The Falls of Niagara by John Breakenridge

View Below Table Rock by John Cousen, c.1837. Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Behold! again I view thee, in thy majesty and might,
Thy proud sheet flashing in the blaze of morning’s glorious light ;
I see thee maddened in thy fall, and pale with hoary rage,
And fretting in thy passion that hath boiled from age to age.

Like thunder on my startled ear, thine everlasting roar
Hath broken, and reverberates from shore to echoing shore,
Continuous and fearful—giant power in its tone,
That shakes the earth’s foundations, and rives the solid stone !
How tremulous beneath the shock the fearful earth hath grown ;
Reeling beneath the mighty plunge, it sighs with ceaseless moan.
Now rush thy waves with frenzy wild, in foam of dazzling white,
Now placidly they sweep along with ever changeful light.
O, wondrous power ! O, giant strength ! how fearful, to behold,
Outstretched on yon o’erhanging crag, thy mad waves downward rolled ;
To look adown the cavernous abyss that yawns beneath—
To see the feathery spray flash forth in many a glittering wreath !

Voluminous and ceaseless still, forever swift descend
Thy waters, in their headlong course—then, turning, heavenward wend ;
Now, disenthralled, their essence hath its spirit shape resumed,
Bright, bodiless, and pure, its flight to yon empyrean plumed !

Source: John Breakenridge.  The Crusades, and Other Poems.  Kingston: John Rowlands, 1846.

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