The Falls of Niagara by H.D.M.

An original poem from the “album of Mr. Hooker”

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Niagara, Chute du Fer a Cheval. Print from a photo by Hugh Pattinson, 1842 Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Majestic ! and stupendous ! Wonder-work,
Sublime beyond Imagination !
Beyond expression, glorious and grand !
Awe-struck I stand, soul-swelling with emotion
Too powerful for thought; soul-wrapt with feeling
Too mighty for endurance. Yet to feel
Thus for one moment, might repay existence,
Though life had been more darkly cast than mine,
And mine has been — no matter: Now I’m blest.

I gaze till I am lost in what I gaze on;
Sense flies; self vanishes; I mingle with,
And am part of what I see and hear, —
The foaming torrents, and their deaf’ning roar !
At once elated and depressed, my soul
Drinks in the spectacle, conscious alike
Of weakness and power. ‘Tis glorious !
I swear ’tis glorious ! — Altar and fountain
Of the Eternal God ! — And there ye roll
Ye volumed waters, from age unchronicled,
To ages moveless in the womb of time !
Forever changing, yet fore’er the same: —
The same when broke the promise-bow of heaven,
To diadem your awful brow; the same: —
When bent the red-man o’er your thundering fall: —
To be the same when earth and sky shall meet
In final wreck, and mute eternity
Forever reign ! O ! ye are wonderful,
Ye massive rocks ! Ye rapids in your rush !
Ye trembling cataracts ! thou boiling surge !
To heaven up-rising like the good man’s prayer,
In the dark hour of tumult and dismay.
And O ! thou dread abyss in which are poured
Those endless torrents, that thy fountains lash
To tempest fury in their reckless fall,
O ! ye are dizzy to the mortal eye,
And terrible — most terrible to mortal sense !
And the loud roar of your undying thunder !
Ah ! what is Man to your surpassing might?
And what are you, proud monuments of Time,
To Him who called you from the depths of nought,
And cast you careless from his plastic hand,
The playthings of Omnipotence?

Omnipotence ! Eternity ! oh there,
Rise thou my thought ! fix thou my soul on Him,
Th’Omnipotent — the Eternal ! led by Him,
Safe o’er the cataracts of time, to dwell
Sweetly embosomed on the shores of bliss.

Source: Charles Mason Dow. Anthology and Bibliography of Niagara Falls. Albany: State of New York, 1921

Originally published in Western Literary Messenger (August 17, 1842 p. 56

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