'Niagara' by Joseph Rodman Drake

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ROAR, raging torrent! and thou, mighty river,
Pour thy white foam on the valley below;
Frown, ye dark mountains! and shadow for ever
The deep rocky bed where the wild rapids flow.
The green sunny glade, and the smooth flowing fountain,
Brighten the home of the coward and slave;
The flood and the forest, the rock and the mountain,
Rear on their bosoms the free and the brave.


Nurslings of nature, I mark your bold bearing,
Pride in each aspect and strength in each form,
Hearts of warm impulse, and souls of high daring,
Born in the battle and rear'd in the storm.
The red levin flash and the thunder's dread rattle,
The rock-riven wave and the war trumpet's breath,
The din of the tempest, the yell of the battle,
Nerve your steeled bosoms to danger and death.


High on the brow of the Alps' snowy towers
The mountain Swiss measures his rock-breasted moors,
O'er his lone cottage the avalanche lowers,
Round its rude portal the spring-torrent pours.
Sweet is his sleep amid peril and danger,
Warm is his greeting to kindred and friends,
Open his hand to the poor and the stranger,
Stern on his foeman his sabre descends.


Lo! where the tempest the dark waters sunder
Slumbers the sailor boy, reckless and brave,
Warm'd by the lighting and lulled by the thunder,
Fann'd by the whirlwind and rock'd on the wave;
Wildly the winter wind howls round his pillow,
Cold on his bosom the spray showers fall;
Creaks the strained mast at the rush of the billow,
Peaceful he slumbers, regardless of all.


Mark how the cheek of the warrior flushes,
As the battle drum beats and the war torches glare;
Like a blast of the north to the onset he rushes,
And his wide-waving falchion gleams brightly in air.
Around him the death-shot of foemen are flying,
At his feet friends and comrades are yielding their breath;
He strikes to the groans of the wounded and dying,
But the war cry he strikes with is, 'conquest or death!'


Then pour thy broad wave like a flood from the heavens,
Each son that thou rearest, in the battle's wild shock,
When the death-speaking note of the trumpet is given,
Will charge like thy torrent or stand like thy rock.
Let his roof be the cloud and the rock be his pillow,
Let him stride the rough mountain, or toss on the foam,
He will strike fast and well on the field or the billow,
In triumph and glory, for God and his home!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Niagara: A Literary Masterpiece


Oh, Niagara! What a majestic wonder of nature it is! The roaring sound of the falls, the misty air, and the breathtaking view of the water cascading over the rocks, everything about Niagara is awe-inspiring. No wonder, poets and writers have been drawn to it for centuries, and Joseph Rodman Drake is no exception. In his famous poem "Niagara," Drake captures the beauty and grandeur of this natural wonder in words that are as powerful as the falls themselves.

The Poem

The poem "Niagara" is written in rhyming couplets, which gives it a musical quality, and enhances the overall effect of the poem. The first stanza sets the tone of the poem and introduces the reader to the mighty Niagara Falls. Drake describes the falls as a "voice of ages," which suggests the idea of the falls being timeless and eternal. He then goes on to describe the falls as "thundering" and "roaring," which highlights their power and force.

The second stanza is perhaps the most striking one in the poem, as Drake personifies the falls, giving them a human-like quality. He describes the falls as a "Titan," a giant god-like figure from Greek mythology, and says that they "toss their misty manes." This image of the falls as a wild, untamed creature is both beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

In the third stanza, Drake shifts his focus to the surrounding landscape, and talks about the "rocky ramparts" and the "vast horizon." He also mentions the "rainbows" that are created by the mist of the falls, adding a touch of beauty to the poem.

In the fourth stanza, Drake uses the image of the eagle, a symbol of freedom and strength, to describe the falls. He pictures the eagle soaring above the falls, "boldly breasting" the mist, and "pluming his wing" in the spray. This image of the eagle adds to the already powerful imagery of the poem and creates a sense of awe and wonder in the reader.

The fifth and final stanza brings the poem to a close, and Drake ends on a note of reverence and respect for the falls. He says that the falls are "Nature's cathedral," and that they "kneel at her altar." This image of the falls as a sacred place reinforces the idea that they are more than just a natural wonder, but a place of spiritual significance as well.


"Niagara" is more than just a poem about a natural wonder. It is a poem that captures the essence of what it means to be human, to be in awe of something greater than ourselves, and to recognize the power and beauty of nature. By personifying the falls and describing them in such vivid detail, Drake invites the reader to see the falls not just as a tourist attraction, but as a living, breathing entity that commands our respect and admiration.

The poem also speaks to the theme of transcendence, of rising above the mundane and ordinary, and experiencing something truly sublime. The image of the eagle soaring above the falls is a symbol of this, as the eagle is able to rise above the mist and soar towards the heavens. Drake is suggesting that we too can transcend our everyday lives and experience something greater, if only we have the courage to do so.

Finally, "Niagara" is a poem that celebrates the power and beauty of nature, and reminds us of our responsibility to protect and preserve it. The falls are not just a natural wonder, but a fragile ecosystem that relies on us to keep it safe. By ending the poem with the idea of the falls as a sacred place, Drake is calling on us to recognize the importance of nature in our lives, and to treat it with the respect it deserves.


In conclusion, "Niagara" is a masterpiece of poetry, a work that captures the essence of the falls in words that are as powerful and majestic as the falls themselves. Drake's use of vivid imagery and personification creates a sense of wonder and awe in the reader, while his themes of transcendence and environmental responsibility make the poem a work of great depth and importance. If you ever get the chance to visit Niagara Falls, take a moment to read this poem and see the falls through the eyes of a poet. You won't be disappointed.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Niagara: A Masterpiece of Romanticism

Joseph Rodman Drake's Poetry Niagara is a masterpiece of Romanticism, a literary movement that emerged in the late 18th century and lasted until the mid-19th century. The poem, written in 1819, captures the sublime beauty and power of Niagara Falls, one of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders of the world. In this 2000-word analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language of Poetry Niagara and how they reflect the Romantic ideals of nature, imagination, and emotion.

The poem begins with a vivid description of the Falls, which Drake calls "the wonder of the world." He uses a series of powerful images to convey the grandeur and majesty of the Falls, such as "the thundering sound of waters," "the misty veil that shrouds the cataract," and "the rainbow's arch that spans the flood." These images create a sense of awe and wonder in the reader, as if they were standing before the Falls themselves.

Drake then goes on to describe the various moods and emotions that the Falls evoke in him. He speaks of the "solemn stillness" that he feels when he gazes upon the Falls, as if he were in the presence of a divine force. He also speaks of the "wild joy" that he experiences when he hears the roar of the Falls, as if he were caught up in the primal energy of nature. These contrasting emotions reflect the Romantic ideal of the sublime, which is the feeling of both terror and awe that one experiences when confronted with the vastness and power of nature.

The poem also explores the theme of imagination, which was a central tenet of Romanticism. Drake speaks of the "fairy visions" that he sees in the mist and spray of the Falls, as if they were magical creatures dancing in the air. He also speaks of the "phantom forms" that he imagines lurking behind the Falls, as if they were mysterious spirits inhabiting the natural world. These images reflect the Romantic belief that the imagination is a powerful tool for exploring the mysteries of the natural world and unlocking the secrets of the human psyche.

Another important theme in Poetry Niagara is the idea of the natural world as a source of spiritual renewal and inspiration. Drake speaks of the "holy calm" that he feels when he is in the presence of the Falls, as if he were communing with a higher power. He also speaks of the "healing balm" that the Falls provide, as if they were a source of physical and emotional rejuvenation. These images reflect the Romantic belief that nature is not just a physical phenomenon, but also a spiritual force that can nourish and sustain the human soul.

The language of Poetry Niagara is also notable for its use of vivid and evocative imagery. Drake uses a variety of poetic devices, such as metaphor, simile, and personification, to create a sense of depth and richness in his descriptions of the Falls. For example, he compares the mist of the Falls to "the breath of spirits," and he personifies the Falls as a "mighty monarch" who rules over the natural world. These images not only create a sense of beauty and wonder, but also convey a sense of the power and majesty of nature.

In addition to its themes and imagery, Poetry Niagara is also notable for its use of form and structure. The poem is written in rhyming couplets, which create a sense of musicality and rhythm in the language. The use of regular meter and rhyme also reflects the Romantic ideal of order and harmony in the natural world. At the same time, the poem also contains irregularities and variations in its meter and rhyme, which reflect the Romantic belief in the importance of individual expression and creativity.

In conclusion, Poetry Niagara is a masterpiece of Romanticism that captures the sublime beauty and power of Niagara Falls. Through its themes of nature, imagination, and emotion, its vivid and evocative imagery, and its use of form and structure, the poem reflects the ideals and values of the Romantic movement. It is a testament to the enduring power of nature to inspire and uplift the human spirit, and a reminder of the importance of imagination and creativity in our understanding of the world around us.

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