Twilight on the Tow-Path by Ernest Green

Delaware and Lehigh rivers at Easton Pa.
by Augustus Kollner, 1844
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress
Barge being towed by horses in foreground

I’m a-sitting by the tow-path
‡‡Of the days of long ago,
Where the long, green grass is growing
‡‡And the ox-eye daisies blow,
And I see a fading vision,
‡‡‘Gainst the sun’s last westward glow,
Of the schooners and the horses
‡‡In the days I used to know.

Big-boned horses, drooping, weary,
‡‡As they drew the tow-line taut;
Idle sailors, singing, cheery,
‡‡Lounging where the decks are hot;
Trudging tow-boys, cracking whips,
‡‡Cursing when a tow-horse slips;
And the rattling rustling, creaking
‡‡Of the gear upon the ships.

Little schooners with their lumber,
‡‡Going down the narrow ditch,
Out of Michigan and Huron
‡‡Bringing ashes, staves and pitch;
All the forests of the inland
‡‡Floating seaward, hour by hour,
Making way for farms and millers
‡‡To send down their wheat and flour.

And the immigrants go upward,
‡‡Irish, Scot, and Norse and Swede,
Looking to the land of promise
‡‡Where hard work is all they need
For the carving of a future
‡‡And the foundation of a race,
Facing westward, keen and eager,
‡‡To their new, free dwelling-place.

But the sailing ships have vanished,
‡‡And the tow-path sod is green,
Gone are horses, whips and shoutings,
‡‡Giving place to steel and steam,
Rusty plates and smoke and smother,
‡‡Sixteen hatchways in a row,
And a welkin-splitting clamor
‡‡That pursues me as I go.

I have seen as rare a vision
‡‡As the ancient prophets saw,
I have seen mankind in action
‡‡Working out the ancient law,—
“You shall all this earth replenish
‡‡“And subdue its every sod,”—
‘Tis mankind that builds our nation
‡‡But the architect, is God.

Source: McCabe, Kevin (ed.) The Poetry of Old Niagara. St. Catharines: Blarney Stone Books, 1999.

Originally published in the St. Catharines Standard, November 29, 1924

Read about Ernest Green

To Avoid an Unpleasant Tryst by Christopher Ellis

Niagara Falls from the Maid of the Mist Boat, 2022
Photo by Andrew Porteus

A young girl who’d never been kissed
To avoid an unpleasant tryst
She paddled her skiff
O’er the watery cliff
Becoming the Maid of the Mist

Source: Laroque, Corey. Here’s What the Poets are Saying. Niagara Falls, Ont.: Niagara Falls Review, November 21, 2009

This limerick was entered into the So You Think You Can Rhyme (2009) Limerick Contest to find Niagara Falls’ Poet Laureate

Go to the Limericks page

Parked at the Mall by Heather Price

Heather Price
Photo by Mike DiBattista, 2009

Daredevils have been at the Falls
1812 brought us cannon balls
Laura Secord was dear
Warned British the U.S. was near
Now we fight to get parked at the mall

Source: Laroque, Corey. Here’s What the Poets are Saying. Niagara Falls, Ont.: Niagara Falls Review, November 21, 2009

This limerick won 1st place in the So You Think You Can Rhyme (2009) Limerick Contest to find Niagara Falls’ Poet Laureate

Read about Heather Price

Go to the Limericks page

Lena: A Legend of Niagara by Conway E. Cartwright

Table Rock, Niagara
by Edward Ruggles, 1867
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Cartwright wrote this long poem about Lena, The Maid of the Mist, based on settler narratives of the Native peoples of Niagara Falls

See this book at Hathi Trust

Originally published Dublin: William McGee, 1860

Conway Edward Cartwight (1837-1920) was a Canadian poet and cleric.

Niagara by Richard Edwin Day

Niagara Falls, Winter View of Horseshoe Falls taken from the Canadian Side
by Frederick W. Lock, 1856
Watercolour wash by Erna Jahnke
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

 archer ! Scarce more swiftly fly 
‡‡Electric rivers, in their earthward flow,
That leap thro’ sulphur spray th’ abyss of sky,
‡‡Than shoots the current hurtling from his bow. 
What pearls of mist his temples crown and strew
‡‡His flowing locks, his locks that glisten wet 
And white where time shakes down its ancient snow !
‡‡Yet shines more radiant still his coronet 
When on that brow the sun his seven gems has set.

‡‡Fast hold his wingèd steeds their rushing flight, 
Or poise in air above the awful steep ;
‡‡While glints his mottled livery on the light,
And rose-cut brilliants from his bosom peep,
‡‡As doth a belt of night the heavens sweep
And dash its star-foam o’er the milky- way ;
‡‡And, when the precipice his coursers leap, 
Shakes not the beaten earth beneath their play,
‡‡While fires internal feel their hoofs and dance and sway ?

Now dies the distant thunder on the ear,—
‡‡And Proteus-like he doth new image take :
He lays aside his gold and azure here,
‡‡To don the dappled coat of ocean-snake,
With creamy whiteness falling, flake by flake,
‡‡Adown the sea-green lustre of his hide ;
Then moves he swiftly, proudly to the lake,
‡‡While o’er my fancy, snake-like, visions glide, 
For on his scaly back, behold, the centuries ride !

‡‡Oh, thou canst tell, eternal, awful tide.
What forces tore or wore this limy grave.
‡‡Did some fierce Samson tear earth’s jaws so wide,
And lay these rocks thy stony path that pave,
‡‡Or did the ceaseless ages beat and lave
Their prison with the fragile surf of time
‡‡Until a course was eaten by the wave
When lake to lake sent forth a watery chime,
‡‡And thou, O Stream, new-born, beganst thy march sublime ?

Thy lips do swallow up my tiny voice,
‡‡While round me gathers awe as calm and chill
As thine own mist, and yet do I rejoice
‡‡In thee, O boist’rous emblem of the will ;
For thine the gush of life, the buoyant thrill
‡‡Of joy untamed, youth’s laughter high and free. 
Then on ! and sing the song that mocks at ill :
‡‡The sigh, the storm, the agony shall be 
Unknown until thy waters clasp the mournful sea.

‡‡Ah ! type of time, thy surge the billowy crush 
Of centuriesI, gazing o’er the brink,
‡‡Seem borne along the seething flood, the rush 
Of years. Nay, doomèd river ; thou must sink
‡‡Into the infinite, and it shall drink
Thee up ; while I unmoved may hear thy tide
‡‡In tumult rolling at my feet, nor shrink
To see thy fateful waves, but view them glide
‡‡With all a mortal’s sadness, an immortal’s pride.

Source: Richard Edwin Day. Lines in the Sand. Syracuse, NY: John T. Roberts for the Syracuse Chapter of Delta Upsilon, 1878