Passing the Lock

(Signed by “Hampton,” featured in September 13, 1837, Buffalo Patriot and Commercial Advertiser)

The Grand Canal! How proudly o’er

Its glorious tide we’re riding now!

The bright waves dance along the shore,

Or gaily kiss our fairy prow –

The Trumpet’s warning notes ring out

With high-tones flourish loud and brave;

And then comes back the “tender’s” shout,

“All ready!” up the glancing wave.

Now bear thee bold, and bear thee well,

Thou pilot at the guiding helm!

If fail they hand, O! who can tell

What dangers dire our bark may whelm?

“Hold up” – the slackened traces drop,

And down the narrowing way we run;

Till curbed and checked, at last we stop –

Hurrah! Hurrah! Right bravely done!

We’re in the lock! We’re in the lock!

With many a restless thump and bang!

With gurgling splash, and watery shock

And chattering china’s mingled clang!

The gates are closed, and down we sink

Into the twilight depths below,

Where gushing streams from every chink,

Like rich and sparkling fountains flow!

A moment now of dim repose,

A moment’s space of calm we win –

Then wide the sweeping doors unclose,

And let the welcome daylight in. –

The “bowsman” stands upon the deck

In his high place of power and pride,

His tin-horn dangling on his neck –

And shouts “go on!” and forth we glide.

Then lightly o’er the waters far,

We take our glad and devious way –

For freight we’ve codfish, salt and tar,

And paving stones and potter’s clay.

What soul so full as needs be told

That to high themes my harp is strung,

Which ne’er inspired the bards of old,

When Dante and when Milton sung.

Old Homer made what we may call,

In liberal phrase, quite decent rhymes;

But ah! There was no grand canawl

To wake the muse in those dark times.