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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Americas: Vol. XXX. 1876–79.

British America: St. Lawrence (Cadaraqui), the River

The Coteau Rapid

By Charles Sangster (1822–1893)

THE COTEAU, broad, and long, and boisterous!

The waves like white sea-monsters plunge and roll,

Mighty, and grand, and wildly perilous,

It lives a life of torment. A mad soul

Seems shouting from each billow, and the howl

Of the lashed waters, as they foam and writhe,

Is as Despair’s last shriek, when at the goal

Where all hope ends they tumble headlong with

A cry of anguish to the yawning gulf beneath.

Mad cries of horror pierce the seething shore;

Triumphal choruses roll back again;

Up from the depths abysmal, evermore

Rushes some swift embodiment of pain,

Flying from the fierce conflict all in vain.

A wild, despairing, agonizing cry;

A laugh of demons torturing the slain;

Thus the sardonic strife goes crashing by;

The nameless Terror rolls its burden up the sky.

From isle to isle ’twixt life and death we speed,

From crest to crest, from wave to wave, we bound,

Where the scared billows seem to shun some deed

Of blanching horror in mad tumult drowned;

From isle to isle the turmoil rolls profound.

The true enchantment this,—no legend rare,

No wondrous tale by hoar tradition crowned,

But grand, terrific, true beyond compare,

The vast sonorous war of passion shakes the air.

But suddenly from the infernal whirl

The ambling current bears us far away,

Where no pursuing wave is seen to curl,

No rapid shatters into diamond spray;

While far behind, the breakers’ wild array

Shout from the watery slope their threatenings dire,

Looming like Mohawk ghosts at morning gray,

With awful rage and impotent desire,

Striking the wildest chords of Nature’s mighty lyre.