Across the Gulf by Lily Alice Lefevre

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Cave of the Winds & Bridal Veil Falls, Niagara Falls. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

WHERE the great cataract, Niagara, fills
The air with mist, the earth with shuddering sound,
A winding path leads to the utmost verge
And down the steep a narrow stair is flung,
Confronting in its fragile nothingness
The world of hurling waters. There, alone,
A blind girl stands. As on the dizzy brink
Of Alpine heights, a snowdrop half afraid
Hangs trembling petals o’er the dark abyss
White-robed she bends above the roaring gulf
And clasps with timid hands the slender rail
That guards the deep descent. A pale, sweet face
Upraised to wonders that she cannot see,
And tremulous with passionate despair,
Half-parted lips that in their tender curves
Droop mournfully, and heavy lashes wet
With sad and hopeless tears.

 

Before her sweeps
The crystal glory rounding from the rock
And melting into mists of pearl and rose.
A thousand changing tints of opal light,
Bright magic blossoms of the sunlit wave,
Flash upward in their flights of fairy bloom
Like garlands tossed in triumph to the sky.
Higher and higher in showers of starry spray
Till one wild leap flings to the farthest crag
Its vivid splendour, and across the foam
There glows a rainbow arch of victory!

 

But not for her the beauty or the power,
She hears the sound of mighty harmonies
And vainly pictures the Unseen. And yet
Not hers, not hers the pain that wrings the heart
Of one who gazes on her sightless eyes,
And knows not why the kind, the cruel world
Holds Blindness and Niagara!

 

So stands
The soul who comes at last to that dim verge
Where Reason falters and where Science fails,
These were his chosen guides who led him far
Down shadowy vistas of the shrouded past
Through myriad forms of faint, primeval life
Back to the great First Cause,—a step, and then
He hears the waters of Eternity
Sounding mysterious music through the night,
He trembles on the verge of the Unknown,—
The Darkness closes round him—he is blind!

 

Oh, Light of faith! touch thou his closèd eyes,
And lo! the vision of a rainbow flung
Across the viewless depths of Time and Space,—
A sacramental splendour set aloft
In sevenfold glory, mystical, divine,
To span the gulf that lies ‘twixt God and Man!

Source: Lily Alice Lefevre. A Garden by the Sea and Other Poems. London: Arthur L. Humphreys, 1921.

 

Helen Keller at Niagara Falls by Meryl Stratford

helen keller

helen keller
Cover of Helen Keller’s The World I Live In. Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan, Edmund Lyon, and Polly Prate at Niagara Falls, ca. 1893

She could not see the avalanche cascade
from foam-flecked marble rapids, being blind,
but torrents of egrets and apple blossoms played
whirlpools of nebulous beauty in her mind.
She could not hear, tumultuous mystery,
the thunderous plunge, a sea’s storm-breaking crests,
crescendo of a choral symphony,
only the silence when the music rests.
But the earth beneath her trembled. She could feel
a power like perseverance, truth, or love,
the joyous lifting of a bridal veil,
a thirst fulfilled, the mist, the memory of
her teacher’s cool, wet fingers like a brand,
burning that first word water in her hand.

 

Meryl Stratford is a poet living in Hallandale Beach, Florida.


First Published August 7, 2014 on The Society of Classical Poets website