Jose Maria Heredia

Jose Maria Heredia, 1803-39, Cuba’s national poet

He is considered the most lyrical of the poets writing during the period of the wars of independence.

Although Heredia's poetry is classic in form, it contains romantic melancholy and joy in nature.

He was exiled from Cuba as a revolutionary (1823), and spent two years in New York City, where his poetry was published.

Heredia lived the rest of his life in Mexico.

One of his finest poems extols the beauty and power of Niagara Falls. He visited there soon after he was turned down by his Cuban sweetheart.

monument to jose heredia

This monument to Jose Maria Heredia
overlooks Niagara Falls


My Iyre! give me my Iyre! 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.

niagara falls

Thou flowest on in quiet, till thy waves
Grow broken 'midst the rocks; thy current then
Shoots onward lke the irresistable course
Of destiny. Ah, terribly they rage –
The hoarse and rapid whirIpools 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 and overtake the waves before,
And disappear in thunder and foam.

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