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
The Cataract Isle
Christopher Pearse Cranch (1813–1892)
I WANDERED through the ancient wood
  That crowns the cataract isle.
I heard the roaring of the flood
  And saw its wild, fierce smile.
Through tall tree-tops the sunshine flecked        5
  The huge trunks and the ground,
And the pomp of fullest summer decked
  The island all around.
And winding paths led all along
  Where friends and lovers strayed,        10
And voices rose with laugh and song
  From sheltered nooks of shade.
Through opening forest vistas whirled
  The rapids’ foamy flash,
As they boiled along and plunged and swirled,        15
  And neared the last long dash.
I crept to the island’s outer verge,
  Where the grand, broad river fell,—
Fell sheer down mid foam and surge
  In a white and blinding hell.        20
The steady rainbow gayly shone
  Above the precipice,
And the deep low tone of a thunder groan
  Rolled up from the drear abyss.
And all the day sprang up the spray        25
  Where the broad white sheets were poured,
And fell around in showery play,
  Or upward curled and soared.
And all the night those sheets of white
  Gleamed through the spectral mist,        30
When o’er the isle the broad moonlight
  The wintry foam-flakes kissed.
Mirrored within my dreamy thought,
  I see it, feel it all,—
That island with sweet visions fraught,        35
  That awful waterfall.
With sunflecked trees, and birds and flowers,
  The Isle of Life is fair;
But one deep voice thrills through its hours,
  One spectral form is there,—        40
A power no mortal can resist,
  Rolling forever on,—
A floating cloud, a shadowy mist,
  Eternal undertone.
And through the sunny vistas gleam        45
  The fate, the solemn smile.
Life is Niagara’s rushing stream;
  Its dreams—that peaceful isle!

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