Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > America
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX.  1876–79.
 
Middle States: Niagara, the River
Niagara
Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791–1865)
 
FLOW on forever, in thy glorious robe
Of terror and of beauty. Yea, flow on
Unfathomed and resistless. God hath set
His rainbow on thy forehead; and the cloud
Mantled around thy feet. And he doth give        5
Thy 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.
                    Ah! who can dare
To lift the insect-trump of earthly hope,        10
Or love, or sorrow, mid the peal sublime
Of thy tremendous hymn? Even Ocean shrinks
Back from thy brotherhood, and all his waves
Retire abashed. For he doth sometimes seem
To sleep like a spent laborer, and recall        15
His wearied billows from their vexing play,
And lull them to 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,        20
Heard thy deep anthem; and those wrecking fires,
That wait the archangel’s signal to dissolve
This solid earth, shall find Jehovah’s name
Graven, as with a thousand diamond spears,
On thine unending volume.
                    Every leaf,
        25
That lifts itself within thy wide domain,
Doth gather greenness from thy living spray,
Yet tremble at the baptism. Lo!—yon birds
Do boldly venture near, and bathe their wing
Amid thy mist and foam. ’T is meet for them        30
To touch thy garment’s hem, and lightly stir
The snowy leaflets of thy vapor-wreath,
For they may sport unharmed amid the cloud,
Or listen at the echoing gate of heaven,
Without reproof. But as for us, it seems        35
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
        40
A wondering witness of thy majesty,
But as it presses with delirious joy
To pierce thy vestibule, dost chain its step,
And tame its rapture with the humbling view
Of its own nothingness, bidding it stand        45
In the dread presence of the Invisible,
As if to answer to its God through thee.
 
 
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