The Cataract Isle by Christopher Pearse Cranch

The Emerald Isle by Christopher Pearse Cranch
Christopher Pearse Cranch
I wandered through the ancient wood
    That crowns the cataract isle.
I heard the roaring of the flood
    And saw its wild, fierce smile.

Through tall tree-tops the sunshine flecked
    The huge trunks and the ground;
And the pomp of fullest summer decked
    The island all around.

And winding paths led all along
    Where friends and lovers strayed;
And voices rose with laugh and song
    From sheltered nooks of shade.

Through opening forest vistas whirled
    The rapids’ foamy flash,
As they boiled along and plunged and swirled,
    And neared the last long dash.

I crept to the island’s outer verge,
    Where the grand, broad river fell —
Fell sheer down mid foam and surge,
    In a white and blinding hell!

The steady rainbow gayly shone
    Above the precipice;
And a deep, low tone of a thunder-groan
    Rolled up from the drear abyss.

And all the day sprang up the spray,
    Where the broad, white sheets were poured,
And fell around in showery play,
    And upward curled and soared.

And all the night those sheets of white
    Gleamed through the spectral mist,
When o’er the isle the broad moonlight
    The wintry foam-flakes kissed.

Mirrored within thy dreamy thought,
    I see it, feel it all
That island with sweet visions fraught,
    That awful waterfall.

With sun-flecked trees, and birds, and flowers,
    The Isle of Life is fair:
But one deep voice thrills through its hours,
    One spectral form is there!

A power no mortal can resist,
    Rolling forever on —
A floating cloud, a shadowy mist,
    Eternal undertone!

And through the sunny vistas gleam
    The fate, the solemn smile;
Life is Niagara’s rushing stream,
    Its dreams — that peaceful isle!

Source: Myron T. Pritchard, comp. Poetry of Niagara. Boston: Lothrop Publishing Co., 1901.

Previously published in R. L. Johnson. Niagara: Its History, Incidents and Poetry Washington: W. Neale, 1898

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *