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

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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

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

Virginia A. D**** by William B. Tappan

virginia

virginia
Young Girl in a Coffin. Courtesy Shirley Stoner / Niagara Falls Public Library

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Have thou never seen,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When the orb of day
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Lightens with his sheen
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Dark Niagara,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡How his glories act
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡On the foam, and show,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡O’er the cataract,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Heaven’s beauteous bow?
She, who lately plumed for flight, seeking rest above,
Saw thus over Jordan’s tide, arched, the bow of love.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Hath, at eve, thine eye
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Watched the little billow
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Rise and gleam and die,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡On Atlantic’s pillow —
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When it seemed to thee
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Sighing into rest,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Melting peacefully
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Into ocean’s breast?
She, as kindly in repose, sighed away her breath,
Peacefully and gently thus, blended into death.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Saw’st thou, when, in light,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Sabbath glories rose?
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡She, a Sabbath bright,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Saw, yet not like those.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Longed she then to go,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Rest above, to spend?
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Yes! begun below,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Rest that ne’er shall end.
Voices heard she, loved ones saw, sweetly from the sky
Beckoning to their holy home, wooing her to die.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡In the troublous hour,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡In life’s weary doom,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When disease hath power,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When appears the tomb —
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Where’s the sovereign arm,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Strong and swift to save?
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡What can chase alarm,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡What adorn the grave?
She could answer, HE was there, swift, the sufferer knew,
HE that through the grave had passed, strong to bear her through.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When Niagara
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Lifts his bow no more,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When have fled away
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Ocean and the shore, —
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡She shall live again,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Where the mortal sigh
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Heaves not, and where pain,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Yea, and Death shall die.
She, a child, a seraph now, leans on Jesus’ breast,
Oh, for wings!  that we might be, sweet one!  thus at rest.

Source:  William B. Tappan. Poet’s Tribute; Poems of William B. Tappan. Boston: King, Crocker & Brewster, 1840

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