With clinging dainty catlike tread,
His pole in balance, hand to hand,
And, softly smiling, into space
He ventures on that threadlike strand.
Above him is the enormous sky,
Beneath, a frenzied torrent roars,
Surging where massed Niagara
Its snow-foamed arc of water pours:
But he, with eye serene as his
Who sits in daydream by the fire,
His every sinew, bone and nerve
Obedient to his least desire,
Treads softly on, with light-drawn breath,
Each inch-long toe, precisely pat,
In inward trust, past wit to probe—
This death-defying acrobat! …
Like some old Saint on his old rope-bridge,
Between another world and this,
Dead-calm ‘mid inward vortices,
Where little else but danger is.
Source: De la Mare, Walter. Collected Poems. London: Faber & Faber, 1979
Blondin was first published in De la Mare, Walter. Inward Companion. London: Faber and Faber, 1950.
Blondin crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope in 1859 and 1860.