Niagara by Lydia Huntley Sigourney

sigourney niagara table

sigourney niagara table
The Horse-Shoe Falls by W.H. Bartlett. Image Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library.

Up to the Table-Rock, where the great flood
Reveals its fullest glory. To the verge
Of its appalling battlement draw near,
And gaze below.    Or if thy spirit fail,
Creep stealthily, and snatch a trembling glance
Into the dread abyss.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡What there thou seest
Shall dwell for ever in thy secret soul,
Finding no form of language.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡The vexed deep,
Which from the hour that Chaos heard the voice
Let there be light, hath known nor pause, nor rest,
Communeth through its misty cloud with Him
Who breaks it on the wheel of pitiless rock,
Yet heals it every moment.   Bending near,
Mid all the terror, as an angel-friend,
The rainbow walketh in its company
With perfect orb full-rounded.   Dost thou cling
Thus to its breast, a Comforter, to give
Strength in its agony, thou radiant form,
Born of the trembling tear-drop, and the smile
Of sun, or glimmering moon?   
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Yet from a scene
So awfully sublime, our senses shrink,
And fain would shield them at the solemn base
Of the tremendous precipice, and glean
Such hallowed thoughts as blossom in its shade.   


This is thy building, Architect Divine!
Who heavdst the pillars of the Universe.
Up, without noise, the mighty fabric rose,
And to the clamour of the unresting gulf
For ever smiting on its ear of rock
With an eternal question, answereth nought.
Man calls his vassals forth, with toil and pain;
Stone piled on stone, the pyramid ascends,
Yet ere it reach its apex-point, he dies,
Nor leaves a chiselled name upon his tomb.
The vast cathedral grows, with deep-groined arch,
And massy dome, slow reared, while race on race
Fall like the ivy sere, that climbs its walls,
The imperial palace towers, the triumph arch,
And the tall fane that tells a heros praise
Uplift their crowns of fretwork haughtily.
But lo! the Goth doth waste them, and his herds
The Vandal pastures mid their fallen pride.
But thou, from age to age, unchanged hast stood,
Even like an altar to Jehovahs name,
Silent and stedfast, and immutable.
Niagara and the storm-cloud!
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡To the peal
Of their united thunder, rugged rocks
Amazed reverberate, through depths profound
Streams the red lightning, while the loftiest trees
Bow, and are troubled.    Shuddering earth doth hide
In midnights veil; and even the ethereal mind
Which hath the seed of immortality
Within itself, — not undismayed, beholds
This fearful tumult of the elements.

Old Ocean meets the tempest and is wroth,
And in his wrath destroys.   The wrecking ship,
The sea-boy stricken from the quaking mast,
The burning tear wrung from many a home,
To which the voyager returns no more,
Attest the fury of his vengeful mood.
But thou, Niagara, knowst no passion-gust;
Thy mighty bosom, from the sheeted rain,
Spreads not itself to sudden boastfulness,
Like the wild torrent in its shallow bed.
Thou art not angry, and thou changest not.
Man finds in thee no emblem of himself:
The cloud depresseth him, the adverse blast
Rouseth the billows of his discontent,
The wealth of summer-showers inflates his pride,
And with the simple faith and love of Him
Who made him from the dust, he mingleth much
Of his own vain device.     Perchance, even here,
Neath all the sternness of thy strong rebuke,
Light fancies fill him, and he gathereth straws
Or plaiteth rushes, or illusive twines
Garlands of hope, more fragile still than they.

But in one awful voice, that neer has known
Change or inflection since the morn of time,
Thou utterest forth that One Eternal Name,
Which he who graves not on his inmost soul
Will find his proudest gatherings, as the dross
That cannot profit.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Thou hast neer forgot
Thy lesson, or been weary, day or night,
Nor with its simple, elemental thought
Mixed aught of discord.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Teacher, sent from God,
We bow us to thy message, and are still.
Oh! full of glory, and of majesty,
With all thy terrible apparel on,
High-priest of Nature, who within the veil,
Mysterious, unapproachable dost dwell,
With smoke of incense ever streaming up,
And round thy breast, the folded bow of heaven,
Few are our words before thee.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡For tis meet
That even the mightiest of our race should stand
Mute in thy presence, and with childlike awe,
Disrobed of self, adore his God through thee.

sigourney niagara table
Sigourney, Lydia H. Scenes In My Native Land. London, W. Tweedie, 1844. p. 9-12.


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