Niagara by Christopher Pearse Cranch

niagara cranch
General View From New Suspension Bridge.
Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

I stood within a vision’s spell;
‡‡ I saw, I heard. The liquid thunder
Went pouring to its foaming hell,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡And it fell,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Ever, ever fell
Into the invisible abyss that opened under.
I stood upon a speck of ground;
‡‡ Before me fell a stormy ocean.
I was like a captive bound;
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡And around
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡A universe of sound
Troubled the heavens with ever-quivering motion.
Down, down forever–down, down forever,
‡‡ Something falling, falling, falling,
Up, up forever–up, up forever,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Resting never,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Boiling up forever,
Steam-clouds shot up with thunder-bursts appalling.
A tone that since the birth of man,
‡‡ Was never for a moment broken,
A word that since the world began,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡And waters ran
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Hath spoken still to man ̶
Of God and of Eternity hath spoken.
Foam-clouds there forever rise
‡‡ With a restless roar o’erboiling ̶
Rainbows stooping from the skies
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Charm the eyes,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Beautiful they rise,
Cheering the cataracts to their mighty toiling.
And in that vision as it passed,
‡‡ Was gathered terror, beauty, power:
And still when all has fled, too fast,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡And I at last
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Dream of the dreamy past,
My heart is full when lingering on that hour.

October 1838

Source: Christopher Pearse Cranch. Poems. Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1844

Also published in abbreviated version, under Anonymous, in Myron T. Pritchard, comp. Poetry of Niagara. Boston: Lothrop Publishing Co., 1901.

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