FOREVERMORE, from thee, Niagara !
Religious Cataract ! Most Holy Fane !
A service and a symphony go up
Into the ear of God. ‘Tis Sabbath morn.
My soul, refreshed and full of comfort, hears
Thy welcome call to worship. All night long
A murmur, like the memory of a sound,
Has filled my sleep and made my dreams devout.
It was the deep unintermittent roll
Of thy eternal anthem, pealing still
Upon the slumbering and muffled sense,
Thence echoing in the soul’s mysterious depths
With soft reverberations. How the earth
Trembles with hallelujahs, loud as break
From banded Seraphim and Cherubim
Singing before the Throne, while God vouchsafes
Vision and audience to prostrate Heaven !
My soul, that else were mute, transported finds
In you, O inarticulate Harmonies !
Expression for unutterable thoughts,
Surpassing the impertinence of words.
For that the petty artifice of speech
Cannot pronounce th’ Unpronounceable,
Nor meet the infinite demands of praise
Before descending Godhead, lo ! she makes
Of this immense significance of sound,
Sublime appropriation, chanting it anew,
As her “Te Deum,” and sweet Hymn of Laud.
O God ! I thank Thee, I can do no less,
‡‡Since by Thy grace it is, and not by merit,
‡‡That Nature’s glorious fullness I inherit ;
That I, with all embracing arms, may press
‡‡The perfect Beauty, present in Thy works,
‡‡Present in all, in all profoundly lurks ;
May take the matchless Venus to my side,
As mine elect, my well beloved, immortal Bride ;
With a legitimate and holy rapture, kiss
Her unaverted face, and taste a boundless bliss.
‡‡O what am I. that I should so aspire,
‡‡Thus with the Daughter of th’ Eternal Sire,
‡‡Refulgent with His likeness, aye to wed !
‡‡To place the crown of glory on my head,
‡‡By virtue of these high espousals, heir
‡‡Of Thine eternal kingdom which is everywhere.
‡‡‡‡‡‡I now but know in part,
‡‡‡‡‡‡The sum of what Thou art ;
‡‡‡‡‡‡‘Tis little that I see
‡‡‡‡‡‡Of her infinity,
But little of those charms, whose perfect whole
Shall ravish the transfigured and exalted soul.
‡‡‡‡‡‡For that sweet earnest of beatitude,
Found in those glimpses which to me are given,
Of her whose proper residence is heaven !
When comes a radiance streaming from the sky,
I, by that token, know that she is nigh :
When Earth puts on her robe of purest green,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And flowers fair
Her presence perfumes and endears the scene ;
‡‡‡When Ocean rises in his majesty,
‡‡‡I’ve seen her walking on the troubled Sea,
‡‡‡‡‡‡An angel form
‡‡‡‡‡‡Amid the storm,
But never, never, until now,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Till in this place,
‡‡‡‡‡‡So seen her face to face,
Celestial glories beaming on her brow,
‡‡‡By each indubitable sign
‡‡‡Proved an apocalypse of the divine.
‡‡‡‡‡All hail, Niagara ! immortal Wonder, hail !
‡‡‡Rapt as a prophet, I have stood
And nothing spoke, for what could words avail ?
‡‡‡Or, said unconscious, It is good,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Good to be here,
‡‡‡‡‡‡With God so near,
Here will I stay, nor evermore depart !
‡‡‡What time my soul astonished, from her swoon
‡‡‡Awoke, her powers recovered soon.
Meanwhile, I felt th’ eternal mystery,
‡‡‡Like lightning through my being dart,
Then as I entered that o’ershadowing Cloud,
That dread Shekinah, Shrine of Deity,
And fell upon my face, and heard One speak aloud,
‡‡‡But not in mortal dialect, or speech ;
‡‡‡The sacred import, to my soul’s high reach
‡‡‡In that deep trance, intelligible alone,
‡‡‡That mystery of words, that thunder tone.
I heard, and felt—or, was it but a dream ?
‡‡‡The adamantine chain of sin
Fall off, as riven by the lightning’s beam,
‡‡‡And a new birth and being thence begin.
‡‡‡O, can it be,
‡‡‡‡‡‡This broken chain
‡‡‡‡‡‡Shall close again,
‡‡‡And I shall lose my new found liberty ?
‡‡‡‡‡‡Is God not here ?
‡‡‡The thunder utters, Yes !
‡‡‡‡‡‡The trembling rocks in fear
‡‡‡The truth confess ;
‡‡‡The assenting mountains nod,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And all things round
‡‡‡‡‡‡Echo one sound,
‡‡‡All testify of God.
‡‡‡‡‡‡O, let my soul exult,
‡‡‡‡‡‡That here she may consult,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡The Oracle Divine !
‡‡‡‡‡‡That at Jerusalem, no more,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Is fixed as heretofore
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Jehovah’s Shrine !
‡‡‡‡‡‡That ancient ritual is past,
‡‡‡‡‡‡That Temple to the ground is cast,
Those symbols and those semblances sublime,
‡‡‡Endured but for a time.
Their everlasting prototypes, I ween,
Their patterns on the Mount by Moses seen,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Were these, are here !
‡‡‡‡‡‡This much, at least is clear ;
If, in th’ immensity of space,
God makes one spot His special dwelling-place,
‡‡‡That sacred spot is this.
‡‡‡‡‡‡I find the witness and the sign,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Authentic, marvelous, divine,
Here in th’ ebullient, luminous abyss,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Where thousand suns once bright,
So seems, now back exhausted pour
‡‡‡Their full collected light,
In ceaseless flood for evermore.
‡‡‡‡‡I tread the vestibule, I press,
‡‡‡I, who am dust and nothingness,
‡‡‡Within the Veil, into the Holiest Place,
‡‡‡Even to the Mercy seat, and Throne of Grace.
‡‡‡‡‡‡I look around, I kneel,
‡‡‡‡‡‡The Deity I feel ;
‡‡‡‡‡‡Too bright for visual sense
‡‡‡‡‡‡Is His magnificence,
But there, methinks, on the horizon’s rim
I see the hovering wings of Cherubim.
‡‡‡‡‡‡Open, ye crystal gates !
‡‡‡‡‡‡The King of Glory waits ;
‡‡‡‡‡‡Ye rainbows, spring your arch
‡‡‡‡‡‡For His triumphal march !
‡‡‡Who is the King of Glory ? He
‡‡‡Whose presence fills immensity ;
‡‡‡Th’ Omnific Word, who spoke,
‡‡‡And day on darkness broke.
‡‡‡Who is the King of Glory ? Who ?
‡‡‡The Faithful and the True,
‡‡‡The Lord, omnipotent to save,
‡‡‡Who triumphed o’er the grave ;
‡‡‡Who rising from the dead
‡‡‡Captivity captive led ;
‡‡‡Who spoiled Infernal Powers,
‡‡‡And made the victory ours.
‡‡‡He, wonderful to tell,
‡‡‡Still deigns with men to dwell ;
‡‡‡Has built Him here a home,
‡‡‡Gates, pillars, architrave, and dome
‡‡‡Of molten emeralds, and precious gems,
‡‡‡Richer than grace imperial diadems :
‡‡‡Here reared His throne, here fixed His seat,
‡‡‡Where everlasting thunders beat.
‡‡‡‡‡‡Open, ye pearly gates !
‡‡‡‡‡‡The King of Glory waits.
‡‡‡Ye sapphire doors, wide open swing,
‡‡‡Admit the pomp of the Celestial King !
‡‡‡‡‡‡Ye censers, smoke ! waft high,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Your clouds of incense filling all the sky !
‡‡‡In this high service can I bear no part?
‡‡‡‡‡‡He’ll not despise,
A broken spirit and a contrite heart.
‡‡‡By this rapt converse, lifted high
‡‡‡Upon the wings of ecstasy,
‡‡‡My soul, grown buoyant, bold and rash,
‡‡‡Goes forth to meet the Cataract’s dash.
‡‡‡I climb the fearful precipice,
‡‡‡And look and lean there o’er the abyss ;
‡‡‡Ascend the loftiest pinnacle,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Of this rock-built and mighty fane—
‡‡‡A thought, I instantly repel,
‡‡‡‡‡‡A horrid thought, shoots through my brain,
‡‡‡As standing on the perilous steep,
‡‡‡The Enemy tempts me down to leap.
‡‡‡‡As through the lone and wooded isle,
‡‡‡I pensive walk and muse the while,
‡‡‡The scales fall suddenly from my eyes :
‡‡‡With a new transport of surprise,
‡‡‡I see all common things intense
‡‡‡With mighty pomp of evidence ;
‡‡‡Each insect, flower, and shrub, and tree
‡‡‡Blazing with proofs of Deity :
‡‡‡Where’er I look, where’er I turn,
‡‡‡His glowing footprints I discern ;
‡‡‡In small and great, alike, I find
‡‡‡Sweet intimations left behind
‡‡‡Of wisdom, goodness, power, and grace—
‡‡‡The glory of a hidden face :
‡‡‡In every sound, in accents clear,
‡‡‡His name is whispered in my ear :
‡‡‡My quickened sense, now as I pass,
‡‡‡Hears holy anthems from the grass.
‡‡‡Meek insect choristers ! not in vain,
‡‡‡You feebly pipe your humble strain,
‡‡‡Not less significant, when understood,
‡‡‡Than thunder sounding through the wood.
Source: Abraham Coles. The Microcosm and Other Poems. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1881