The Song of Niagara (1910) by Katharine Lee Bates

bates song 1

bates song 1
Katharine Lee Bates

An alien song. Though day by day I listen,
No syllable of that majestic chant
May my adoring passion comprehend.
With many a lucent evanescent hue
The plunging torrents glisten.
Far-seen, colossal plumes of spray ascend,
Their dazzling white shot through and through
With quivering rainbows, until every plant,
Each hoar, blue-berried cedar loved of bird,
Each fine fern tracery, the cold mists christen
To spirit grace. The frosted branches bend
With sparkle of such jewels as trancsend
All fantasy of elfin-craft. Yet who
Interpreteth the great enchantment’s word?

Ye primal Sibyls, if eyes hardly bear
The glory of your opalescent robes,
Your diamond aureoles and veils impearled,
May the stunned ear divine
Your awful oracle? August, yet wild,
Do your tremendous paeans still prolong
Creation’s old, unhumanised delight,
The laughter of the Titans? Were ye there
With your deep diapason answering
The Archangelic, chanting, golden globes,
What time they chorused forth their crystalline,
Exultant welcome to the stranger world?
Or is it, tolling cataracts, the doom,
The unrevealable, forbidden thing,
Your antiphonic, solemn voices boom?
Or peradventure do your pearls proclaim
Some all-triumphal Name
That could it once be won
By mortal ear
Would ecstasy the griefs we suffer here
And charter love to wing
Her radiant flight beyond oblivion?
Dread Sisters, ye who smite
The senses with intolerable roar,
Is there no meaning in your ceaseless song,
No word of God in all your mighty throng
Of multitudinous thunders evermore?

Source: Canadian Magazine, May 1910, p 58

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bates song 1

 

Niagara by Katharine Lee Bates

bates

bates
Katharine Lee Bates, 1859 – 1929

PASSION of plunging waters, blanched to spray,
‡‡‡‡But shot with sheen of chrysolite and beryl ;
Columnar mist and glistening rainbow play ;
‡‡‡‡A splendid thrill of glory and of peril.

 

Source: Katharine Lee Bates.  America the Beautiful and Other Poems.  New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, Publishers, 1911

 

Niagara River Below the Falls by Emma Lazarus

lazarus river

lazarus river
Emma Lazarus, 1849-1887

Flow on forever, in thy tranquil sleep,
Thou stream, all wearied by thy giant leap;
Flow on in quiet and in peace fore’er,
No rocky steep, no precipice is there.

The rush, the roar, the agony are past;
The leap, the mighty fall, are o’er at last;
And now with drowsy ripplings dost thou flow,
All murmuring in whispers soft and low.

Oh tell us, slumb’ring, em’rald river, now,
With that torn veil of foam upon thy brow;
Now, while thou sleepest quietly below, —
What are thy dreams?    Spent river, let us know.

Again, in thought, dost dash o’er that dread steep,
By frenzy maddened to the fearful leap?
By passion’s mists all blinded, cold and white,
Dost plunge once more, now, from the dizzy height?

Or else, forgetful of the dangers past,
Art dreaming calm and peacefully, at last,
Of that fair nymph who pressed thy livid brow,
And gave thy past a glory vanished now?

The Rainbow, whom the royal Sun e’er wooes,
For whom, in tears, the mighty Storm-king sues;
Who left her cloud-built palace-home above,
To crown thy awful brow with light and love.

Yes, in thy tranquil sleep, O  wearied stream,
Still of the lovely Iris is thy dream;
The agony, the perils ne’er could last;
But with all these the rainbow, too, has past.

No life so wild and hopeless but some gleam
Doth lighten it, to make a future dream.
Thy course, O Stream, has been mid fears and woe,
But thou hast met the Rainbow in thy flow.

New York, November 3rd, 1865

Source:  Emma Lazarus. Poems and Translations.  New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1867

Niagara by Emma Lazarus

lazarus

lazarus
Clifton House Hotel, ca 1860. Photo courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

Thou art a giant altar, where the Earth
Must needs send up her thanks to Him above
Who did create her. Nature cometh here
To lay its offerings upon thy shrine.
The morning and the evening shower down
Bright jewels, — changeful opals, em’ralds fair.
The burning noon sends floods of molten gold,
The calm night crowns thee with her silver veil,
And o’er thee e’er is arched the rainbow’s span, —
The gorgeous marriage-ring of Earth and Heaven.
While ever from the holy altar grand
Ascends the incense of the mist and spray,
That mounts to God with thy wild roar of praise.

Clifton House, Niagara Falls, Canada, August 24th, 1865

Source:  Emma Lazarus. Poems and Translations.  New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1867

 

Under the Bridge at Niagara by Samuel Longfellow

longfellow

longfellow
Samuel Longfellow, 1819 – 1892

We sat beneath the wooden bridge
‡‡As in a sheltering tent,
And watched the water’s emerald ridge
‡‡And marvelous white descent

The schoolboys, ruddy-cheeked and fair,
‡‡Stood round in lightsome mood,
Nor saw the awful presence there, —
‡‡The spirit of the flood.

And yet on one of them, thought I,
‡‡Some deeper influence stole
To touch the slumbering chords that lie
‡‡Even in childish soul.

And when, in later years, his ways
‡‡Beside these steeps shall be,
The wonder-joy his foot that stays
‡‡Shall seem half memory.

Oh, may some heavenly influence
‡‡Still to my soul be nigh
To blend the child’s unconscious sense
‡‡With manhood’s seeing eye!

Written in 1857

Source: Samuel Longfellow.  Hymns and Verses.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1894