An Address to the Body of a Man in the Whirlpool — Niagara by Emily Thornton Charles

Emily Thornton Charles

Ah, how ceaseless the rounds which, in darkness and gloom,
Thou hast made in the noisy confines of thy tomb,
‡‡‡‡‡Since the whirlpool so great,
‡‡‡‡‡Like a maelstrom of fate,
‡‡‡‡‡Did fiercely surround thee.
‡‡‡‡‡Drew downward and drowned thee.
‡‡‡‡‡Thou shrieked but none heard thee.
‡‡‡‡‡It beat thee and stirred thee,
‡‡‡‡‡Despoiled thee of breath,
‡‡‡‡‡And whirled thee to death.
Rising up, sinking down, with a thundering sound,
Thou art lashed by its fury around and around.
‡‡‡‡‡Now to sight thou art lost ;
‡‡‡‡‡Like a bubble art tossed
‡‡‡‡‡By the torrent’s strong clasp,
‡‡‡‡‡By the raging wave’s grasp,
‡‡‡‡‡Ever round and around,
‡‡‡‡‡Whilst the thundering sound
‡‡‡‡‡Ringeth still on deaf ears,
‡‡‡‡‡As it did ere you drowned.
Who, alas, were thy friends who must mourn thy sad fate ?
And how many are made, by thy death, desolate ?
Idle questions we ask, for we never shall know
Who was tossed by these waves, or in depths thrust below,
‡‡‡‡‡Now so fast and now slow,
As the wild gleaming whirlpool compels thee to go ;
‡‡‡‡‡Now a hand, or a foot
‡‡‡‡‡Close incased in a boot,
‡‡‡‡‡But a glimpse of a face —
So quickly it vanished — all too quickly to trace
Or to search out its features. Oh, terrible jest !
It is said, after death, that the body finds rest ;
Finds rest ! Seest thou thine ? It is whirling about
From the great seething caldron no more to get out.
Didst e’er fancy a fate like to this — that thou must
Be beaten and pounded, as ’twere hastened to dust,
‡‡‡‡‡With a din and a roar
‡‡‡‡‡Like the cannon’s outpour ?
‡‡‡‡‡For an instant didst think,
‡‡‡‡‡As thou stoodst on the brink
And looked on the rapids, that whene’er thou wert dead
They would grind thee to dust for Niagara’s bed ?
‡‡‡‡‡For it will not be long
‡‡‡‡‡Ere the eddying throng —
Waves we read of in story and picture in song —
Fiercely dash thee to pieces with shriek or deep groan —
Even droppings of water will wear away stone—
They will rend thy limp limbs, and will tear them apart ;
Will reach to thy vitals ; they will pluck out thy heart,
‡‡‡‡‡Until no one can see
‡‡‡‡‡What resemblance there be
‡‡‡‡‡Or a vestige in thee
‡‡‡‡‡Of a being who once was a mortal like me !

Source: Emily Thornton Charles.  Lyrical Poems, Songs, Pastorals, Roundelays, War Poems, Madrigals. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1887

Emily Thornton Charles had previously published the book Hawthorn Blossoms under the name Emily Hawthorne

Read about Emily Thornton Charles

“Not a great poem, but written in an interesting and buoyant style” — Charles Mason Dow

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