overpowering for a moment the loud howlings of the wind. ~Robert Walter Stewart, 1854 January 30th, "Feiran to Ghebel Mousa: Thunder Storm in Horeb," The Tent and the Khan: A Journey to Sinai and Palestine, 1857

A nasty stormline comes rumbling ominously out of the northwest. The birds eat more quickly as the woods grow darker. ~David J. Beard (1947–2016), tweet, 2009

Rushing and crushing comes the gale
Of wind that is swept along,
After the thunder and lightning,
Like the chorus to a song.
~Sara L. Vickers Oberholtzer, "The Summer Rain," Violet Lee, and Other Poems, 1873

There are times when, the elements being in unusual commotion, those who are bent on daring enterprises, or agitated by great thoughts, whether of good or evil, feel a mysterious sympathy with the tumult of nature, and are roused into corresponding violence. In the midst of thunder, lightning, and storm, many tremendous deeds have been committed; men, self-possessed before, have given a sudden loose to passions they could no longer control. The demons of wrath and despair have striven to emulate those who ride the whirlwind and direct the storm; and man, lashed into madness with the roaring winds and boiling waters, has become for the time as wild and merciless as the elements themselves. ~Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge, 1841

The lightning was so bright and near that it seemed to flash through the heavy canvas of the sail, the roaring and cracking enough to wake the dead sleeping in the depths of the water. ~Katherine Paterson, Jacob Have I Loved, 1980

Lightning flashes her blinding passion,
Thunder booms his primal reply.
~Terri Guillemets, "Heat," 1994

Slowly at last the heavy clouds, charged with the welcome water, roll up from seaward; the air grows sultry and still; the creatures of the grove and jungle keep their coverts, as if expectant, like the surface of the soil; there is a hush over all things, as though nature herself were faint; till presently the lightning flashes and the thunder rattles, and down, as if really from heaven and from the hand of God, comes the thick and fresh rain. Then there rises from the ground a cool and penetrating aroma, the scent of the dry soil saturated... ~Daily Telegraph, 1872

I glanced upstream, where the scalp of a thunderstorm barely peeked over the eastern horizon. ~Craig Childs, House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization across the American Southwest, 2006

It was thunder-weather. Out of doors, a hot and sleepy air hung over the city... ~May Sinclair, Audrey Craven, 1906

The heavy thunder rolled and crashed,
The lightning still incessant flashed.
~Simeon Carter (1824–1911), Poems and Aphorisms: A Woodman's Musings, 1893

Pretty soon it darkened up, and begun to thunder and lighten; so the birds was right about it. Directly it begun to rain, and it rained like all fury, too, and I never see the wind blow so. It was one of these regular summer storms. It would get so dark that it looked all blue-black outside, and lovely; and the rain would thrash along by so thick that the trees off a little ways looked dim and spider-webby; and here would come a blast of wind that would bend the trees down and turn up the pale under-side of the leaves; and then a perfect ripper of a gust would follow along and set the branches to tossing their arms as if they was just wild; and next, when it was justabout the bluest and blackest — fst! it was as bright as glory, and you'd have a little glimpse of tree-tops a-plunging about away off yonder in the storm, hundreds of yards further than you could see before; dark as sin again in a second, and now you'd hear the thunder let go with an awful crash, and then go rumbling, grumbling, tumbling, down the sky towards the under side of the world... ~Mark Twain

Oh! now to be alone, on some grand height,
Where heaven's black curtains shadow all the sight,
And watch the swollen clouds their bosom clash,
While fleet and far the living lightnings flash...
And see the fiery arrows fall and rise,
In dizzy chase along the rattling skies,—
How stirs the spirit while the echoes roll,
And God, in thunder, rocks from pole to pole!
~Robert Montgomery, The Omnipresence of the Deity, 1828–1831

The thunderhead collects out over the distant plain giving a show of what is to come. ~Mike Dolan, @HawaiianLife, tweet, 2015

Have you ever heard anything more beautiful...
      than soul-shaking booming thunder
      filling the width and depth and height
      saturating with stunning sound
      the infinite and electrified sky?
~Terri Guillemets

My mind has thunderstorms,
      That brood for heavy hours:
      Until they rain me words;
      My thoughts are drooping flowers
      And sulking, silent birds.
Yet come, dark thunderstorms,
      And brood your heavy hours;
      For when you rain me words,
      My thoughts are dancing flowers
      And joyful singing birds.
~William H. Davies, "Thunderstorms," Foliage, 1913

A storm rolled in before dawn and by first light, thunderheads sparked with lightning. Fat dots of rain fell as the old lakebed woke and began talking back to itself. ~Craig Childs, Atlas of a Lost World: Travels in Ice Age America, 2018

...a rumble so fierce
it realigns me to the core
...flashes so bright
that I become the night...
~Terri Guillemets

Then down rushed the rain, and the voice of the thunder
Smote dumb all the sound of the street,
And I to myself was grown nought but a wonder,
As she leaned down my kisses to meet.
~William Morris (1834–1896), "Thunder in the Garden"

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published 2012 Mar 18
revised Aug 2014, Nov 2018
last saved 2023 Feb 12