Sonnet Suggested by Mr Wall’s Painting of the Falls of Niagara By Samuel Ferguson

ferguson
Niagara Falls as Seen From Below, 1833
Painted by Wall, Engraved by Archer.

Oft have I stood in fancy on the shore
‡‡‡‡Of Niagara, and with moistened eye
‡‡‡‡Peered through imaginary mists to spy
The wall of waters and the boiling floor —
But never hath it been my chance before
‡‡‡‡To see in work of hand or fantasy,
‡‡‡‡Old Ocean tumbling thus from middle sky. —
Hark ! heard ye not the solid thunderous roar ?
Even while I gaze, methinks the scene grows dark,
‡‡‡‡Save where yon light flashed past the blasted pine ;
It nears, it kindles — ’tis a blazing bark —
‡‡‡‡Lo ! o’er the Horse-shoe’s foamy-crested line,
Sped like a shot-star to destruction’s mark,
‡‡‡‡Down to perdition flames the Caroline !

Dublin, April, 1838


Source: Blackwoods Edinburgh Magazine, vol 43, issue 271. May 1838.  Found in: Alison Chapman (ed.) and the DVPP team, Digital Victorian Periodical Poetry: Periodicals, Digital Victorian Periodical Poetry Project

An engraving of the painting, Niagara Falls as Seen From Below, that inspired Ferguson to write this sonnet was found in John Howard Hinton (ed.).  The History and Topography of the United States of North America: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, vol. 2.  New & Improved Edition.  Boston: Samuel Walker, 1834. It is not known if this was where Ferguson saw the painting.

The burning Steamer Caroline went over the Horseshoe Falls on the night of December 29, 1837. Read about the burning of the Caroline at the Niagara Falls Museums website

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