Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Falls of Norman’s Kill

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

Middle States: Norman’s Kill (Tawasentha), N. Y.

The Falls of Norman’s Kill

By Alfred Billings Street (1811–1881)


A DAY in Indian Summer: here, the sky

Shows a bright veil of silver; there, a shade

Of soft and misty purple, with the fleece

Of downy clouds, and azure streaks between.

The light falls meekly, and the wooing air

Fans with a brisk vitality the frame.

The woods have lost the bright and varied charm

Of magic Autumn, and the faded leaves

Hide with one robe of brown the earth that late

Glowed like the fabled gardens of the East.

Still all around is lovely. Far the eye

Pierces the naked woods, and marks the shades,

Like prone black pillars with their capitals,

Formed by the sprays; and rocks, ravines, and mounds

(Hidden when Summer smiles), and sparkling rills,

Trickling o’er mossy stones.
A low, stern tone

Rumbles upon the air, as, winding down

The gullied road, I seek the gorge where flows

The stream to mingle with the river flood

In the brief eastward distance. On my left

Are the brown waters, a high rocky isle

Like a huge platform midway; and the steep

Tree-columned ridge, in summer dense with shades,

But ragged now with gaunt and leafless boughs,

And only green where stand the kingly pines

And princely hemlocks. On my right the bank,

Of slate and crumbling gravel, pitches down

Now sheer, now hollowed out, the dark blue clay

Showing its strata veins, while on the edge,

High up and dwarfed by distance, cling tall trees.

A rocky rampart, seamed and dashed with white,

Is piled before me, and the bending sky

Close at its back. Advancing, with the sound

Louder and louder, waters leap and gush

And foam through channelled outlets; dashing now

O’er terraces, now flinging o’er a rock

A shifting fringe of silver, shooting quick

Through some deep gully, like a glassy dart,

And now in one rich mass of glittering foam

Sent downward, with light particles of spray

In white smoke rising.
Like the puny wrath

Of the weak child, to manhood’s passion-burst

When his fierce heart is flaming; like the voice

Of the low west-wind, to the mighty sweep

Of the roused northern storm-blast, art thou now,

O rushing stream! to when the roaring rains

Have swelled thy fountains, and with thundering shocks,

Foaming and leaping, thou dost dash along,

Restrainless in thy awful force, to rend

And whirl and whelm, until a mightier wave

Swallows thy raging being. Bridge and tree,

Torn into fragments, roll and plunge and toss,

Till those that now might look on thee and smile,

Turn grave and tremble.