The Thunder of Waters by W.M. McClemont


The Falls of Niagara From Goat Island, 1853
Drawing by George Wallis. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

I am the flood gates between neighboring states,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And sever the waters in twain
That flow through great lakes, and in hill and vale takes
‡‡‡‡‡‡Its source in the Laurentian.
The racing rapids above, rush, jostle and shove,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And run at a furious pace,
Then, nearing my ledge, leap over the edge,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Like steeds in a steeple chase.
When the floods break asunder, they roar like thunder
‡‡‡‡‡‡As over my ledge they flow,
And roll in their might all day and all night,
‡‡‡‡‡‡In a termagant strife below.
Lying there at my feet in the chasm they beat,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Where in fury they’re lashed to foam
‘Gainst stray fallen blocks of shattered old rocks,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And in agony writhe and moan.


But when they get free, how they rollick with glee,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Delighted my bondage to break,
And surge through the gorge into whirlpools, thence forge
‡‡‡‡‡‡Their way to Ontario Lake.
From the strength of my force, they take their long course,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Where the banks of St. Lawrence guide,
Till they sweep full and free out to the blue sea,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Where the waters are vast and wide.
When they bid me good-bye, I neither fret nor sigh
‡‡‡‡‡‡For I know they will merge with the tide,
And in clouds, spray or foam, with the winds wander home,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And again o’er my cataract glide.
For year in and year out, they come back with a shout,
‡‡‡‡‡‡From far parts of the old hemisphere,
To my green swarded shore, for my cataract’s roar
‡‡‡‡‡‡Has a musical charm to their ear.
They enjoy the great fun, o’er the rapids to run,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And leap into limitless space,
Then when they alight, from my great lofty height,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Down through the gorge run and race.


I’ve been a long time in this northern clime,
‡‡‡‡‡‡As Niagara’s flown on and on,
And centuries have sped since its waters I’ve shed,
‡‡‡‡‡‡As to me they have come and gone.
My banks and bowers are now laden with flowers,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Where once the great forests held sway,
For man’s hand now designs, which did once the Divine’s
‡‡‡‡‡‡In an earlier ancient day.
I send them betimes, when favoring gale inclines,
‡‡‡‡‡‡A welcome refreshing cool shower,
That their spirits renew, like the moistening dew
‡‡‡‡‡‡That comes in the early morn hour,
The summer sun beams on the spray at times gleams,
‡‡‡‡‡‡As winds lift it up on their arm,
And clear rainbow rays reflect on these sprays
‡‡‡‡‡‡Their radiant beauty and charm.


In stern winter’s embrace, or the sun’s beaming face,
‡‡‡‡‡‡These torrents dash over my bounds,
And incessantly flow through ice, sleet or snow,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And ever their roar resounds.
From the staggering shocks down over the rocks
‡‡‡‡‡‡A mist to the heavens ascends,
Which rears an ice bridge, with its girders and ridge,
‡‡‡‡‡‡That across my borders extends.
This misty spray sprite, in its devious flight,
‡‡‡‡‡‡With summer’s sunbeams paint rainbows,
But in winter’s chill grip, when icicles drip,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Sculptures weird fairy forms where it goes.


My old solid bed rocks have weathered the shocks
‡‡‡‡‡‡Of earthquakes and tempests and storm,
But the teeth of the tides, as it o’er my breast glides,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Have gnawed away part of my form.
These tides have flown on, as the ages have gone,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And I’ve seen races pass away,
Who lived out their life ‘mid its labor and strife,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And now mingle with earth and clay.


With their feastings and songs, I attract great throngs
‡‡‡‡‡‡From every known portion of earth,
Who gaze and wonder if my floods and thunder
‡‡‡‡‡‡Date back to the time of its birth.
And the ages pass by and the winds at times sigh,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And the sun, moon and stars rule the sky,
But I keep in my breast their yearning request,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And neither affirm nor deny.
And so the world’s throng have gazed on me long,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And heard my floods roar like thunder,
Till the sights and sound, as they pour and bound,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Have made me the world’s great wonder.


In the days of yore on my dense wooded shore,
‡‡‡‡‡‡The wild forest beasts came to drink,
And the Indian’s shrill yell, with its echoing swell,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Filled the canyon from brink to brink.
Then all Nature was wild and the sun kindly smiled
‡‡‡‡‡‡On a primitive race of man,
Who paddled a canoe, camped under skies blue,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And was monarch of all it o’er ran.
From my fleet flowing floods in the heart of his woods,
‡‡‡‡‡‡His mind caught a glimpse divine,
And when their voice roared, his gods he implored,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And made me the seat of his shrine.
Ah ! they were my guests on their hunting quests,
‡‡‡‡‡‡When this land was the home of these braves,
In far hunting ground, their souls may be found,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Here their ashes lie scattered in graves.


I hold in my palms two friendly clasped hands
‡‡‡‡‡‡Of nations whose love will ne’er cease;
With floods from both hands, I baptize these two lands
‡‡‡‡‡‡In the name of the spirit of peace.
And may there abide in these lands side by side,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Through season of good or ill,
A reign of long peace, may my arc never cease
‡‡‡‡‡‡To betoken their national good will.
My stream parts in twain, but their blood is the same,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And they hold sway on sea and land,
And lead the broad way to that promising day
‡‡‡‡‡‡That the great Prince of Peace has planned.

Source: William Melville McClemont (1865-1935) published this privately in Hamilton, Ontario, undated.

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