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Niagara
An Electronic Edition

José María Heredia 1803-1839

Original Source: José María Heredia, "Niagara" in The Odes of Bello, Olmedo, and Heredia, ed. Elijah Clarence Hills (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1920), 130-136

Copyright 2002. Thist text is freely available provided the text is distributed with the header information provided

Full Colophon Information

NIAGARA
My Iyre! give me my Iyre! My bosom feels      
The glow of inspiration. O how long      
Have I been left in darkness since this light      
Last visited my brow, Niagara! 4.
Thou with thy rushing waters dost restore      
The heavenly gift that sorrow took away.      
Tremendous torrent! for an instant hush      
The terrors of thy voice and cast aside      
Those wide involving shadows, that my eyes 9.
May see the fearful beauty of thy face!      
I am not all unworthy of thy sight,      
For from my very boyhood have I loved,      
Shunning the meaner track of common minds,      
To look on nature in her loftier moods. 14.

At the fierce rushing of the hurricane, 1.
At the near bursting of the thunderbolt,      
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 5.
Its dangers and the wrath of elements.      
But never yet the madness of the sea      
Hath moved me as thy grandeur moves me now.      

Thou flowest on in quiet, till thy waves1.
Grow broken 'midst the rocks; thy current then      
Shoots onward lke the irresistable course      
Of destiny. Ah, terribly they rage–      
The hoarse and rapid whirIpools there! 5.
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      
Meet there and madden–waves innumerable 10.
Urge on and overtake the waves before,      
And disappear in thunder and foam      

They reach–they leap the barrier–the abyss1.
Swallows insatiable the sinking waves.      
A thousand rainbows arch them, and woods      
Are deafened with the roar. The violent shock      
Shatters to vapor the descending sheets–5.
A cloudy whirlwind fills the gulf, and heaves      
The mighty pyramid of circling mist      
To heaven. The solitary hunter near      
Pauses with terror in the forest shades.      
What seeks thy restiess eye? Wby are not bere, 10.
About the jaws of this abys s the palms      
Ah, the delicious palms-that on the plains      
of my own native Cuba spring and spread      
Their thickly foliaged summits to the sun,      
And, in the breathings of the ocean air,15.
Wave soft beaneath the heaven's unspotted blue?      

But no, Niagara,–thy forest pines 1.
Are fitter coronal for thee. The palm,      
The effeminate myrtle and frail rose may grow      
In gardens, arid give out their fragrance there,      
Unmanning him who breathes it. Thine it is 5.
To do a nobler office. Generous minds      
Behold thee, and are moved, and learn to rise      
Above earth's frivolous pleasures; they partake      
Thy grandeur, at the utterance of thy name.      
God of all truth! in other lands I've seen 10.
Lying philosophers, blaspheming Men,      
Questioners of thy mysteries, that draw      
Their fellows deep into impiety;      
And therefore doth my spirit seek thy face      
In earth's majestic solitudes. Even here 15.
My beart doth open all itself to thee.      
In this immensity of loneliness      
I feel thy hand upon me. To my ear      
The eternal thunder of the cataract brings      
They voice, and I am humbled as I hear.20.

Dread torrent! that with wonder and with fear1.
Dost overwhelm the soul of him that looks      
Upon thee, and dost bear it from itself,      
Whence hast though thy beginning? Who supplies,      
Age after age, thy unexhausted springs?5.
What power hath ordered, that, when all thy weight      
Descends into the deep, the swollen waves      
Rise not, and roll to overwhelm the earth?      
The Lord hath opened his omnipotent hand,      
Covered thy face with clouds, and given his voice10.
To thy down-rushing waters; he hath girt      
Thy terrible forehead with his radiant bow.      
I see thy never-resting waters run      
And I bethink me how the tide of time      
Sweeps to eternity. So pass of man–15.
Pass, like a noon-day dream–tbe blossoming days,      
And he awakes to sorrow. I, alas!      
Feel that my youth is withered, and my brow      
Plowed early with the lines of grief and care.      

Never have I so deeply felt as now 1.
The hopeless solitude, the abandonment,      
The anguish of a loveless life. Alas!      
How can the impassioned, the unfrozen heart      
Be bappy without love? I would that one 5.
Beautiful,–worthy to be loved and joined      
In love with me,–now shared my lonely walk      
On this tremendous brink. 'Twere sweet to see      
Her sweet face touched with paleness, and become      
More beautiful from fear, and overspread 10.
With a faint smile, while clinging to my side!      
Dreams–dreams! I am an exile, and for me      
There is no country and there is no love.      

Hear, dread Niagara, my latest voice!1.
Yet a few years, and the cold earth shall close      
Over the bones of him who sings thee now      
Thus feelingly. Would that this, my humble verse,      
Might be like thee, immortal! I, meanwhile, 5.
Cheerfully passing to the appointed rest,      
Might raise my radiant forehead in the clouds      
To listen to the echocs of my fame.