Stanzas to Niagara by Maria del Occidente (Maria Gowen Brooks)

spirit
Portrait of Maria Gowen Brooks (Maria del Occidente)

Spirit of Homer!   Thou whose song has rung
‡‡From thine own Greece to this supreme abode
‡‡Of Nature — this great fane of Nature’s God —
Breathe on my brain — oh! touch the fervid tongue
‡‡Of a fond votaress kneeling on the sod.

Sublime and beautiful, your chapel’s here ? —
‡‡Here ‘neath the azure dome of heaven ye’re wed —
‡‡Here, on this rock, which trembles as I tread!
Your blended sorcery claims both pulse and tear,
‡‡Controls life’s source and reigns o’er heart and head.

Terrific — but O! — beautiful abyss! —
‡‡If I should trust my fascinated eye,
‡‡Or hearken to thy maddening melody,
Sense — form — would spring to meet thy white foam’s kiss —
‡‡Be lapped in thy soft rainbows, once, and die.

Color, depth, height, extension — all unite
‡‡To chain the spirit by a look intense! —
‡‡The dolphin in his clearest seas — or thence
Ta’en, for some queen, to deck of ivory white,
‡‡Dies not, in changeful tints, more delicately bright.

Look — look! — there comes o’er yon pale green expanse,
‡‡Beyond the curtain of this altar vast,
‡‡A glad young swan; — the smiling beams that cast
Light from her plumes, have lured her soft advance —
‡‡She nears the fatal brink — her graceful life has past.

Look up! nor her fond foolish fate disdain; —
‡‡An eagle rests upon the wind’s sweet breath —
‡‡Feels he the charm? — woos he the scene beneath?*
He eyes the sun — nerves his dark wing again —
‡‡Remembers clouds and storms — flies the lovely death.

“Niagara! wonder of this western world,
‡‡And all the world beside! hail, beauteous queen
‡‡Of cataracts!” an angel, who had been
O’er heaven and earth, spoke thus — his bright wings furled,
‡‡And knelt to Nature first, on this wild cliff unseen.

Source: Maria del Occidente. Idomen; or, The Vale of Yumuri. New York: Samuel Coleman, 1843.  p 194-195.   View a copy on Archive.org

Also published with changes to the poem and no title in the Table Rock Album and Sketches of the Falls and Scenery Adjacent. Buffalo: Steam Press of Thomas and Lathrops, copyright by Jewett, Thomas & Co.,1856c.1848

*Author’s note:

“An eagle rests upon the wind’s sweet breath!
Feels he the charm ? woos he the scene beneath ?

Those travellers who saw the falls of Niagara while the country about them was still a perfect wilderness, have said that many birds, and sometimes even eagles, would sail, as it were, upon the current of air, until retreat was impossible.

Since the falls have become a fashionable resort, wild animals, of course, have most of them deserted the place ; water fowl, however, are now not very unfrequently dee¢ived by the smoothness of the current, and perish in the manner of the swan described on the page mentioned.
With solitary birds of the air, it also might once have been the’ case. Dr. Goldsmith observes, that on some of the stupendous cliffs of Norway, the numerous hirds are so unaccustomed to the sight of man, that they know not his power to hurt them, and suffer the1nsclves to be taken
with the hand; even birds, however, are soon taught by experience to fly from danger.  M. de Chateaubriand’s description of the cataract of Niagara, and of the river Mississippi or “Mechacebe,” while both were untouched by any hand save that of Nature, is fine, perhaps, as any thing of the kind ever written.”

This link takes you to the scanned version of  the 1855 version of Table Rock Album from the Hathi Trust

See the Table of Contents of the Table Rock Album on this site.

Read about Maria Gowen Brooks here

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