At Niagara by John Savage

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡THE RAPIDS.

Portrait of John Savage.

In broken lines, like ghosts of buried nations,
‡‡Struggling beneath their white and tangled palls,
They leap and roar to Earth their exaltations,
‡‡And Earth e’en trembles as each spectre falls.

With strength that gives solemnity to clangour,
‡‡With quaint immensity that strangles mirth,
Like mortal things they roar to time their anger,
‡‡Like things immortal they disdain the Earth.

They bound—as dallying in their gorgeous West,
‡‡In forest cradles and in parent mountains,
They heard old Ocean throb his regal breast
‡‡And call his vassals—the cascades and fountains.

From crag to crag they leap and spread the sound,
‡‡Through gorge and wood their flashing banners motion,
Till here in frantic rivalry they bound,
‡‡These mighty white-plumed cohorts, for the ocean.

Surging along the pale battalions muster,
‡‡Crowding each other, till the strongest springs
A-top his fellows, with heroic lustre,
‡‡And dares the deeds, like Viking, that he sings.

Like men, the Rapids, born amid restless valor,
‡‡Flash o’er their foes with many a frothened spasm,
And linking all in pomp’s majestic pallor,
‡‡Leap like ten thousand Romans down the chasm !

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡THE FALLS.


There is an awful eloquence around—
‡‡Like earthquake underneath the dreamful pillows
Of some great town, that deemed its strength profound,
‡‡And wakes on worse than frantic Ocean’s billows.

The mists, like shadowy cathedrals rise,
‡‡And through the vapory cloisters prayers are pouring :
Such as ne’er sprang to the eternal skies,
‡‡From old Earth’s passionate and proud adoring.

There is a voice of Scripture in the flood,
‡‡With solemn monotone of glory bounding,
Making all else an awe-hushed solitude
‡‡To hear its everlasting faith resounding.

There is a quiet on my heart like death,
‡‡My eyes are gifted with a strange expansion,
As if they closed upon my life’s last breath,
‡‡And oped to measure the eternal mansion.

I see so much I fear to trust my vision,
‡‡I hear so much I doubt my mortal ear,
I feel so much, my soul in strong submission
‡‡Bends in a silent, death-like rapture here.

Source: John Savage. Faith and Fancy.  New York: James B. Kirker, 1864

Read about John Savage

Devil’s Hole (Niagara Falls) by Margarita Feliciano

     The withered grass emerged from its coccoon,
     its muted green faintly aglow amid the stones.
A wintry howl still echoed in the wind,
            in the churning of waters down below.
Their cast-off plunder eddied round and round
      as chilly mists ascended    
to the hanging oblivion of the funicular,
     in an increasing throbbing of cables all aquiver.

                And yet in this vacation spot
    there will be daffodils and other flowers
             alien to the beginning of my life,
      when the unspeakable river flowed so gently
        within its honey shores.
    I know I will return again year after year,
                I will return again
    wearing a little smile of wonderment
perched on my lips like a question mark.

Original version published in Canadian Literature, no. 142/143, (Fall/Winter 1994). Vancouver: British Columbia University Press. p. 10. This version courtesy of the author, 2001.