Niagara (1835 version) by Lydia Huntley Sigourney

sigourney
Lydia Huntley Sigourney
1791-1865
by Augustus Washington, 1855

 

 

Flow on for ever, in thy glorious robe
Of terror and of beauty !   God hath set
His rainbow on thy forehead, and the cloud
Mantled around thy feet.   And he doth give
The voice of thunder power to speak of Him
Eternally — bidding the lip of man
Keep silence,  and upon thy rocky altar pour
Incense of awe-struck praise.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡And who can dare
To lift the insect trump of earthly Hope,
Or Love, or Sorrow, — ‘mid the peal sublime
Of thy tremendous hymn? — E’en Ocean shrinks
Back from thy brotherhood, and his wild waves
Retire abashed. —  For he doth sometimes seem
To sleep like a spent laborer, and recall
His wearied billows from their vexing play,
And lull them in a cradle calm : — but thou,
With everlasting, undecaying tide,
Dost rest not, night or day.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡The morning stars,
When first they sang o‘er young Creation‘s birth,
Heard thy deep anthem — and those wrecking fires
That wait th’ Archangel‘s signal to dissolve
The solid Earth, shall find Jehovah‘s name
Graven, as with a thousand diamond spears,
On thine unfathomed page.   Each leafy bough,
That lifts itself within thy proud domain,
Doth gather greenness from thy living spray,
And tremble at the baptism.   Lo!  yon birds
Do venture boldly near, bathing their wing
Amid thy foam and mist. — ‘Tis meet for them
To touch thy garment‘s hem, — or lightly stir
The snowy leaflets of thy vapour wreath, —
Who sport unharmed upon the fleecy cloud,
And listen at the echoing gate of Heaven,
Without reproof.   But, as for us, — it seems
Scarce lawful with our broken tones, to speak
Familiarly of thee.   Methinks, to tint
Thy glorious features with our pencil‘s point,
Or woo thee to the tablet of a song,
Were profanation.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Thou dost make the soul
A wandering witness of thy majesty ;
And while it rushes with delirious joy
To tread thy vestibule, dost chain its step,
And check its rapture, with the humbling view
Of its own nothingness — bidding it stand
In the dread presence of th’ Invisible,
As if to answer to its God through thee.


Signed L.H.S., Hartford, Conn.

Source: Parsons, Horatio A.  A Guide to Travelers Visiting the Falls of Niagara.  2nd ed., greatly enlarged.  Buffalo: O.G. Steele, 1835

Page from Sangster’s “Our Land Illustrated in Art & Song”

Also published in Tunis’s Topographical and Pictorial Guide to Niagara. Niagara Falls. W.E. Tunis, Publisher, 1855 under the title Apostrophe to Niagara

The first stanza was also published in Sangster, Charles, ed. Our Land Illustrated in Art & Song.  Toronto: Toronto Willard Tract Depository, 1887. 

Also published in: Holley, George W., ed.  The Falls of Niagara.  Baltimore: A.C. Armstrong & Son, 1883

Also published in  Johnson, Richard L. (ed).  Niagara: Its History, Incidents and Poetry. Washington: Walter Neale General Book Publisher, 1898

 

Read about Lydia Huntley Sigourney

See the 1901 version of this poem

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