An Electronic Edition · José María Heredia (1803-1839)

Original Source: José María Heredia, "Niagara" in , 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

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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  
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
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.  
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  
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
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  
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
The anguish of a loveless life. Alas!  
How can the
impassioned, the unfrozen heart  
Be bappy without love? I would that one
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
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,
Cheerfully passing to the appointed rest, 
Might raise my radiant forehead
in the clouds 
To listen to the echocs of my fame.  

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Genre: Poetry
Subjects: Early National Society and Life, landscapes
Period: 1800-1850
Location: Spanish America
Format: lyrical, verse