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Description of Niagara. MRS. SIGOURNEY.
THE immense volume of water, which distinguishes Niagara from all other cataracts, is seldom fully realized by the casual visitant. Transfixed by his emotions, he forgets that he sees the surplus waters of those vast inland seas, Superior, Huron, Michigan, and Erie, arrested in their rushing passage to the ocean by a fearful barrier of rock, one hundred and sixty feet in height. He scarcely recollects that the tributaries to this river, or strait, cover a surface of one hundred and fifty thousand miles. Indeed, how can he bow his mind to aught of arithmetical computation, when in the presence of this monarch of floods?
Niagara River flows from south to north, and is two miles in width when it issues from Lake Erie. It is majestic and beautiful in its aspect, and spreads out, at Grand Island, to a breadth of three miles, like a mirrored lake. At the falls, it is less than a mile broad, and, after emerging from its terrible abyss, flows on, of a dark green or violet color, until it reaches the whirlpool. There, compressed to between five and six hundred feet, it rushes upon a bed of sharp rocks, boiling and breaking with great velocity and suction. After many curves, it regains its original course, and, having cleared itself of every conflict and trouble, glides, with a placid loveliness, to the bosom of Ontario.
The rapids commence about three quarters of a mile above the falls. The river, after passing Grand and Navy
Islands, becomes suddenly compressed, and opposed by ledges of rugged rocks. Over a succession of these it leaps with impetuosity. The total descent is not more than sixty feet, but the effect is grand and imposing. It is more picturesque on the American shore, where the water is less deep, and the conflict more palpable.
These rapids are exceedingly beautiful, and it is desirable to secure an apartment overlooking them, where the traveller, in the intervals of exploration, may contemplate them from his window. They are an appropriate preparation for the grandeur of the principal cataract, a preface to a volume of unutterable wonders.
The view from the boat while crossing the ferry is unique and impressive. It gives the first strong idea of the greater magnificence that awaits you. You are encompassed by an amphitheatre of towering rocks and hills. Fragments of rainbows, and torrents of mists, hover around you. A stupendous column rises, whose base is in the fathomless depth, whose head, wrapped in clouds seems to join earth and heaven. It strikes you as a living personification of His power who poured it " from the hollow of his hand." You tremble at its feet. With a great voice of thunder, it warns you not to approach. The winds spread out their wings, and whelm you in a deluge of spray. You are sensible of the giant force of the tide, bearing up the boat, which, like an eggshell, is tossed upon its terrible bosom. You feel like an atom in the great creation of God. You glance at the athletic sinews of the rowers, and wonder if they are equal to their perilous task. But the majesty of the surrounding scene annihilates selfish apprehension, and, ere you are aware, the little boat runs smoothly to her haven, and you stand on the Canadian shore.
Hitherto, all you have seen will convey but an imperfect impression of the grandeur and sublimity that are unfolded on the summit of Table Rock. This is a precipice nearly one hundred and sixty feet in height, with flat, smooth, altar
shaped surface. As you approach this unparapeted projection, the unveiled glory of Niagara bursts upon the astonished senses. We borrow the graphic delineation of a gentleman,* who, nearly forty years since, was a visitant of this scene, and thus describes it from the summit of Table Rock.
“On your right hand, the river comes roaring forward with all the agitation of a tempestuous ocean, recoiling in waves and whirlpools, as if determined to resist the impulse which is forcing it downward to the gulf. When within a few yards, and apparently at the moment of sweeping away, it plunges headlong into what seems a bottomless pit; for the vapor is so thick at the foot of the precipice that the torrent is completely lost to the view.
"The commencement of the rapids is so distant, and so high above your head, as entirely to exclude all view of the still water, or the country beyond. Thus, as you look up the river, which is two miles wide above the falls, you gaze upon a boundless and angry sea, whose troubled surface forms a rough and ever-moving outline upon the distant horizon. This part of the stream is called the Great Horse-shoe Fall, though in shape it bears more resemblance to an Indian bow, the centre curve of which, retreating up the river, is hid by the volume of vapor which rises in that spot, except when a strong gust of wind, occasionally pressing it down, displays for a moment the whole immense wall of water.
"This branch of the river falls much less broken than the eastern one; and being, like all the large lakes, exactly of the color of ocean water, appears, in every direction, of the most brilliant green, or whiter than snow. The face of Goat Island makes an angle with it, and approaches more nearly to a parallel with the western bank; when the second division of the river appears bending still more towards you, so as to bring the last range of falls nearly parallel with the course of the river, and almost facing you. These falls are
* D. Wadsworth, Esq.
more beautiful, though not so terrific as the great one. Still they appear much higher, as they do not, like that, pour over in a vast arch, but are precipitated so perpendicularly as to appear an entire sheet of foam from the top to the bottom.
"Seen from the Table Rock, the tumbling green waters of the rapids, which persuade you that an ocean is approaching; the brilliant color of the water; the frightful gulf and headlong torrent at your feet; the white column rising from its centre, and often reaching to the clouds; the black wall of rock frowning from the opposite island; and the long curtain of foam descending from the other shore, interrupted only by one dark shaft,- form altogether one of the most beautiful as well as awful scenes in nature. The effect of all these objects is much heightened by being seen from a dizzy and fearful pinnacle, upon which you seem suspended over a fathomless abyss of vapor, whence ascends the deafening uproar of the greatest cataract in the world, and by reflecting that this powerful torrent has been rushing down, and this grand scene of stormy magnificence been in the same dreadful tumult for ages, and will continue so for ages to come."
The lover of nature's magnificence will scarcely be satisfied without repeated visits to Niagara. The mind is slow in receiving the idea of great magnitude. It requires time and repetition to expand and deepen the perceptions that overwhelm it. This educating process is peculiarly necessary among scenery where the mind is continually thrown back upon its Author, and the finite, trying to take hold of the infinite, falters, and hides itself in its own nothingness.
-It is impossible for Niagara to disappoint, unless through the infirmity of the conception that fails to grasp it. Its resources are inexhaustible. It can never expend itself, because it points always to God. More unapproachable than the fathomless ocean, man cannot launch a bark upon its bosom, or bespeak its service in any form. He may not even lay his hand upon it, and live. Upon its borders he
can dream, if he will, of gold-gathering, and of mill-privileges; but its perpetual warning is, "Hence, ye profane!"
Let none, who have it in their power to change their places at will, omit a pilgrimage to Niagara. The facilities of travelling render it now a very different exploit from what it was in the days of our fathers, who were forced to cut away with their axes the branches intercepting the passage of the rocky roads. Those whose hearts respond to whatever is beautiful and sublime in creation, should pay their homage to this mighty cataract. No other scenery so powerfully combines these elements.
Let the gay go thither to be made thoughtful, and the religious to become more spiritually-minded. Yet let not the determined trifler linger here to pursue his revels. Frivolity seems an insult to the majesty that presides here. Folly and dissipation are surely out of place. The thunderhymn of the mighty flood reproves them. Day and night it seems to repeat and enforce the words of inspiration: "The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him."
The Fall of Switzerland.
REV. SIDNEY SMITH.
AMIDST all the enormities of the French revolution, no one circumstance, perhaps, excited such general sympathy