At Niagara by Richard Watson Gilder

Richard Watson Gilder as an American Civil War soldier. By Sarah Wyman Whitman
R. W. Gilder as an American Civil War soldier. By Sarah Wyman Whitman

There at the chasm’s edge behold her lean
Trembling as, ‘neath the charm,
A wild bird lifts no wing to ‘scape from harm;
Her very soul drawn to the glittering green,
Smooth, lustrous, awful, lovely curve of peril;
While far below the bending sea of beryl
Thunder and tumult — whence a billowy spray
Enclouds the day.

What dream is hers? no dream hath wrought that spell!
The long waves rise and sink;
Pity that virgin soul on passion’s brink,
Confronting Fate — swift, unescapable, —
Fate, which of nature, is the intent and core,
And dark and strong as the steep river’s pour,
Cruel as love, and wild as love’s first kiss!
Ah, God! the abyss!

Source: Myron T. Pritchard, comp. Poetry of Niagara. Boston: Lothrup Publishing Co., 1901
First published in his The Great Remembrance and Other Poems, New York: The Century Co., 1893

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