Niagara Falls

NIAGARA FALLS by Frederic Edwin Church (1857)

Tremendous torrent! for an instant hush
The terrors of thy voice …

— José María Heredia, "Niagara"
Trans. T. T. Payne & W. C. Bryant

"When you discover no extravagant Falls here, you must excuse me. I cannot make Nature into something different from what I find. Let people in the future say that I depicted the Falls truthfully, and everything agrees with my account,"
            Peter Kalm writes to Benjamin Franklin in 1750:
"At Niagara Falls, you can look up the river
and see all the water flowing from lakes
that appear more like great seas
with many large rivers, the most blue magnificent part
of which throwing itself over the Falls"
            The largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth
"And the water comes dramatically to the brink —
you cannot look at it without feeling stunned
watching so vast an amount of desperate waters
plunge to the bottom rock of the Falls
and fly up to a great height in the air
all in motion like a boiling cauldron"
            3 thousand tons of water per second
"And the water cascading down from that Olympic height
foams in the ugliest way, as if lather or suds
and makes an ominous thundering sound
that is louder at times and believed by the Indians
to warn of approaching bad weather;
'Oni-aw-ga-rah' is their name for this river
which means Thunder of Waters"
            15 million cubic feet of water per minute
"And every day when the sun shines
a rainbow appears below the Falls
and under you, when you stand at the side of the Falls,
a fine rainbow, and sometimes two rainbows,
one on the outside of the other:
the more vapors, the brighter and clearer it is;
and when the wind blows the vapors away
the rainbow disappears, then reappears
as soon as new vapors come …"
            5½ billion gallons of water per hour
And now multicolored neon signs everywhere
are greeting the tourists as they arrive:
"The nearby village," a New Yorker writes in 1822,
"abounds with mills, shops and foundries, iron works
and a dramatically growing number of other factories
            Eternal clang and bawling hammers"
            UNION CARBIDE
                              CARBORUNDUM CORP.
                        HOOKER CHEMICALS & PLASTICS
                                             OCCIDENTAL CHEMICAL
And now, at night, a thick fog rises from the Falls
and creeps into the sleeping town — and out over the land.

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