“Man lays his scepter on the ocean waste,
His footprints stiffen in the Alpine snows,
But only God moves visibly in Thee,
O King of Floods! that with resistless fate
Down plungest in thy mighty width and depth.
* * * * * Amazement, terror, fill,
Impress and overcome the gazer’s soul.
Man’s schemes and dreams and petty littleness
Lie open and revealed. Himself far less—
Kneeling before thy great confessional—
Than are the bubbles of the passing tides.
Words may not picture thee, nor pencil paint
Thy might of waters, volumed vast and deep;
Thy many-toned and all-pervading voice;
Thy wood-crown’d Isle, fast anchor’d on the brink
Of the dread precipice; thy double stream,
Divided, yet in beauty unimpaired;
Thy wat’ry caverns and thy crystal walls;
Thy crest of sunlight and thy depths of shade,
Boiling and seething like a Phlegethon
Amid the wind-swept and convolving spray,
Steady as Faith and beautiful as Hope.
There, of beam and cloud the fair creation,
The rainbow arches its ethereal hues.
From flint and granite in compacture strong;
Not with steel thrice harden’d—but with the wave
Soft and translucent—did the new-born Time
Chisel thy altars. Here hast thou ever poured
Earth’s grand libation to Eternity,
Thy misty incense rising unto God—
The God that was and is and is to be.”
Source: Johnson, Richard L. (ed). Niagara: Its History, Incidents and Poetry. Washington, Walter Neale General Book Publisher, 1898
Also published in Holley, George W., ed. The Falls of Niagara. Baltimore: A.C. Armstrong & Son, 1883 (N.B. Holley mentions this poem by Ridgely is an excerpt from a larger work.)
Also published in Dow, Charles Mason. Anthology and Bibliography of Niagara Falls. Albany: State of New York, 1921.