Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Middle States: Niagara, the River


By 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

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,

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

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,

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,

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

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

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

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

In the dread presence of the Invisible,

As if to answer to its God through thee.