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Niagara Falls in Niagara Region, Ontario — Central Canada
 

José María Heredia

(1803–1839)

 

—Niágara —

 
José María Heredia Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, October 16, 2014
1. José María Heredia Marker
Inscription. Cuban poet and patriot who sang to Niagara and, as José Martí said, awakened “an ever-burning passion for freedom” in the hearts of all Cubans.

                              Niagara
                           (fragments)

Thou flowest, on in quiet, til thy waves
grow broken midst the rocks; thy current then
shoots onward like the irresistible course
of destiny. Ah, terrible the rage,—
the hoarse and rapid whirlpools there! My brain
grows wild, my senses wander, as I gaze
upon the hurrying waters, and my sight,
vainly would follow, as towards the verge
sweeps the wide torrent. Waves innumerable
meet there and madden,—waves innumerable
urge on and overtake the waves before,
and disappear in thunder and foam.

They reach, they leap the barrier,— the abyss
swallows insatiable the sinking waves.
A thousand rainbows arch them, and woods
are deafened with the roar.

What seeks my restless eve? Why are we not there,
about the jaws of this abyss, the palms,—
ah, the delicious palms,— — that on the plains
of my own native Cuba spring and spread
their thickly foliaged summits to the sun,
and, in the breathings of the ocean air
wave soft beneath the heaven’s unspotted blue?

Hear, dread Niagara,
José María Heredia Marker image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, October 16, 2014
2. José María Heredia Marker
my latest voice!
Yet a few years and the cold earth shall close
over the bones of him who sings thee now
thus feelings would that this my humble verse,
might be like thee, immortal?! Meanwhile,
cheerfully passing to the appointed rest,
might raise my radiant forehead in the clouds
to listen to the echoes of my fame.
 
Erected 1989 by the Cuban people “to the Niagara”.
 
Location. 43° 4.72′ N, 79° 4.71′ W. Marker is in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in Niagara Region. Marker can be reached from Niagara Parkway near Murray Street. Click for map. It is on the promenade at Table Rock House, at the precipice of the falls. Marker is in this post office area: Niagara Falls, Ontario L0S 1J0, Canada.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Niagara Falls Park and River Railway Powerhouse (about 90 meters away, measured in a direct line); Tightrope Walker Nik Wallenda (about 120 meters away); Table Rock House (about 120 meters away); Table Rock (approx. 0.3 kilometers away); Nikola Tesla (approx. 0.4 kilometers away); Nik Wallenda & Niagara (approx. half a kilometer away in the U.S.); Louis Hennepin 1626 - c. 1705 (approx. 0.6 kilometers away); Goat Island (approx. 0.6 kilometers away in the U.S.). Click for a list of all markers in Niagara Falls.
 
More about this marker.
José María Heredia Marker on the Promenade at Table Rock image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, October 16, 2014
3. José María Heredia Marker on the Promenade at Table Rock
It is not known for certain who translated the verses to English for the fragments quoted on the tablet. They are attributed to William Cullen Bryant and were available in 1827. The entire translation is transcribed below in Comment No. 1.

This bronze tablet replaced a 1955 tablet placed at this same location by the Cuban Boy Scouts which read, “José María Heredia, Cuban poet, exiled patriot, called the sublime singer of the wonderous greatness of Niagara Falls. [placed by] the Cuban Boy Scouts on the occasion of the 8th World Jamboree at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. Canada, August 18. 1955.”
 
Regarding José María Heredia. He was exiled from Cuba, his native land, by the Spanish colonial administration in 1823 for conspiracy against the government for writing the poem The Star of Cuba. Heredia first went to New York City, then settled in Mexico in Toluca. Although he died before the Cuban wars of independence commenced, in exile he agitated for Cuban freedom. The Cuban patriot José Martí gave a speech in Hardman Hall, New York City in 1889 entitled “Heredia” from where the quote on this marker is taken.

José María Heredia’s ode to Niagara, written in Spanish and published in 1825, was included in the 1908 collection The Hundred Best Lyrical Poems in the Spanish Language (Las Cien Mejores Poesias Lyricas de la Lengua Castellana) by
Niagara Falls is comprised of the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, October 15, 2014
4. Niagara Falls is comprised of the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls
Bridal Veil Falls is the small cataract just to the right of the American Falls, separated from the American Falls by Luna Island. Goat Island separates it from Horseshoe Falls, in the distance on the left.
Marcelino Menéndez that is required reading in Spanish literature classes throughout the world. The complete poem in its original language follows:

Niágara
por José María Heredia y Heredia

Dadme mi lira, dádmela: que siento
En mi alma estremecida y agitada
Arder la inspiración. ¡Oh! ¡cuánto tiempo
En tinieblas pasó, sin que mi frente
Brillase con su luz! ... Niágara undoso,
Sola tu faz sublime ya podría
Tornarme el don divino, que ensañada
Me robó del dolor la mano impía.

Torrente prodigioso, calma, acalla
Tu trueno aterrador: disipa un tanto
Las tinieblas que en torno te circundan,
Y déjame mirar tu faz serena,
Y de entusiasmo ardiente mi alma llena.
Yo digno soy de contemplarte: siempre,
Lo común y mezquino desdeñando,
Ansié por lo terrífico y sublime.
Al despeñarse el huracán furioso,
Al retumbar sobre mi frente el rayo,
Palpitando gocé: vi al Oceano
Azotado del austro proceloso
Combatir mi bajel, y ante mis plantas
Sus abismos abrir, y amé el peligro,
Y sus iras amé: mas su fiereza
En mi alma no dejara
La profunda impresión de tu grandeza.

Corres sereno y majestuoso, y luego
En ásperos peñascos quebrantado,
Te abalanzas violento, arrebatado,
Como el destino irresistible y ciego.
¿Qué voz humana describir podría
De la sirte rugiente
La aterradora faz? El alma mía
En
José María Heredia (1893–1839) image. Click for full size.
5. José María Heredia (1893–1839)
vagos pensamientos se confunde,
Al contemplar la férvida corriente,
Que en vano quiere la turbada vista
En su vuelo seguir al borde oscuro
Del precipicio altísimo: mil olas,
Cual pensamiento rápidas pasando,
Chocan y se enfurecen,
Y otras mil y otras mil ya las alcanzan,
Y entre espuma y fragor desaparecen.
Mas llegan... saltan... el abismo horrendo
Devora los torrentes despeñados;
Crúzanse en él mil iris, y asordados
Vuelven los bosques el fragor tremendo.
Al golpe violentísimo en las peñas
Rómpese el agua, y salta, y una nube
De revueltos vapores
Cubre el abismo en remolinos, sube,
Gira en torno, y al cielo
Cual pirámide inmensa se levanta,
Y por sobre los bosques que le cercan
Al solitario cazador espanta.

Mas ¿qué en ti busca mi anhelante vista
Con inquieto afanar? ¿Por qué no miro
Alrededor de tu caverna inmensa
Las palmas ¡ay! las palmas deliciosas,
Que en las llanuras de mi ardiente patria
Nacen del sol a la sonrisa, y crecen,
Y al soplo de la brisa del Oceano
Bajo un cielo purísimo se mecen?

Este recuerdo a mi pesar me viene.
Nada ¡oh Niágara! falta a tu destino,
Ni otra corona que el agreste pino
A tu terrible majestad conviene.
La palma y mirto, y delicada rosa,
Muelle placer inspiren y ocio blando
En frívolo jardín: a ti la suerte
Guarda más digno objeto y más sublime.
El
A Portion of Horseshoe Falls image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, October 16, 2014
6. A Portion of Horseshoe Falls
The marker is out of frame to the right.
alma libre, generosa y fuerte,
Viene, te ve, se asombra,
Menosprecia los frívolos deleites
Y aun se siente elevar cuando te nombra.

¡Dios, Dios de la verdad! en otros climas
Vi monstruos execrables
Blasfemando tu nombre sacrosanto,
Sembrar error y fanatismo impío,
Los campos inundar con sangre y llanto,
De hermanos atizar la infanda guerra
Y desolar frenéticos la tierra.
Vilos, y el pecho se inflamó a su vista
En grave indignación. Por otra parte
Vi mentidos filósofos que osaban
Escrutar tus misterios, ultrajarte,
Y de impiedad al lamentable abismo
A los míseros hombres arrastraban:
Por eso siempre te buscó mi mente
En la sublime soledad: ahora
Entera se abre a ti; tu mano siente
En esa inmensidad que me circunda,
Y tu profunda voz baja a mi seno
De este raudal en el eterno trueno.

¡Asombroso torrente!
¡Cómo tu vista mi ánimo enajena
Y de terror y admiración me llena!
¿Do tu origen está? ¿Quién fertiliza
Por tantos siglos tu inexhausta fuente?
¿Qué poderosa mano
Hace que al recibirte
No rebose en la tierra el Oceano?

Abrió el Señor su mano omnipotente,
Cubrió tu faz de nubes agitadas,
Dio su voz a tus aguas despeñadas
Y ornó con su arco tu terrible frente.

Miró tus aguas que incansable corren,
Como el largo torrente de los siglos
Rueda en la eternidad: así del hombre
Pasan
A Portion of Horseshoe Falls image. Click for full size.
By J. J. Prats, October 16, 2014
7. A Portion of Horseshoe Falls
Rainbows, mentioned in the English version of the poem on the marker, are a frequent occurrence when the sun comes out.
volando los floridos días
Y despierta el dolor... ¡Ay! ya agotada
Siento mi juventud, mi faz marchita,
Y la profunda pena que me agita
Ruga mi frente de dolor nublada.

Nunca tanto sentí como este día
Mi mísero aislamiento, mi abandono,
Mi lamentable desamor... ¿Podría
Un alma apasionada y borrascosa
Sin amor ser feliz?... ¡Oh!
¡Si una hermosa Digna de mí me amase
Y de este abismo al borde turbulento
Mi vago pensamiento
Y mi andar solitario acompañase!
¡Cuál gozara al mirar su faz cubrirse
De leve palidez, y ser más bella
En su dulce terror, y sonreírse
Al sostenerla en mis amantes brazos...!
¡Delirios de virtud!. .. ¡Ay! desterrado,
Sin patria, sin amores,
Sólo miro ante mí llanto y dolores.

¡Niágara poderoso!
Oye mi última voz: en pocos arios
Ya devorado habrá la tumba fría
A tu débil cantor. ¡Duren mis versos
Cual tu gloria inmortal! Pueda piadoso,
Al contemplar tu faz algún viajero,
Dar un suspiro a la memoria mía.
Y yo al hundirse el sol en Occidente,
Vuele gozoso do el Criador me llama,
Y al escuchar los ecos de mi fama
Alce en las nubes la radiosa frente.
 
Also see . . .
1. Wikipedia entry for José María Heredia y Heredia. “Many of his earlier pieces are merely clever translations from French, English and Italian; but his originality is placed beyond doubt by such poems as the Himno del desterrado, the epistle to Emilia, Desengaños, and the celebrated ode to Niagara. ... The sincerity of his patriotism and the sublimity of his imagination have secured for Heredia a real supremacy among Spanish-American poets.” (Submitted on October 18, 2014.) 

2. Wikipedia entry for Niagara Falls. “Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls that straddle the international border between Canada and the United States; more specifically, between the province of Ontario and the state of New York. They form the southern end of the Niagara Gorge. ... While not exceptionally high, the Niagara Falls are very wide. More than six million cubic feet (168,000 cubic meters) of water falls over the crest line every minute in high flow,and almost four million cubic feet (110,000 cubic meters) on average.”

“The Niagara Falls are renowned both for their beauty and as a valuable source of hydroelectric power. Managing the balance between recreational, commercial, and industrial uses has been a challenge for the stewards of the falls since the 19th century. (Submitted on October 18, 2014.) 
 
Additional comments.
1. 1927 Translation of Niagara Attributed to William Cullen Bryant
 
My lyre! give me my lyre! My bosom feels
The glow of inspiration. O how long
Have I been left in darkness since this light
Last visited my brow, Niagara!
Thou with thy rushing waters dost restore
The heavenly gift that sorrow took away.

Tremendous torrent! For an instant hush
The terrors of thy voice and cast aside
Those wide involving shadows, that my eyes
May see the fearful beauty of thy face!
I am not all unworthy of thy sight,
For from my very boyhood have I loved,
Shunning the meaner track of common minds,
To look on nature in her loftier moods.

At the fierce rushing of the hurricane,
At the near bursting of the thunderbolt
I have been touched with joy; and when the sea,
Lashed by the wind, hath rocked my bark and showed
Its yawning caves beneath me, I have loved
Its dangers and the wrath of elements.
But never yet the madness of the sea
Hath moved me as thy grandeur moves me now.

Thou flowest on in quiet, till thy waves
Grow broken 'midst the rocks; thy current then
Shoots onward like the irresistibel course
Of destiny. Ah, terribly they rage ―
The hoarse and rapid whirlpools there!
My brain grows wild, my senses wander, as I gaze
Upon the hurrying waters, and my sight
Vainly would follow, as toward the verge
Sweeps the wide torrent — waves innumerable
Meet there and madden — waves innumerable
Urge on the overtake the waves before,
And disappear in thunder and in foam.

They reach — they leap the barrier — the abyss
Swallows insatiable the sinking waves.
A thousand rainbows arch them, and woods
Are deafened with the roar. The violent shock
Shatters to vapor the descending sheets —
A cloudy whirlwind fills the gulf, and heaves
The mighty pyramid of circling mist
To heaven. The solitary hunter near
Pauses with terror in the forest shades.

What seeks my restless eye? Why are not here,
About the jaws of this abyss, the palms —
Ah — the delicious palms, that on the plains
Of my own native Cuba, spring and spread
Their thickly foliaged summits to the sun,
And, in the breathings of the ocean air,
Wave soft beneath the heaven's unspotted blue?

But no, Niagara, — thy forest pines
Are fitter coronal for thee. The palm,
The effeminate myrtle, and frail rose may grow
In gardens, and give out their fragrance there,
Unmanning him who breathes it. Thine it is
To do a nobler office. Generous minds
Behold thee, and are moved, and learn to rise
Above earth's frivolous pleasures; they partake
Thy grandeur, at the utterance of thy name.

God of all truth! in other lands I've seen
Lying philosophers, blaspheming men,
Questioners of thy mysteries, that draw
Their fellows deep into impiety,
And therefore doth my spirit seek thy face
In earth's majestic solitudes. Even here
My heart doth open all itself to thee.
In this immensity of loneliness
I feel thy hand upon me. To my ear
The eternal thunder of the cataract brings
Thy voice, and I am humbled as I hear.

Dread torrent! that with wonder and with fear
Dost overwhelm the soul of him that looks
Upon thee, and dost bear it from itself,
Whence hast thou thy beginning? Who supplies,
Age after age, thy unexhausted springs?
What power hath ordered, that, when all thy weight
Descends into the deep, the swollen waves
Rise not, and roll to overwhlem the earth?

The Lord hath opened his omnipotent hand,
Covered thy face with clouds, and given his voice
To thy down-rushing waters; he hath girt
Thy terrible forehead with his radiant bow.
I see thy never-resting waters run,
And I bethink me how the tide of time
Sweeps to eternity. So pass of man —
Pass, like a noon-day dream — the blossoming days,
And he awakes to sorrow. I alas!
Feel that my youth is withered, and my brow
Ploughed early with the lines of grief and care.

Never have I so deeply felt as now
The hopeless solitude, the abandonment,
The anguish of a loveless life. Alas!
How can the impassioned, the unfrozen heart
Be happy without love? I would that one
Beautiful, — worthy to be loved and joined
In love with me, — now shared my lonely walk
On this tremendous brink. 'T were sweet to see
Her dear face touched with paleness, and become
More beautiful from fear, and overspread
With a faint smile while clinging to my side!
Dreams — dreams. I am an exile, and for me
There is no country and there is no love.

Hear, dread Niagara, my latest voice!
Yet a few years and the cold earth shall close
Over the bones of him who sings thee now
Thus feelingly. Would that this, my humble verse,
Might be like thee, immortal. I, meanwhile,
Cheerfully passing to the appointed rest,
Might raise my radiant forehead in the clouds
To listen to the echoes of my fame.
    — Submitted October 18, 2014, by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia.

 
Categories. Arts, Letters, MusicHispanic Americans
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia. This page has been viewed 483 times since then and 18 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on , by J. J. Prats of Springfield, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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