Pieces People Ask For/The Fall

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THE FALL.

"Down, down, down, ten thousand fathoms deep."—Count Fathom.

Who does not know that dreadful gulf, where Niagara falls,
Where eagle unto eagle screams, to vulture vulture calls;
Where down beneath, despair and death in liquid darkness grope,
And upward on the foam there shines a rainbow without hope?
While, hung with clouds of fear and doubt, the unreturning wave
Suddenly gives an awful plunge, like life into the grave;
And many a hapless mortal there hath dived to vale or bliss;
One—only one—hath ever lived to rise from that abyss!

O heaven! it turns me now to ice with chill of fear extreme,
To think of my frail bark adrift on that tumultuous stream !
In vain, with desperate sinews, strung by love of life and light,
I urged that coffin, my canoe, against the current's might;
On—on—still on—direct for doom, the river rushed in force,
And fearfully the stream of time raced with it in its course.
My eyes I closed I dared not look the way towards the goal;
But still I viewed the horrid close, and dreamt it in my soul.
Plainly, as through transparent lids, I saw the fleeting shore,
And lofty trees, like winged things, flit by forevermore!

Plainly—but with no prophet sense—I heard the sullen sound,
The torrent's voice—and felt the mist, like death-sweat, gathering round.
O agony! O life! My home, and those that made it sweet!
Ere I could pray, the torrent lay beneath my very feet.
With frightful whirl, more swift than thought, I passed the dizzy edge;
Bound after bound, with hideous bruise, I dashed from ledge to ledge,
From crag to crag—in speechless pain—from midnight deep to deep;
I did not die, but anguish stunned my senses into sleep.

How long entranced, or whither dived, no clew I have to find.
At last the gradual light of life came dawning o'er my mind;
And through my brain there thrilled a cry,—a cry as shrill as birds
Of vulture or of eagle kind, but this was set to words:—
"It's Edgar Huntley in his cap and nightgown, I declares!
He's been a-walking in his sleep, and pitched all down the stairs!"

Thomas Hood.