Page images
PDF
EPUB

Is there no house,' I inquired, between this and Niagara? There is a thunder shower coming on; I hear it growling.'

It would have done your heart good, to have heard the laugh of that driver. It was loud and long; it bubbled up from his heart, as if what he had just heard was the best joke he had listened to for years.

Bless your soul, friend, it's not going to rain. What you see, is the cloudy mist, and what you hear, is the roar of them Falls, yender. Jest wait a minute -- and then

6

[ocr errors]

•Stop!' said I, rising in our barouche, while, gilded by the westering sun, I caught, as we wheeled around a clump of trees, the first view of the vast green gulf and circle of the Horse Shoe Fall.

My good reader, you must excuse my enthusiasm. It has been said that Niagara cannot be described. I think it can be. Canpot one record on paper the thoughts provoked by the objects of grandeur and magnificence that have met his eye ? Verily, I trow so; and I will try. The first mistake corrected by an approach to Niagara, is as to its width. You have supposed it an outlet from one lake to another, pressed into narrow boundaries, and urged onward by irresistible impulses. You were deceived by fancy. The river is like some bay of an ocean; as if indeed the Atlantic and Pacific, one far below the other, should meet, by the former being narrowed to the width of one or two miles, and falling to the depth of more than two hundred feet, with rocks and islands on the edge of the vast gulf, frowning and waving between.

VERY soon we reached the Pavilion. The selection of an apartment, visitation to the barber, and the donning of a cool summer dress, were all speedily accomplished. The ceaseless hum of the Falls was in my hearing — it shook the windows of the Pavilion, from which I gazed. Below, at a few rods distance, the mighty Niagara plunged into its misty abyss: above, to the south, it seemed as if an ocean, fierce as that tide which keeps due on to the Propontic and the Hellespont,' was rushing madly down to some undiscovered cavern, where its fury was lost and suspended forever.

DESCENDING through the garden and the open common which intervene between the Pavilion and the distant river to the eastward, we struck the road, and observed the sign which pointed I TO THE Falls. Here let me say a word, which I think will give the idea of Niagara vividly to one who has never seen it. It seemed to me, as I looked from the window of the Pavilion, that the river was very nearly on a level with the house. Well, I passed over the places I have men

tioned; and at the guide-post aforesaid, we began to make a most precipitous descent, over rude stair-cases, bedded in miry clay. In a few moments we were nearly on a level with the river, which was in full view, and close at hand. At that instant, the first impression of the vast power of Niagara struck my mind; but it was faint and feeble, compared with those that succeeded. For miles, looking upward at the stream, it resembled a foaming ocean, vexed by the storms of the equinox. We proceeded to the house which heads the perpendicular descent to the bed of the river, at the foot of the Falls. Those who dress for deeds of aquatic daring with more deliberation than myself, would have changed their ordinary attire for those simple and coarse habiliments usually adopted by those adventurous spirits who get their drenched certificates for going under the sheet - but for my part, I had not the patience. Endowing myself with an oil-cloth surtout, I began to descend the stair-case leading to the base of the cataract.

The descent seemed interminable. I thought I had travelled an hour, still moving round and round - in darkness, and alone. It was a solemn probation, during which I had time to nerve my spirit for the grandeur and the awe with which it was soon to be impressed. At last

, I made my egress from the stair-case into the presence of the Wonder.

My first idea was, that a tremendous storm had brewed since I began to descend. Several rods to the south, the Falls, dimly seen, boomed and thundered with a noise so stunning, that I was almost distracted. At my feet, there rolled onward what seemed a lake of milk having about it nothing dark — not even a glimpse of water-color. I saw, near by, á tall black figure, smiling graciously, like some good-natured Charon, ready to transport his customers across the River of Death. He announced himself as the conductor of gentlemen under the Falls. Taking bis hand, I approached them. At a certain point, as we drew nigh, I begged him to stop. The mist had surged upward from my vision, and before me broke down, as it were, the Atlantic, from a height, so dizzy that it made the eye shrink from gazing; the distant side of the vast semicircle bid from view by a rainbow, and the awful mass of green, mad waters, rushing to the abyss, with a noise like the breaking up of chaos!

What is like that scene? It is itself alone; to depict it, comparisons fail. You must describe itself.

I know not how it was, but such a sense of awe and majesty descended at that moment upon my spirit, that I burst into tears, and shivered through every nerve. What an awful hum and moaning pierced the hearing sense! Above me, hideous rocks rose for hundreds of feet; dark shelves, wet with the eternal tempest around them; and at every moment a stormy gust would drive a deluge of water in my face, taking my breath, and chilling me, as it were in the depth of the solstice, even to the bone. As we shouldered the dark ledges which extended under the sheet, I almost shrank from the desperate undertaking; and never did lover, howsoever deeply skilled in . holy palmistry, press the jew

elled hand of his mistress with such affection as that wherewith Ollapod grasped the sable fingers of his African conductor. His splay feet, and amphibious-looking heels, seemed to stamp him some creature of the elements; a Caliban, schooled to generous offices by some supernatural master.

WHEN you approach within ten feet or so of that tremendous launch of waters, then is the time to pause for a moment, to steep and saturate your soul with one prëeminent and grand remembrance. For me, if millions of huinan beings had been around me, I should have felt alone — and as one who, having passed beyond the dominions of mortality, stood presented before the marvels of his God! It is a place for the silent adoration of the heart for Him

"Who made the world, and heaped the waters far
Above its loftiest mountain.'

Whence came those ceaseless and resounding floods? From the "hollow hand' of Omnipotence! Fancy stretches and plumes her adventurous pinions from this point: she goes onward to the Upper Lakes, and their peopled shores; she pursues her voyage to the dark streams and inland seas of the west ; and returning, finds their delegated waters pouring heavily and with eternal thunder down that dizzy steep! Thought, preying upon itself, is lost in one deep and profound sense of awe of recollection of prospect. I may change one word from Byron, to express my meaning :

By those that deepest feel, is ill exprest
The indistinctness of the laboring breast :
Where thousand thoughts begin, to end in one,

Which seek from all the refuge found in none.' From the spot of which I speak, you can easily imagine that there has come upon you the deluge, or the day of doom. The voices of eternity seem to burden the air; look up, and the dark rocks, like the confines of Plegethon, seem tottering to their fall; where you stand, the whirlwind which bears upon its pinions drops heavier ihan those of the most dismal tempest that ever rent the wilderness on land, or wrecked an armament at sea, is moaning and howling. Casting a glance at the upper verge of the Falls, you see the turbulent rapids, thick, green, and high, shrinking back, as it were, from their perilous descent, until a mass of waves behind urges them, resistless, onward; to speak in thunder, and to rise in mist and foam, the children of strife, yet parents of the rainbow, that emblem of peace.

I ONCE asked an elderly friend, in whose domicil I was a favored in. mate, and who suffered much from the gout, whether there might be any pain, known to myself, which would compare with it. "No!' he replied: 'I never met any thing of the sort in my life: there is nothing on earth like it; and I am destitute of any descriptive comparison. I am not dead at present; I hav'n't been as yet to Tophet; and therefore can't tell whether gout is like that, or purgatory; but I believe it to be as

near that as any thing.' It is thus with Niagara. There is no emblem: it has no rival - it is like no rival. Its multitudinous waves have a glory and a grandeur of their own, to which nothing can be added, and from which nothing can be taken away.

.

It has been said, that the tremors or presentiments of those who march to battle, are dissipated by the bustling of caparisoned horses, the rolling of the war-drurn, the clangour of the trumpet, the clink and fall of swords—the noise of the captains and the shouting. Some such kind of inspiration is given to the thoughtful and observant man, who goes under the Great Fall of Niagara. As I moved along behind my sable guide, holding on to his dexter,

'Even as a child, when scaring sounds molest,

Clings close and closer to its mother's breast;' while the waters dashed fiercer and more fiercely around about me, me. thought I had, in an evil hour, surrendered myself to perdition, and was now being dragged thither by the ebon paw of Satan. Shortly, however, the stormy music of Niagara took possession of my soul; and had Abaddon himself been there, I could have followed him home. For one moment, only, I fallered. The edge of the sheet nearest the Canada side, from its rude and fretting contact with the shore above, comes down with a stain of reddish brown. Near Termination Rock, you pass by that dim border of the Fall, and exchanging recent darkness for the green and spectral light struggling through the thick water, you are enabled to discern where you are. My God! It is enough to make an eartb-tried angel shudder, familiar though he may be with the wonder-workings of the Eternal. Look upward ? There, forming a dismal curve over your head, and looming in the deceptive and unearthly light, to a seeming distance of many hundred feet, moaning with that ceaseless anthem which trembles at their base, the rocks arise toward Heaven covered with the green ooze of centuries — hanging in horrid shelves, and apparently on the very point of breaking with the weight of that accumulated sea which tumbles and howls over their upper verge! There is no scene of sublimity on earth comparable to this. You stand beneath the rushing tributes from a hundred lakes; you seem to hear the wailings of imprisoned spirits, until, fraught and filled with the spirit of the scene, you 'exclaim — THERE IS A God! — and this vast cataract, awful, overpowering as it is, is but a play-thing of his hand !

There is one dreadful illusion to which the untrained eye is subject, under this water-avalanche. You know, travelled reader, that when you journey swiftly in a rail-road car, the landscape seems moving past you with the speed of lightning. You see distant trees and fields, apparently out of compliment to the locomotive, wheeling off ohsequiously to the right and left

. Every grove seems engaged in a rigadoon. This illuso visus is particularly discernible on the face of Niagara, when you are beneath the Falls. Look at the sheet but for one moment, and you find yourself rising upward with the swiftness of thought.

470

View from the Pavilion - Guides Reflections.

(October,

Turning your eye to the rocky wall which bounds you, for a moment you give a side-long glance at its dizzy extent. Heavens! - That was ihat noise? Did not a portion of the rock above — some massy mountain of stone — then fall? No — it was only the thunder of commingled rapids, which united at the edge of the precipice, and rushed impetuously into the abyss together. It is this which makes such beavy music — such solemn tones — in the distant voice of Niagara.

A most thorough bath — such an one as I never took before — gave me, after my changed dress, and proper probation, a superior appetite for joining a supper party at the Pavilion. I remeinberthe pleasure I once enjoyed, during a summer sojourn at West Point, among congenial spirits. Every day, at dinner, in the large mirrors which bedeck the dining saloon at Cozzen's capital establishment, what time we discussed viands and wines, I could see the reflected Hudson and its shores — the distant mountains towering into the sky - and steam-craft moving; wbile

from town to town,

The snowy sails went gleaming down.' You seem to think, if you are any thing of an economist, at Niagara, that you are likely to get from your host the worth of your money. He gives you 'green or black tea,' and all the appointments of a good supper, and he flings in a view of Niagara from the dining-room windows, without any extra expense! Its music shakes your hand as you list your coffee to your lip; its bounding and agitated lapse smites your eye, as you sip the juice of the Moca berry — yet you never find it i? the bill

. If you wish to be fleeced, however, employ a guide to tell you when is the time to say 'Good gracious! how sublime!' and to show you the thousand little nothings in the vicinity of the Falls, which, compared with them, are, as it might be, to pit a flea in fight against a lion or an elephant. Ye blind guides ! — door-keepers of the gates of sublimity, which you cannot speak of or describe, save in the stale terms of business! Ye tell a man whose heart and mind are overflowing with awe and wonder when to use his eyes! Ye are varlets all; akin to that enterprising man, mentioned, if I mistake not, by Goldsmith, who issued proposals to bite off his own nose by subscription ! — or rather, to that builder of chapeaux, who exclaimed, in a paroxysm of delight, as he stood at the foot of the Canada Fall, . By the Lord! - what a glorious place for washing hats!

Well — I have sojourned near, and surveyed, Niagara, until it is pic, tured in my mind, and I know it as it were a favorite book. A word here, then, to tourists who have that chief marvel of the world to see. There will perhaps be disappointment in a far-off view, as you go from the south; for the majestic rush of the rapids, and the beavy plunge of the fall, you cannot see. To my New-York reader I can give a simile. Supposing the Hudson ran from the bay of your metropolis rapidly to the north. Plant its shores, from the city to the Pallisades, with bold headlands, and ancient forests. At the Pallisades, let the

« PreviousContinue »