Niagara by Richard Edwin Day

day
Niagara Falls From Goat Island
by J. Hill, 1888.
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress


RIVER
 that runnest with tempestuous note,
‡‡With rioting eddies and tumultuous tide 
And maelstroms struggling in the chasm’s throat, 
‡‡A thousand tempests in thine onset ride ; 
‡‡A thousand storms, whose thunders never died 
When o’er the misty meadows of the air
‡‡The volleying clouds were scattered far and wide, 
Charge in mad wheel, like furious horsemen where 
Their frothing squadrons plunge around the embattled square.

But as thy waters throng the sheer decline,
‡‡What image in the mind’s fantastic world  
Of mighty cavalry down some path malign,
‡‡Unseen, unguessed, with trampling turmoil whirled ;
‡‡Or of innumerable bison hurled
Before the hunters to a cañon’s deep,
‡‡And myriads on rushing myriads swirled 
Over the maddening and horrid steep  
But sinks before thy unimaginable sweep 

Far other is the vision of thy strength
‡‡Where the dire tumults fail in murmurs low : 
Like level-lying lawns is thy green length, 
‡‡And meadow-white the great foam-blossoms blow. 
‡‡Beside thy bank, which evergreens o’ergrow, 
Most like a flower-strewn Titan thou dost dream  
‡‡After some vast primeval labor’s throe 
And the far cataract’s snows glide and gleam 
Thicker than star-foam on the Milky Way’s dark stream.

Methinks, brave river, muttering in thy jar
‡‡Ponderous syllables of an age-old tongue,  
Heir of some boisterous sea once billowing far,
‡‡Strength of the old world’s loins when time was young,
‡‡I hear thee faintlier chant a pæan flung 
Along thy footpath, in Earth’s rugged prime,
‡‡When from a grander steep thy challenge rung, 
And vapors rose on pillars more sublime
‡‡To where thy rainbow’s unsubstantial arches climb.

Emblem of youth eternal, in whose course
‡‡A thousand years are as the vasty surge
That every moment crashes, loud and hoarse, 
‡‡Into the torment of the whelming gurge,
‡‡Why do thy floods such march impetuous urge ? 
No sovereign voice exhorts thy restless tide
‡‡In one impatient hour its life to merge, 
Lest some unconquered good may yet abide 
When thy spent waters in the solemn sea subside.

Thy lips do swallow up my tiny voice ;
‡‡My thoughts lie baffled in thy torrent’s spell. 
Yet in thy shock and riot I rejoice,
‡‡Type of humanity when life did well
‡‡Lavish and buoyant as thy chanting swell, 
When all its days to stormy music ran,
‡‡Unconscious of the sea-goal seaward fell ; 
When laughter like thy spray flew in its van ; 
And as thy chainless flow was the free heart of man.


Source: Richard Edwin Day. Poems. New York: Cassell & Co., 1888

To the House of My Friend by Erieus

house
The House Where Brock’s Body Was Carried To And Hidden During The Battle
by Ian Graham, 1977
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library
This house would have been standing in 1826 when Erieus wrote this poem.

House of my Friend! — may no dishonoring stain
Pollute thy sacred walls: — may virtue bright
The blest direction of her course maintain,
And guide thy inmates in the ways of right:
May no intruding demon ever blight
Their mutual harmony, and love, and peace;
But meek Religion’s pure, celestial light
Shine in each heart, — there grow, and never cease,
Till Heaven itself shall be the measure of increase.


Written at Niagara, August 1826

Adam Hood Burwell published poems under the pen name Erieus, the “Pioneer Poet of Upper Canada.”

Source: MacDonald, Mary Lu. “New” Poems of Adam Hood Burwell. canadianpoetry.org/volumes/vol18/macdonald.html, 5/12/2020. Originally published in The U.E. Loyalist, October 28, 1826

What Does it Mean to Fall: a Poem by Stephanie Froebel

What does it mean to fall?
To be swept away on a course
To be carried by an entity other than yourself?
To be in your heart still, while ever-changing?

To fall in love
To fall down
To fall apart
To fall inline

The dictionary says falling is a freely descent
but are our falls ever done
out of freedom? Freedom in the sense of choice?
Is the fall as Romantic literature sometimes describes
the process of demise
or the final realization that a character was or is not wise?
Does anyone truly choose to fall?
Whether out of love or despair—Oh,
whoever seems to care
when you yourself are falling.
Does water choose to forever fall?
To be labeled as the choiceless descent
called freely?

Are we falling through the sky or
pulled by another force? Why 
are we choosing any of it, but a perspective
in which we self identify?

Is Niagara falls truly falling
or by choice, jumping down?


froebel
Stephanie Froebel

 

 

Source: Stephanie Froebel. Niagara Falls Changed My Perception on Life. YouTube Video, 2021.  https://youtu.be/MnOxwjOngNM

Froebel also wrote an essay entitled Humans’ Imposition of Hierarchy: How Humans are Destroying the Planet Through Language

See more from Froebel:

Website https://www.stephaniefroebel.com/
Froebel’s Social Media
Instagram

Goodreads

Spotify

YouTube

Niagara by John Edward Howell

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡I.

howell
The Falls of Niagara – From the Canadian Side
Currier & Ives Print Painted by B. Hess, 1868
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

 

THUNDER OF WATERS, triumph by thy fall
‡‡As must a fallen Infinite !—A storm
To drown a world and scourge it over all,
‡‡Were not a type of God’s uncreate form :
All quake, are silent, yet shall none adore.
‡‡If God—His terror, that in ruin lays
Art and all man’s memorial—before
‡‡The soul ascends in ecstacies of praise

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡II.
.
For power benevolent o’er wrath sublime,
‡‡In shape innocuous as the light or dew—
Must see Niagara, type for all time,
‡‡Of God in nature, vast, benign, and true :
Must see her waters, yet descry a hand,
‡‡Or shadow of a finger pointed there—
Cry—if she speaks, she speaks by God’s command,
‡‡For Nature is Jehovah everywhere.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡III.

So like a present God, th’ unmeasured power
‡‡Of thy vast waters, whose eternal flow
Has never craved an intermittent hour,
‡‡Tumbling whole oceans into depths below,
As with such ease of motion thy green tide
‡‡Seeks as with conscious life its skyward steep,
And with a roar of thunder—aught beside,
‡‡In nature mimics—takes its downward leap.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡IV.

Thou art not tumbling from yon frightful height,
‡‡A world of waters, on a plea so vain
As to display a wantonness of might :
‡‡The eternal equipoise of all the Main
Is thy supremest care :—thy sport alone
‡‡To balance oceans, and an equal wave
Sets to the pole and spreads beneath the zone
‡‡Whose fretful shores its healing waters lave.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡V.

Empires have fallen—races have decay’d,
‡‡Their cities buried low beneath the sod,
In elemental strife, that erst hath laid
‡‡Nature submissive at the feet of God ;
But thou—how long thy solemn front hath reared
‡‡Itself sublime, while ruin hath been hurled
Across a continent ?—as thy youth appeared
‡‡Such thou art now—Survivor of a world.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡VI.

Ye who admire the wonderful in Art—
‡‡Colossi striding seas ; crowning the soil,
Some sky-bound shaft piercing a nation’s heart,
‡‡Or pyramids all time shall not despoil—
Gaze with surpassing wonder, as ye see
‡‡How sovereign the contempt of Nature’s smile :
Standing before her stark immensity,
‡‡See Art to less than nothing shrink the while.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡VII.

Ancient of Waters, were thy years a few,
‡‡Or countless as the sunbeams that transform
Thy changeful flood to glory ever new,
‡‡When the fierce nomad saw in thee the form
Of the Invisible, and turn’d aside
‡‡From love or war or chase or dance, awhile
To gaze upon thy forehead, and decide
‡‡To fly thy presence or invoke thy smile ?

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡VIII.

Ere Christians saw the Ocean burst with rage,
‡‡Mont Blanc, thy kinsman, crown’d before the Flood
Provoked no rival, in some envious age—
‡‡Rome proud in irons, Greece immortal, stood
Before their fancy or their kindling eye—
‡‡A virgin World with Freedom in her arms,
The leap and roar of thy sublimity,
‡‡They neither saw, nor glow’d with either’s charms.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡IX.

How many eras upon eras then,
‡‡Had ceased to be, when the delightsome song,
To which all seas responded an amen,
‡‡Rose and resounded orb from orb along ?
What was thine age when not a living thing
‡‡Heard thy hoarse anthem as it rose sublime,
Deep-throated, solemn, in the evening,
‡‡Of the first day the sun recorded time ?

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡X.

Dost deign no answer ? Keep thy secrets, then :
‡‡Vaunt co-antiquity with yonder spheres ;
Go shout the march of nature and of men
‡‡Till thy tremendous voice shall pierce their ears.
Thou hast no sympathy with man—thy walk
‡‡Is like Orion’s, single. Thou dost see
Man stare unmoved—dost hear the babbler talk :
‡‡Oceans and spheres alone consort with thee !

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XI.

O hoary Witness, that before the Flood
‡‡Noted the infant ages—or went back
To the Creation, and amazed stood
‡‡As the Sun rose and blazed along his track,
Spanning thy waters with the various light
‡‡Of the new morning : arc on arc arose
Through the cleft curtain of eternal night,
‡‡Startling thy thunders out of deep repose.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XII.

Light—and light was : and then, as sun on sun
‡‡Leaped out of void and swept into his sphere,
As God commanded, and the deed was done—
‡‡Didst thou rejoice with Him, or blanch with fear ?
Or didst thou cheer on cheer roar out so loud,
‡‡The morning stars confess’d a peer in thee,
And wafted thee stout hail from every cloud,
‡‡Breaking their gladness through infinity ?

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XIII.

Yet hadst thou caught an echo of that voice,
‡‡As Nature took her fortunes from the Word,
Thou hadst not heard the stars of morn rejoice :
‡‡Prone on thy face thou hadst confess’d thy Lord.
Or had it been a whisper—such a breath
‡‡As in a dream falls on the sleeper’s ear,
Thy joy had been so vast it had been death,
‡‡As high o’er all that whisper thunder’d clear.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XIV.

Still, ere the Sun ascended to his sphere
‡‡In the diurnal heavens—before the Earth
Acknowledged her allegiance and drew near
‡‡To her attractive orb—before the birth
Of the Leviathan—or ere a wing
‡‡Cut the ethereal skies—before a tree
Peopled the soil, or ere a living thing
‡‡The shuddering globe—thou hadst begun to be.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XV.

Triumph of Power—as when God laughs at kings,
‡‡Laugh thou at everything beneath the sun :
Laugh when it rails, or when it tribute brings.
‡‡Let captains break their swords when they have won
Kings cast their sceptres down chagrin’d and stung
‡‡With envy as they gaze, admire, and bow—
Confess how mean their state, dazzled among
‡‡Oceans of pearls, thou flingest from thy brow.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XVI.

Creep, Pharaoh, from the pile that grinds thy dust,
‡‡Crawl, Nero, from the Tiber to the sun,
And hail a monarch faithful to his trust,
‡‡Yet girt with power to which your power was none :
And as ye slew the weak and kiss’d the strong,
‡‡And now are fallen—fallen—see a Power
Crown’d with the sun, and to roll on as long,
‡‡While Peace and Mercy o’er Dominion tower.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XVII.

Thine honors are secure—regal, alone—
‡‡Save, when the ocean monarch thunders by,
Then tremble lest a rival blot thy throne,
‡‡Snatch off thy crown, and roar along the sky
With such a yell of triumph, as shall damn
‡‡Thy thunders to oblivion—and thy fall
For weakness pitiful, become the lamb
‡‡As Silence wraps thy seas within her pall.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XVIII.

All Laureate ever sung in vaporing strain
‡‡For stipend or for fame, is trash to thee.
No monarch lives or ever lived, so vain,
‡‡Or bard so venal, as a crown to see
In thy stupendous waters. Thou alone
‡‡Art measured by thyself, except the Deep ;
And ye, though rivals, smile on either’s throne,
‡‡And poise a Planet lest adrift she sweep.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XIX.

Thy beauty never fades. Unlike the maid
‡‡Whose hopes decline when charms forsake her face—
Virgin without espousal—though array’d
‡‡In garments woven by the Sun, and grace
Lingers in every fold along thy breast—
‡‡Graceful and modest beyond all the fair,
Keep thy heart shut against each tender guest,
‡‡And Sol, thy constant lover, gently spare.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XX.

Nothing remains to Art. Thou hast it all ;
‡‡Insatiate still to aggregate in thee
All types of the sublime—and in thy fall
‡‡To push thy power towards infinity.
Beauty bestrides thy waters with his bow,
‡‡Transfigured by the Morn ; descending Eve
Sits like a heavenly vision on thy brow,
‡‡Till Night comes late her vigils to relieve.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXI.

What hast thou not that Nature hath ? What Art
‡‡Shall torture her creations to compare
In majesty of mien, with thine—or start
‡‡From canvass into life a grace so rare,
As when unmeasured seas remain to crown
‡‡Thy head with honors as they pass thee by,
Pausing with reverence, ere their floods go down
‡‡Deeps, whose resurgent deluge drowns the sky ?

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXII.

Painting and Song retire. Art, with her boast,
‡‡Of multiplying strength, concedes her loss
Of fame and fortune, yielding up the ghost,
‡‡In presence of thy might, whose feeblest toss
Of its unmeasured strength sends to one grave,
‡‡Man and his triumphs. Nor to hold thee back,
Hath age or sex a charm. All vainly crave
‡‡Life—at the hands of Death, who strews thy track

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXIII.

With wrecks of futile Art—adventured near
‡‡Thy precipice—that should have hugg’d the shore,
Stood out by helm, or steam’d thy rapids clear ;
‡‡Down, gurgling down—engulph’d forevermore,
Blossom of childhood, crown of almond flower,
‡‡Love, ere its life had quicken’d, of embrace,
Death-challenged wretch and infant of an hour,—
‡‡Shrieking, to silence—down—down—down apace.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXIV.

When thou wert crown’d, who crown’d thee? By what right
‡‡Hast thou succession to a throne ? What sire
Sat on thy throne before thee? Elder Night,
‡‡First crown’d of Nature, ruled by flood and fire,
Terrific behind shadows, waved her hand,
‡‡Signal of silence to the listening Main ;
Convulsed the ocean, shook the solid land,
‡‡When the heavens fell with storms and rose again.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXV.

Out of her womb a monarch thou didst leap,
‡‡Born without childhood—at thy birth so vast—
Always impatient—living without sleep,
‡‡Thy tumults never hush’d nor overpast.
Yet thou wert not a monster, nor a freak
‡‡Of nature, at thy birth : a world of grace
And strength, confess’d no terror to the weak,
‡‡Tower’d from thy presence, mantled o’er thy face.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXVI.

As if to hell, thy leap—and thy rebound—
‡‡As if to heaven—but in mid-air the Sun
Surprises thee with smiles, and thou art crown’d
‡‡A faithful witness for the Holy One.
Eternal as His promise, stands the bow
‡‡Clasping thy forehead to confirm His word,
To bring Him nearer to our touch, and show
‡‡A ladder for our faith to reach the Lord.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXVII.

Sapphires and emeralds thou hast enough,
‡‡Streaming along thy forehead in a flood ;
Jewels that queens esteem, were paltry stuff,
‡‡Bays men have sought through brimming seas of blood,
Were toys, cast down by thee, to sink or swim :
‡‡Thy pomp and state o’ertop the glare of kings—
Anointed monarch, throned and crown’d of Him
‡‡From whom thy diadem dominion brings !

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXVIII.

” Good !” God exclaim’d, as His applauding eye
‡‡Swept thee, a monarch. He had crown’d the Deep,
Stretched out his realm abroad, from sky to sky—
‡‡Creatures that walk, or fly, or swim, or creep,
Populous from His will, beheld the light—
‡‡Responsive to His will, thy thunders rose,
And Night, thy mother, blanching with affright,
‡‡Kissed thee, and vanished to her last repose.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXIX.

God, art Thou angry, and is this the breath
‡‡Of Thy dilating nostrils ? Is Thy wrath
Rekindling for a jubilee of death,
‡‡And this the herald to prepare thy path ?
Or, this a shadow of the wrath to come,
‡‡When mountains shall not hide us from Thy stroke,
As the last judgment shall strike devils dumb,
‡‡Bade to leap in ascending fire and smoke ?

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXX.

Peace is a river by the throne of God,
‡‡And “peace to men,” is on thy forehead writ,
O flood, that were a rush and not a rod,
‡‡If God were angry. Here a worm may sit
Unmoved amid thy waters, and His hand,
‡‡Fast in thy mane, shall hold thy terrors back ;
And not a thunder, but by His command,
‡‡And not a wreck or life in all thy track.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXXI.

O ! be a fool, O man, and shrink to naught,
‡‡Then wisdom enters, for she findeth room—
If of the earth—out of her volume taught,
‡‡Return divine into thy mother’s womb ;
Or fix thine eyes upon the farthest star,
‡‡Or past its radiance—push thy vision on,
And what thou seest, is not God, afar—
‡‡God filleth all, and bids all worlds begone.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXXII.

He taught thee, O Niagara, to keep
‡‡Thy seas within their bounds. He taught thee where
To make thy name eternal in a leap—
‡‡When to leap down, and where to disappear.
He wrote, O man, in universal signs,
‡‡A truth thy logic never proves, but feels—
Benevolence with evil so combines
‡‡That their innocuous strife one God reveals.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXXIII.

Thou hast no sleep, and therefore hast no dreams,
‡‡Thy course of thought, what mortal shall divine ?
Perhaps subjective—all without thee seems
‡‡Too mean for such analysis as thine ;
Perhaps the mighty chambers of thy soul,
‡‡O’ercrowded by her thoughts, make room for more,
Catching the voice of ages as they roll,
‡‡Thou hast the keys of Time and all his lore.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXXIV.

Art thou a Patriarch, and not inspired ?
‡‡Speak, theologian, versed in nature’s school,
What is the life of man to be desired
‡‡If vice and virtue reach a common goal ?
If all shall die accursed and none be blessed—
‡‡If all shall rot together in the dust
And know no resurrection ? Which is best—
‡‡Not to be born, or die as mortals must?

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXXV.

Thunderer, speak. Rebuke or bless the creed—
‡‡Is heaven a blessed lie—is hell a cheat ?
Shall man abjure his faith, or for it bleed ?
‡‡Wherefore our life, and whither its retreat ?
To life or silence ? Answer, if thou wilt.
‡‡At once his floods congeal, his thunders fall,
Does the north freeze his soul, or conscious guilt ?
‡‡His silence, though it speak not, answers all.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXXVI.

Hadst thou beheld the Star the wise men saw
‡‡In the far Orient, thou hadst bowed thy head—
Dumb as was Moses, when he took the law
‡‡From God at Sinai–living, but as dead,
As the Star paused and dwelt upon the face
‡‡Of Him, who holds thee in His mighty hand :
Thou hadst confessed a soul, and sought the grace,
‡‡A world rejects, and dies, to understand.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXXVII.

Yes ! God is worshipped singly by all seas,
‡‡All floods, all mountains, cataracts, and suns ;
Though man may curse his God, damn His decrees,
‡‡And feel his curse o’ertake him as he runs,
These all are silent when His voice is heard,
‡‡These all rejoice before Him with their might—
Dust, God hath crowned with life, alone absurd,
‡‡Reads Him amiss, to set our errors right.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXXVIII.

Nothing is half so dreadful as our guilt.
‡‡Hell shrieks with its rewards, and the bald earth
Writhes with a curse, for which the Godhead spilt
‡‡Blood quite divine, though human in its birth.
All nature frowns and smiles by turns, and weeps,
‡‡As from the Curse and Cross she ever takes
The hues of her delirium when she sleeps—
‡‡Her calm, her storm, her sunshine, when she wakes.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XXXIX.

Have rocks conspired to prove the earth so old,
‡‡Ere lazy Saurians crept through seas of slime—
Before a fern or lichen wrapped the cold,
‡‡Rayless, dissocial orb of ante-time ?
When darkness made the silence more profound
‡‡That filled the absence of all life ? Hast thou
Knowledge our halting science shall confound,
‡‡Rocks teach, inscribed on thy expanding brow ?

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XL.

Fountain of youth, and sovereign emblem, too,
‡‡Let him who thirsts drink deeply of thy wave—
Feel, as his cheek renews its summer hue,
‡‡Baptismal blessings on his brow, to save
His soul from that perdition of the cup,
‡‡Whence to escape, she dares twice die, and thrust
Herself to proper Hell— lastly, filled up
‡‡By sots devoured of wine, of blood, of lust.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XLI.

Historian of a Continent, begin—
‡‡Since thou hast borne, or wert thyself the bier,
Huddling the dust of empires headlong in
‡‡The grave of thy remembrance—If a tear
Postponed oblivion ages, it is come—
‡‡God buried them Himself, and hid the grave,
Commanding thee to look, and then be dumb—
‡‡His vindication buried in thy wave.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XLII.

An exodus of nations—a surprise
‡‡Of Providence confessed too deep, too high
To scale or fathom till we reach the skies—
‡‡The curtain fell and shall forever lie
On those enacted scenes. Yet, who shall say
‡‡What legends or traditions half declare—
The measure of their fame, whose tombs betray
‡‡Arts mourned as lost—alive, though silent there ?

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XLIII.

No crimes deform, no virtues make thee blest,
‡‡Impassive, soulless, heartless, thou hast fled
Onward from lake to sea, thy footsteps pressed
‡‡By flood-compelling stars. While seas have slept
Profound as a child slumbers, Deep with Deep,
‡‡Glassing in silence beatific skies,
The law of worlds delivers thee from sleep,
‡‡Law—were it less than God, thou mightst despise.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XLIV.

Is it a pain or pleasure to obey
‡‡Where there is no election ? On, still on ;
No sluggard ; but forever, night and day,
‡‡To yield, and bid disloyalty begone ?
Alive to fates prefigured at thy birth
‡‡By stars convulsed, or shot from sign to sign,
Figure to man how much his will is worth
‡‡When it would thwart a jot of the divine.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XLV.

Life is a cloud, a shadow, or a hue,
‡‡Shed from the hour that passes o’er its head—
Born of the past, child of the future, too,
‡‡Life is not real till our life is fled :
Porch of the soul, man enters, looks around,
‡‡Just on the threshold is surprised, and dies
He flings his dusty mantle to the ground,
‡‡And walks, or flies, or rides to Paradise.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XLVI.

Like and unlike our life, fleet, changeful flood,
‡‡Ever the same, yet never what thou wert ;
Youth does not fire nor palsy chill thy blood—
‡‡Giant, surnamed the Thunderer, begirt
With torrents, and sustained on left and right
‡‡By batteries of adamantine rock :
Defiant, till thy Maker puts to flight
‡‡Thy prowess, in the final, fatal shock.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XLVII.

Emblem of freedom, bold, unshackled tide,
‡‡Thou hast a lion’s mane—an eagle’s eye ;
Fortune, that sports with men, thou dost deride,
‡‡Braced by the earth, and covered by the sky.
To-day a freeman looks into thy face—
‡‡A savage or a slave to-morrow creeps,
Idolatrous before thee. So the race
‡‡Hails her brief presence—her long absence weeps.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XLVIII.

Who are the free ? What patent made them such ?
‡‡Who are the slaves ? Who chained them? Who can see
That airy finger move, whose slightest touch,
‡‡Discovers God, by chains or liberty ?
Divine, the right to be a king or slave—
‡‡Either or neither, an elective state—
Human, the word or blow that does not save,—
‡‡Because it falls too early or too late.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XLIX.

Once wert thou silent ? Cradled o’er thy head
‡‡Swam a prospective world in one tossed pair ?
When, as the drowning earth embraced her dead,
‡‡Bade the sun farewell, and forsook the air, 
Tumultuous tides swept over thee profound
‡‡Beneath a shoreless sea—mute in thy grave
With oceans, mountains, seas, thy compeers, drowned,
‡‡Awaiting resurrection from the wave.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡L.

O solitude of nature, shriek aloud,
‡‡That mystery of evil passing cure,
Seen like a corpse blaspheming in its shroud,
‡‡Good it esteems divine, yet can’t endure.
Virtue confessed impossible to man—
‡‡Saved by her utter loss, God raises whole,
As man retires, God fills the scene, who can
‡‡Raise by a second fall the fallen soul.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LI.

A rotund Ocean drifts, before the sun,
‡‡Whose fires consume its waters, and restore
The mountains from oblivion, one by one—
‡‡Thick clouds ascending sky-ward, fall no more ;
Celestial with the promise wrung from God,
‡‡The weltering globe revisits the clear skies—
Oceans collect their seas dispersed abroad,
‡‡Once more thy floods leap down—thy thunders rise.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LII.

Who christened thee Niagara—or stood
‡‡Sponsor for thee ? or bore thee in her arms
When nature sprinkling, washed thee in her blood,
‡‡Child, for whose weal no mother’s bosom warms ?
No voice with solemn pomp announced the rite,
‡‡No blazonry of heralds on thy crest
Inflated thee with pride of birth or might :
‡‡Only thy Maker mars or makes thee blest.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LIII.

The gentle bride is half, not wholly wed ;
‡‡Unfelt her pride of maiden innocence—
Vows to obey, and by a wife’s pure bed
‡‡Sanctify love, and be its own defence—
Till at thy crystal altar, virgin priest,
‡‡Her nuptial pledges solemnized anew,
She feels by thine her purity increased,
‡‡And journeys home a wife, and Cæsar’s too.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LIV.

When Fashion sought thee out, the whole world came,
‡‡Felt all thou art, but could not speak it well ;
All saw thy vast proportions, felt the same
‡‡Emotions in thy presence, none could tell—
Fashion, though dumb with awe, still plied her arts,
‡‡Expecting thee to lay thy sceptre down,
To fill her fickle throne in human hearts—
‡‡And for the crown God gave thee, wear her crown.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LV.

Companion of the seas, thou couldst not bear,
‡‡To stoop from such companionship, to leer,
Ogle and strut, and by a gait and air,
‡‡That would seem more than nature less appear :
Incapable of folly, thy reply
‡‡Unuttered, she divined, and begged of thee,
To let her train admire, pass on, and sigh
‡‡For grace she never had, and purity.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LVI.

Year after year thy levees thou hast held—
‡‡Thronged by the wise and valiant, learned and gay ;
Yet few of all the thousands who beheld
‡‡Thy presence, saw thee ere they turned away :
For thou art more than nature, and to see
‡‡Thy cataract, were less than to descry
A thousand symbols, God has couched in thee,
‡‡Of things above, and things below the sky.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LVII.

How thou hast shuddered, leaped, rejoiced, or bled,
‡‡As drama after drama swept along,
When such as trod the skies, have fallen or fled
‡‡To God-forsaken holds, before the strong ? 
When Sheba came for gold and ne’er returned ?
‡‡When Greece developed freedom by thy side ?
Polite—barbaric—savage, as each burned
‡‡With an ascendant, wept an humbled pride ?

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LVIII.

Ennobled by a patent from the skies—
‡‡Thou dost not play the courtier for high place ;
And when a king regards thee with his eyes,
‡‡Thou dost not feel a blush steal o’er thy face—
As if he were thy patron. Thou hast seen
‡‡A Brunswick, and applauded—not his state,
His manhood—for all power were vile and mean,
‡‡Throned by thy side, but Power Immaculate.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LIX.

What torrent thundering down the mountain side,
‡‡With molten glaciers onward to the sea,
Bears half the volume of that frightful tide,
‡‡Leaping thy crest, Niagara ?–Of thee,
There is no symbol in the realms of art,
‡‡And nature holds no mirror to thy face,
Nor yet from canvass shall a shadow start,
‡‡Girt with thy strength, and radiant with thy grace.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LX.

Leap down forever—and as lilies grow,
‡‡And ravens feed before their Maker’s eye,
So thou shalt fling into the gulph below,
‡‡But half thine inexhaustible supply.
God hath commanded, and it shall stand fast,
‡‡He paints the lily—hears the raven cry ;
Fills thee with anthems never overpast,
‡‡And feeds thee from the ocean and the sky.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LXI.

Thou hast no looks of sadness—yet a curse
‡‡Fell on thy head for other guilt than thine,
And by each fall, thy leaping tides rehearse,
‡‡How human nature strove with the divine—
Foiled in the onset, shrank into a worm,
‡‡And for immortal life—dies—and thou too
Dost in thy living waters hide the germ
‡‡Of dissolution, and our steps pursue.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LXII.

Thou hast no doubts to crucify. Thy faith
‡‡Cavils at nothing, sure that all is well ;
Asking alone for what thy Maker saith,
‡‡Without a heaven to lure thee, or a hell
To shake its penal terrors o’er thy head—
‡‡Believer, without promise of reward,
The bliss of being kindles thee instead,
‡‡And fills thee with the presence of thy Lord.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LXIII.

Man hath a resurrection, and shall rise
‡‡Above the perilous height from which he fell,
Revisit, like a God, his native skies,
‡‡Or, failing heaven, accept the pains of hell ;
But thou shalt never from thy winding sheet
‡‡Leap with a burst of thunder, and begin,
God full in view, that anthem to repeat,
‡‡Born to the soul triumphant over sin.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LXIV.

Accursed for man—no Saviour died for thee ;
‡‡And yet there is a promise darkly read
In the good word of life, that seems to be
‡‡A pledge of future blessings on thy head :
When the earth melts with heat, and the heavens wrap
‡‡Their skies together, as a scribe his scroll, 
The world to come shall nourish in her lap
‡‡Recovered nature, and a ransomed soul.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LXV.

Clothed with eternal verdure every hill,
‡‡Waving celestial harvests every plain,
The glory of our God is come, and will
‡‡Abide, and never be withdrawn again :
No ante-state to purify our dust,
‡‡No hope of heaven to lure us home to God,
The vision of our God rewards our trust,
‡‡And all are sons confessed who kissed the rod.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LXVI.

Conception of a God—that kingdom still,
‡‡Shall widen, strengthen, cover every land—
Sit upon thrones, or topple them, until
‡‡Conscience, no longer bleeding, shall demand,
Receive, and hold in every human breast,
‡‡Unrivalled empire. Age of ages, come,
Divide with men the fortunes of the blest—
‡‡Give us a glimpse of heaven to lure us home !

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LXVII.

Who clothed thee with such grace ? Who made thy power
‡‡A symbol for infinitude of might—
Saw nature struggle in thy natal hour—
‡‡Thy future annals as thy past shall write ?
Sees universal nature at a glance—
‡‡Scoffs at thy power as thou dost scoff at men—
In whom all things retire, from whom advance ?
‡‡Look up and see Him, for thou canst, and then,

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡LXVIII.

Roll on, perpetual cadence, to the skies,
‡‡Confess the God who made thee, with a voice
Louder than thousand thunders—higher rise
‡‡With thy hoarse chaunt, as when all seas rejoice,
To Him, whose eye thy waters first surveyed,
‡‡Who still regards thee with unchanging smile,
Before whose whisper, all thy thunders fade,
‡‡And who forbears to fire thy funeral pile.


Source: Howell, John Edward. Poems, vol. 1. New York: John Edward Howell, 1867

Chernobyl by John Wall Barger

barger
Annie Edson Taylor, Queen of the Mist, After Her Trip Over the Horseshoe Falls
Photo by M.H. Zahner
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Annie Edson Taylor
first to survive Niagara Falls in a barrel
she is our heroine.
The Zone glitters like a mirage
an abandoned city
à la Tarkovsky’s Stalker
fizzing with radiation.
Taylor—praise her—sleepwalks
on the lawn of the soporific
hospital.  She blinks,
eyes yellow, shadowed
by the central chimney.
Is it a lighthouse in the desert?
The Zone wears her dream
like a gown.  The hospital
wears the rubble like a gown.
Taylor wears a long black dress
& a fruit hat.  Front stairs
of the hyperacute hospital,
Taylor coughs, on her knees.
How, you wonder,
did she get here?  Don’t ask me.
I wanted to write a poem
to exalt a nice thing.
Yet here she is, spasming,
spitting a dark thread.
“Stop!”  you say, “Don’t go in!”
Yet in she goes.
Her black dress slips off
& her fruit hat.  She is naked
walking the hallway
past rooms of box-spring beds.
Here is a room heaped
with clothes: firefighter boots,
gas masks. Sooty tables,
murky slime.  An arthritic tree
curls in a shattered window.
A box-spring so tiny
It could be a doll’s bed.
Taylor stops, bows low,
palms together, mumbling words
I can’t even hear.
I’m tempted to remind her
she died sixty-five years 
before Chernobyl.
But now she’s alert,
back straight, listening
with her whole body
for what? I beg her
to put on the fruit hat,
just for the end of the poem.
It’s not too late!
But she keeps tossing it
onto a pile
of melted toys.


Source: John Wall Barger.  The Mean Game. Windsor, Ont.: Palimpsest Press, 2019.

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