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cataract, where the wind at once enveloped me in spray, and perhaps dashed the rainbow round me. Were my long desires fulfilled? And had I seen Niagara ?
Oh that I had never heard of Niagara till I beheld it! Blessed 5 were the wanderers of old, who heard its deep roar, sounding
through the woods, as the summons to an unknown wonder, and approached its awful brink, in all the freshness of native feeling. Had its own mysterious voice been the first to warn me of its
existence, then, indeed, I might have knelt down and worshipped. 10 But I had come thither, haunted with a vision of foam and fury,
and dizzy cliffs, and an ocean tumbling down out of the sky,—a scene, in short, which nature had too much good taste and calm simplicity to realize. My mind had struggled to adapt these false
conceptions to the reality, and finding the effort vain, a wretched 15 sense of disappointment weighed me down. I climbed the precipice,
and threw myself on the earth, feeling that I was unworthy to look at the Great Falls, and careless about beholding them again.
All that night, as there has been and will be for ages past and to come, a rushing sound was heard, as if a great tempest were 20 sweeping through the air. It mingled with my dreams, and made
them full of storm and whirlwind. Whenever I awoke, and heard this dread sound in the air, and the windows rattling as with a mighty blast, I could not rest again, till looking forth, I saw how
bright the stars were, and that every leaf in the garden was 25 motionless. Never was a summer night more calm to the eye, nor
a gale of autumn louder to the ear. The rushing sound proceeds from the rapids, and the rattling of the casements is but an effect of the vibration of the whole house, shaken by the jar of the
cataract. The noise of the rapids draws the attention from the 30 true voice of Niagara, which is a dull, muffled thunder, resound
ing between the cliffs. I spent a wakeful hour at midnight, in distinguishing its reverberations, and rejoiced to find that my former awe and enthusiasm were reviving.
Gradually, and after much contemplation, I came to know, by 35 my own feelings, that Niagara is indeed a wonder of the world,
and not the less wonderful, because time and thought must be employed in comprehending it. Casting aside all preconceived notions, and preparation to be dire-struck or delighted, the beholder
must stand beside it in the simplicity of his heart, suffering the 5 mighty scene to work its own impression. Night after night, I
dreamed of it, and was gladdened every morning by the consciousness of a growing capacity to enjoy it. Yet I will not pretend to the all-absorbing enthusiasm of some more fortunate spectators,
nor deny that very trifling causes would draw my eyes and thoughts 10 from the cataract.
The last day that I was to spend at Niagara, before my departure for the Far West, I sat upon the Table Rock. This celebrated station did not now, as of old, project fifty feet beyond the
line of the precipice, but was shattered by the fall of an immense 15 fragment, which lay distant on the shore below. Still, on the
utmost verge of the rock, with my feet hanging over it, I felt as if suspended in the open air. Never before had my mind been in such perfect unison with the scene. There were intervals, when I
was conscious of nothing but the great river, rolling calmly into 20 the abyss, rather descending than precipitating itself, and acquiring
tenfold majesty from its unhurried motion. It came like the march of Destiny. It was not taken by surprise, but seemed to have anticipated, in all its course through the broad lakes, that it must pour
their collected waters down this height. The perfect foam of the 25 river, after its descent, and the ever-varying shapes of mist, rising
up, to become clouds in the sky, would be the very picture of confusion, were it merely transient, like the rage of a tempest. But when the beholder has stood awhile, and perceives no lull in the
storm, and considers that the vapor and the foam are as everlast30 ing as the rocks which produce them, all this turmoil assumes a sort of calmness. It soothes, while it awes the mind.
Leaning over the cliff, I saw the guide conducting two adventurers behind the falls. It was pleasant, from that high seat in
the sunshine, to observe them struggling against the eternal storm 35 of the lower regions, with heads bent down, now faltering, now
pressing forward, and finally swallowed up in their victory. After their disappearance, a blast rushed out with an old hat, which it had swept from one of their heads. The rock, to which they were
directing their unseen course, is marked, at a fearful distance on 5 the exterior of the sheet, by a jet of foam. The attempt to reach
it appears both poetical and perilous to a looker-on, but may be accomplished without much more difficulty or hazard than in stemming a violent northeaster. In a few moments, forth came
the children of the mist. Dripping and breathless, they crept 10 along the base of the cliff, ascended to the guide's cottage, and
received, I presume, a certificate of their achievement, with three verses of sublime poetry on the back.
My contemplations were often interrupted by strangers who came down from Forsyth’s to take their first view of the falls. 15 A short, ruddy, middle-aged gentleman, fresh from Old England,
peeped over the rock, and evinced his approbation by a broad grin. His spouse, a very robust lady, afforded a sweet example of maternal solicitude, being so intent on the safety of her little boy that
she did not even glance at Niagara. As for the child, he gave him20 self wholly to the enjoyment of a stick of candy. Another traveller,
a native American, and no rare character among us, produced volume of Captain Hall's tour, and labored earnestly to adjust Niagara to the captain's description, departing, at last, without one
new idea or sensation of his own. The next comer was provided, 25 not with a printed book, but with a blank sheet of foolscap, from
top to bottom of which, by means of an ever-pointed pencil, the cataract was made to thunder. In little talk which we had together, he awarded his approbation to the general view, but cen
sured the position of Goat Island, observing that it should have 30 been thrown farther to the right, so as to widen the American
falls, and contract those of the Horseshoe. Next appeared two traders of Michigan, who declared, that, upon the whole, the sight was worth looking at; there certainly was an immense water-power
here; but that, after all, they would go twice as far to see the noble 35 stone-works of Lockport, where the Grand Canal is locked down a
descent of sixty feet. They were succeeded by a young fellow, in a homespun cotton dress, with a staff in his hand, and a pack over his shoulders. He advanced close to the edge of the rock, where
his attention, at first wavering among the different components 5 of the scene, finally became fixed in the angle of the Horseshoe
falls, which is, indeed the central point of interest. His whole soul seemed to go forth and be transported thither, till the staff slipped from his relaxed grasp, and falling down-down-down
struck upon the fragment of the Table Rock. 10 In this manner I spent some hours, watching the varied im
pression, made by the cataract, on those who disturbed me, and returning to unwearied contemplation, when left alone. At length my time came to depart. There is a grassy footpath through the
woods, along the summit of the bank, to a point whence a cause15 way, hewn in the side of the precipice, goes winding down to the
Ferry, about half a mile below the Table Rock. The sun was near setting, when I emerged from the shadow of the trees, and began the descent. The indirectness of my downward road continually
changed the point of view, and showed me, in rich and repeated 20 succession, now, the whitening rapids and majestic leap of the
main river, which appeared more deeply massive as the light departed; now, the lovelier picture, yet still sublime, of Goat Island, with its rocks and grove, and the lesser falls, tumbling over the
right bank of the St. Lawrence, like a tributary stream; now, the 25 long vista of the river, as it eddied and whirled between the cliffs,
to pass through Ontario toward the sea, and everywhere to be wondered at, for this one unrivalled scene. The golden sunshine tinged the sheet of the American cascade, and painted on its heaving
spray the broken semi-circle of a rainbow, heaven's own beauty 30 crowning earth's sublimity. My steps were slow, and I paused
long at every turn of the descent, as one lingers and pauses who discerns a brighter and brightening excellence in what he must soon behold no more. The solitude of the old wilderness now
reigned over the whole vicinity of the falls. My enjoyment be35 came the more rapturous, because no poet shared it, nor wretch
devoid of poetry profaned it; but the spot so famous through the world was all my own!
HELPS TO STUDY
Notes and Questions
pression of Niagara a disap What is the effect on one's feel. pointment?
ings when he "considers that How did Hawthorne come to know the vapor and the foam are as
that Niagara is a wonder of the everlasting as the rocks which world
produce them''! What feelings did Niagara pro Niagara grew on Hawthorne. Jusduce in Hawthorne ?
tify this. What effect on the reader did Note the comments of other ob
Hawthorne seek in this story? servers based upon their interWhat does Hawthorne say is nec pretation of Niagara.
essary in order to appreciate na Do you think one who sees nothing ture?
in Niagara except a mass of What relation has Niagara to the rock and water, vapor and sun.
geography of the country, its shine, could appreciate its beauanimal and vegetable life, its ty, grandeur, and sublimity?
Words and Phrases for Discussion “insulated" “epicurism”
"voice of ages” "Eternal Rainbow" "abyss of clouds" “mysterious voice' "majestic leap" Weddied and whirled' "unrivaled scene
EDGAR ALLAN POE
So irregular was the life of Edgar Allan Poe and so strong were the prejudices of his critics that not only his character and habits of life, but even the simplest facts of his biography, are surrounded with mystery and are subjects of doubt and dispute.
By everything, but the accident of birth, Poe belongs to the South. His father was from Baltimore and his mother was of English birth. They were both members of a theatrical company playing in Boston at the time of Poe's birth, January 19,