Niagara Daredevil, 37, Buried Near the Falls by Gwendolyn MacEwen

My apologies to Gwendolyn MacEwen’s family for initially publishing this poem on the Niagara Falls Poetry Project website without waiting for proper copyright permission.  It has been removed at the family’s request.


The poem, about daredevil Karel Soucek, was published  in Poetry Canada Review, vol. 8, no. 4,  1987

Read about Gwendolyn MacEwen

A Shropshire Lad by John Betjeman

betjeman

Matthew Webb Killed in the Whirlpool Rapids July 24 1883. Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

The gas was on in the Institute,
The flare was up in the gym,
A man was running a mineral line,
A lass was singing a hymn,
When Captain Webb the Dawley man,
Captain Webb from Dawley,
Came swimming along the old canal
That carried the bricks to Lawley.
Swimming along –
Swimming along –
Swimming along from Severn,
And paying a call at Dawley Bank while swimming along to Heaven.

The sun shone low on the railway line
And over the bricks and stacks
And in at the upstairs windows
Of the Dawley houses’ backs
When we saw the ghost of Captain Webb,
Webb in a water sheeting,
Come dripping along in a bathing dress
To the Saturday evening meeting.
Dripping along –
Dripping along –
To the Congregational Hall;
Dripping and still he rose over the sill and faded away in a wall.

There wasn’t a man in Oakengates
That hadn’t got hold of the tale,
And over the valley in Ironbridge,
And round by Coalbrookdale,
How Captain Webb the Dawley man,
Captain Webb from Dawley,
Rose rigid and dead from the old canal
That carries the bricks to Lawley.
Rigid and dead –
Rigid and dead –
To the Saturday congregation,
Paying a call at Dawley Bank on the way to his destination.


Source: Betjeman’s Banana Blush: Sir John Betjeman the Poet Laureate Reads His Verse.  Charisma Records, 1973.

Read about Sir John Betjeman

Captain Matthew Webb was a world-renowned swimmer who attempted to swim the Whirlpool Rapids at Niagara Falls on July 24, 1883. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Niagara Falls, New York. Read about Captain Webb here.

Click here for another story about Webb’s ghost

Sam Patch. Words and Music by Cornelius Eady


I’m the king of the Rochester Falls
Sam Patch has answered the call
This morning you’ll see it all.

The whirl of the water
That don’t bother me
Blood-thirsty crowd
That don’t bother me
Wind at my back
That don’t bother me
False friends cheering
That don’t bother me

cornelius
Poster Announcing Sam Patch’s Last Jump. Courtesy of Wikipedia

I’m the king of the Genesee
Every eye here is planted on me.
Roll up and see what you’ve
Never seen

The whirl of the water
That don’t bother me
Blood-thirsty crowd
That don’t bother me
Wind at my back
That don’t bother me
False friends cheering
That don’t bother me

Cho:
Fall and move on
Fall and move on
Fall and move on, boy,
Fall and move on
Fall and move on
Fall and move on,
Fall and move on, boy
Fall and move on.

The word has spread
The time has come
Come watch me leap
Into kingdom come
Come watch a day
That’s never been done.

The whirl of the water
That don’t bother me
Blood-thirsty crowd
That don’t bother me
Wind at my back
That don’t bother me
False friends cheering
That don’t bother me

The platform wobbles
Like a dancing bear
The foam and the spray
Rise like ghost in the air
Soon I will dance between
Here and there

The roar of the water
That don’t bother me
Blood-thirsty crowd
That don’t bother me
Wind at my back
That don’t bother me
False friends cheering
That don’t bother me

Will I fall and move on?


Cornelius Eady: Loops, and Vocals
Mitizie Collins: Hammered Dulcimer
Marvin Sewell: Electric Guitar
Emma Alabaster: Bass
Concetta Abbate: Violin

Source: The author.  First published in his music chapbook Book of Hooks, Kattywompus Press, 2013

About Cornelius Eady

Sam Patch jumped from a ladder at the base of Goat Island twice in the fall of 1829, and was killed later that year jumping at the Genessee Falls. Read more about Sam Patch.

Read Eady’s poem The Death of Sam Patch

The Death of Sam Patch by Cornelius Eady

eady
Sam Patch’s Last Jump. By Internet Archive Book Images

No, there’s no mistaking Mr. Patch.
History will lead him to a watery grave
In my hometown of Rochester, NY.
He will disappear after he jumps
Only to return with the spring thaw.
There is so much in his brief fame
To ponder, that tugs at us.
Rochester, like any mill town
Is full of reckless death,
Yet the fate of Patch is on a par
With the local Native Americans, at least
When I attended grade school
We were taught the story
Of a man who made his living
Oddly, with a tame black bear
And calculation.
Any school child my age
Recalls his last moments on earth.
– Was there actually
A parade? A premonition?
Did he really waver at the top of the platform
Just before he jumped? Any contemporary of mine
Carries this, the language his body,
A wrong angle, recites
As it hits the gorge.
Here is the lesson of the
Tightrope walker, and of course,
A kid’s morbid curiosity –
A body, suspended in ice,
Worked over three months
By the elements –
What happens? One can only guess
How far away it must have seemed
From the energy of his last words,
No mistake in the way he brandished them
Against the spray.
William Carlos Williams
Will make much of the beginnings
Of our Icarus,
Who gets his start in Paterson, NJ,
To plunge headlong into my town’s
Settler past. What else have I learned
Besides the beauty of the dare?


Source: Prairie Schooner, Vol. 67, No. 3 (Fall 1993), pp. 12-13

About Cornelius Eady

Sam Patch jumped from a ladder at the base of Goat Island twice in the fall of 1829, and was killed later that year jumping at the Genessee Falls. Read more about Sam Patch.

Read the words and listen to a performance of Cornelius Eady singing his song Sam Patch.

Niagara’s Charms and Death of Webb by James McIntyre

charms

charms
Matthew Webb killed in the Whirlpool Rapids July 24 1883. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Gazing on rapids mighty sea,
Struggling fiercely to be free,
But drawn downwards in its course
By gravitation’s wondrous force,
O’er those perpendicular walls,
Hurled ’mong mighty rocks it falls,
Causing the earth to throb and shake
Like to the tremor of earthquake.

Thus the world’s greatest wonder
Reverberates like peals of thunder,
Enshrined with mist and beauteous glow
Of varied tints of the rainbow,
Most glorious sight the human eye
Hath ever seen beneath the sky,
Along these banks none ever trod
But did feel grateful to his God,
For lavishing with bounteous hand
Glories majestic and so grand.

The foaming billows soon are seen
Transformed into a beauteous green,
Plunged by whirlpools dread commotion
It becomes a seething ocean,
Where furies join in surging dance
From centre to circumference,
This is the favorite abode
Of Neptune, mightiest sea God,
He hath decreed none shall survive
Who will into this vortex dive.

Webb swam the English channel brave,
Like seabird he did love to lave
His breast upon the mightiest wave,
Alas, found here a watery grave;
Torrent onward rushes frantic
On its course to the Atlantic,
But on its way doth gently flow
Through blue lake Ontario,
Rejoicing on its way it smiles,
Kissing the shores of Thousand Isles,
Mingling with St. Lawrance motion,
It soon is blended with the ocean.


Source: Niagara’s Charms and Death of Webb was published in McIntyre, James. Poems of James McIntyre.  Ingersoll: The Chronicle, 1889.

Biography of James McIntyre in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.