Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > America
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX.  1876–79.
Middle States: Niagara, the River
José María Heredia (1803–1839)
Anonymous translation

TREMENDOUS torrent! for an instant hush
The terrors of thy voice, and cast aside
Those wide-involving shadows, that my eyes
May see the fearful beauty of thy face!
I am not all unworthy of thy sight;        5
For from my very boyhood have I loved,
Shunning the meaner track of common minds,
To look on Nature in her loftier moods.
At the fierce rushing of the hurricane,
At the near bursting of the thunderbolt,        10
I have been touched with joy; and when the sea,
Lashed by the wind, hath rocked my bark, and showed
Its yawning caves beneath me, I have loved
Its dangers and the wrath of elements.
But never yet the madness of the sea        15
Hath moved me as thy grandeur moves me now.
  Thou flowest on in quiet, till thy waves
Grow broken midst the rocks; thy current then
Shoots onward like the irresistible course
Of Destiny. Ah, terribly they rage,—        20
The hoarse and rapid whirlpools there! My brain
Grows wild, my senses wander, as I gaze
Upon the hurrying waters; and my sight
Vainly would follow, as toward the verge
Sweeps the wide torrent. Waves innumerable        25
Meet there and madden,—waves innumerable
Urge on and overtake the waves before,
And disappear in thunder and in foam.
  They reach, they leap the barrier,—the abyss
Swallows insatiable the sinking waves.        30
A thousand rainbows arch them, and the woods
Are deafened with the roar. The violent shock
Shatters to vapor the descending sheets.
A cloudy whirlwind fills the gulf, and heaves
The mighty pyramid of circling mist        35
To heaven. The solitary hunter near
Pauses with terror in the forest shades.
  What seeks my restless eye? Why are not here,
About the jaws of this abyss, the palms,—
Ah, the delicious palms,—that on the plains        40
Of my own native Cuba spring and spread
Their thickly foliaged summits to the sun,
And, in the breathings of the ocean air,
Wave soft beneath the heaven’s unspotted blue?
  But no, Niagara,—thy forest pines        45
Are fitter coronal for thee. The palm,
The effeminate myrtle, and frail rose may grow
In gardens, and give out their fragrance there,
Unmanning him who breathes it. Thine it is
To do a nobler office. Generous minds        50
Behold thee, and are moved, and learn to rise
Above earth’s frivolous pleasures; they partake
Thy grandeur, at the utterance of thy name.
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