Sonnet to the River Niagara by B.F. Butler

Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge
drawn from nature by Aug. Köllner, c1848
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

River of emerald, world-attractive stream !
‡‡Brightest of links in that eternal chain
‡‡Which binds the West to the far distant main ;
Did ever poet, in his wildest dream,
See, hear or fancy aught more soft, more fair,
‡‡More grand or terrible, than found in thee ?
‡‡First, gently moving, full, majestic, free,
Girdling broad islands with maternal care—
‡‡Then sweeping onward with increasing tide—
Next, madly plunging, in rough, headlong race—
‡‡And lo, the cataracts ! On either side,
“A hell of waters” which no pen can trace !
‡‡Thence, raging, whirling, till, “with sweet delay,”
‡‡On old Ontario’s breast, thou dy’st away.

Niagara Falls, August, 1841

Source: Southern Literary Messenger, vol 8, no. 3, March 1842

N.B. This is probably not the work of General B.F. “The Beast” Butler,  (1818-1893), who did write poetry. It is probably the work of “B.F. Butler, the poet of the old Democratic Review, [who] was born in Kinderhook, N.Y., in 1795 and died in France in 1858. He was attorney-general of the United States from 1831 to 1844, and acted as secretary of war for several months at a subsequent period of Gen. Jackson’s administration. He left the Democratic Party on passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill in 1854, and supported Fremont in 1856. The present Gen. may have been “spoony” but he did not write poems for the Democratic Review. The Butler who did was a scholar and a poet, and a competent critic says of his contributions: ‘Some of his sonnets — the most artistic and difficult of all poetic work — are very polished and beautiful. ‘ ”  — Charles A. Pillsbury, Historic Magazine and Notes and Queries: A Monthly of History, Folk-lore, Mathematics, Literature, Art, Arcane Societies, Etc. (1882). United States: (n.p.).

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