Lines Written at Sun-rise in Sight of the Falls of Niagara by Erieus

Sunrise at the Brink of Niagara Falls. Photo by Charlie Schnurr. Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

‡‡‡‡ The orient beam now peers from yonder East,
And roseate blushes tinge the verge of heaven,
While sable night withdraws her dark blue veil,
Bespangled deep with sparkling gems of light,
And fair Aurora shoots th’ empurpled ray, —
The earliest ray of radiant, dewy, morn,
Sublime the scene! Earth and her children lie
Silent as death, while, high above, the arch
Of the celestial spheres glows with the fires
That light immensity, and swift revolves,
In its diurnal circuits, around the poles,
Silent as death, is all, except yon burst
Tremendous, from the deep, embowell’d earth,
Silence, as from Etna’s boiling gulph, the roar
Of rolling thunders issues, on the wing
Outstretch’d, of the quiescent air, and stung
Th’ astonish’d ear of night.    As yet the morn,
Slow lingering, skirts the sky; — but soon its beams
Reveal the floating mount, that lay, but late,
A gloomy bank upon the blue expanse,
And shew, as from some cloudclapt eminence,
The dusky volume of incumbent spray,
High heap’d in midway heaven, that hangs condensed
As threatening tempest o’er the rushing surge,
Whence it, evolving, steams, and hurries up,
In rapid flight, and tosses, whirls, and rolls,
And wheels sublime, in convoluted wreaths
And giant columns huge, immense, and spouts,
In swelling masses, from the thundering gulph,
Obscure and dark, that rages deep below,
And plunging, tumbling, tossing, foaming drives,
With furious blast, the mounting spray that shoots
Heavenward, in changeful evolution swift,
Until it mingles with the mass above,
Thus seems the cataract when now the morn
Hath chased the dense obscurity away,
That close enveloped all, while night her veil
Hung o’er the world.    But soon gay morning spreads
A lucid mantle o’er the rising scene —
The fields — the woods — the flood precipitant,
Resistless rolling down the giant steep —
The stormy bosom of the wave below,
Seen partial and obscure — the heaving mounds
Of broken water, that tumultuous rush,
Rebounding forceful, from the hollow rocks,
Now here, now there, and jostling, mingling; plunge
And sink in swift succession — all above,
The shelving rocks, projecting, threatening hang
Suspended as it were — their shaggy heads
Crown’d with dense foliage that, dependent, skirts
The farthest edge — the trees that, dripping, drink
The falling spray, the river rough above
That boiling, plunging o’er its rugged bed,
In hurried fury storms, and roars and bounds,
From rock to rock, and dreadful smokes along
To gain the farthest brink, and thus to shoot,
And tumbling, strike to the continuous peal
That deep, incessant, rolls its thunder thro’
The troubled air, whilst earth, convulsive, shakes,
And owns the force, resistless, of the flood.
‡‡‡‡ Wonder of wonders, hail! fain would I strike
My lyre to thee, and from its deepest chords,
Awake the theme, sublime; but deeper, oh!
Thy thousand thunders toll.    My trembling muse
Casts round on thee her wilder’d, anxious gaze —
Starts back upon herself, and shrinks before
Th’ aspiring thought of such adventurous song.


Source: Burwell, Adam Hood.  The Poems of Adam Hood Burwell, Pioneer Poet of Upper Canada. ed. by Dr. Carl F. Klinck. (Western Ontario History Nuggets no. 30, May 1963). London, Ont.: Lawson Memorial Library, The University of Western Ontario, 1963

Originally published in The Scribbler (Montreal), III, 105-106, February 13, 1823

Adam Hood Burwell published poems under the pen name Erieus

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