The Legend of the White Canoe by William Trumbull

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legend white
The American Falls From Prospect Point, by F. V. Du Mond. Taken from The Legend of the White Canoe.

“Long before the solitudes of western New York were disturbed by the advent of the white man, it was the custom of the Indian tribes to assemble occasionally at Niagara, and offer sacrifice to the Spirit of the Falls.
This sacrifice consisted of a white birch-bark canoe, which was sent over the terrible cliff, filled with ripe fruits and blooming flowers, and bearing the fairest girl in the tribe who had just attained the age of womanhood.”

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡I. PROEM.

MID the rush of mighty waters, in the thundering cataract’s roar,
Where Niagara’s streaming rapids down in headlong torrent pour ;
Where the serried waves like chargers madly leaping to the fray,
Fling aloft their snowy crests and toss their manes of flying spray,
Rearing, plunging, onward urging — Nature’s glorious cavalry !
Where th’ eternal sweep of waters like the unending surge of time,
Pulsing, throbs in rhythmic measure to a wondrous strain sublime :
Dwells, so ancient legends say, the mighty Spirit of the Falls,
Who from out the tumult, hoarsely, for unbounded homage calls.
Here the children of the forest, spellbound by that deafening roar,
Stopped to gaze with listening wonder, in the simpler days of yore ;
Awe-struck, gazed in silent worship, well beseeming Nature’s child,
As in chase they roamed the plain, or tracked in war the pathless wild :
And as often as they listened, on the voices of the flood
Deep were borne the Spirit’s mutterings, calling fierce for human blood ;
Ay, and sacrifice more cruel in that cry they understood :
Gift of Nature’s choicest treasure, peerless budding womanhood !    Continue reading “The Legend of the White Canoe by William Trumbull”

Uncle Alvin at Niagara by Almon Trask Allis

Alvin   

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Artist’s Sketch of Three Sisters and Goat Islands Just Above Niagara Falls. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

“The last excursion of the year,” I read the other day,
Affordin’ opportunity to see grand old Niagara ;
And for a dollar and a half, to go up there and back,
And see the sights, and ride above two hundred miles of track,
Seemed like we’d get our money’s worth, if we could get away,
And leave the farm and kitchen cares behind us for a day.
We’d been a-wantin’, all these years, to go and see the falls,
But, somehow, when the chances came there’ d be so many calls
For both our time and money, that the chances slipped away,
While year climbed on the top of year, ’til we are growin’ gray ;
And still the cares we have to meet are such a clingin’ kind,
It’s often mighty difficult to slip them off behind,
And dump them in a heap somewhere, or lay them on a shelf,
While we get out from under, and can slip off by ourself.
But nature seemed to favor us ; the season was so fine
We got our summer’s work along a bit ahead of time ;
And nothin’ seemed a-crowdin’, like, and coaxin’ to be done,
As is the case too frequently, to keep us on the run ;
And Nancy hadn’t been away, exceptin’ to the fair,
To loosen up the constant strain of daily wear and tear
Of wrestlin’ with problems which perplex a woman’s brain,
And keep her fingers busy, and her muscles on the strain,
For such a long time back that I’m almost ashamed to tell,
And if I really wanted to, I couldn’t very well ;
And I, myself, had worked so long, as farmers have to do,
To keep the work from snarlin’, like, and keep it payin’, too,
That I was glad to see a chance to lay aside the strain
Which makes the years to tell on me as well as Nancy Jane ;
And when I read the notice, why, it seemed to strike us so,
That both of us together said, “I guess we’d better go.”
And so the thing was settled, and we’d picked our grapes and plums
To be ahead of frost or thieves, provided either comes ;
For frosts may be expected almost any pleasant night,
And thieves, if not expected, are so plenty that they might ;
And Nancy had our luncheon baked, and I had bought some cheese,
And she had found a paste-board box, as handy as you please
To put our picnic dinner in ; so when the mornin’ came,    Continue reading “Uncle Alvin at Niagara by Almon Trask Allis”

The River Niagara by Donald Lashelle

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1930’s Aerial View of Niagara Falls. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

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In nature, all acts that have gone before
Leave traces, record marks, clues, tracks in store
That many persons pause to ponder o’er.
From inside outwards was the earth’s crust made,
The hollows caved in, the high mountains stayed,
Encircling flames produced the waters vast,
And time and seasons scaled things to the last.

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Would thirty thousand years of effort score
On your astonishment a mark, or more?
Then hearken to a tale of work replete
With action in rain, sunshine, frost and sleet.
The speaker is NIAG’RA RIVER, old,
Clear, turbulent, odd, scenic giver, bold.

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With strength unshorn by time, and white of brow,
But not from years, I am the center now
For myriads that travel from far and
Near to view my Falls as the cascade grand.
My life is in the cycle of the rain,
My strength from waters the Great Lakes retain.

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The first to view the drainage plan, of three
Such large lakes flowing into Erie free,
Thence through me to a fifth and on to sea,
Said, “This is quite rare and not apt to be.”
Important link am I, from fourth to last,
The present scanned, the future viewed, or past.

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The deep flow of my misting Horseshoe Falls,
Out does thin water leaping from side walls.
The view and sound effects are rapturous,
The roar, thump grind and spray continuous.
At what they sense, the millions gaze appalled,
Awondering, breath indrawn, stilled, enthralled.   Continue reading “The River Niagara by Donald Lashelle”

Niagara by Arthur William Fisher

Niagara by Arthur William Fisher
Portrait of Arthur William Fisher
                        I

NIAGARA, how charms thy name
    Resounding from thy high walled sheer!
How sweet thy water's far acclaim
    That bursts upon my pricking ear!
How beams my eye with kindling flame
    As to thy presence I draw near,
Where beautied grandure's falling swell
Weaves still time's awful, mystic spell!

I gaze at thee from nearest shore,
    Close by the impending brink,
In wonder at thy fearful pour
Of waters, til, amazèd more
    Than I can tell or think,
I only see thy mist's fine shower
    That wafts upon these walls,
And vision dim that mighty Power,
    The Great Spirit of the Falls.

                    II

But lo ! up stream, in fitful dream,
    The rolling, rumbling rapids roar,
And toss and tilt and turn and teem,
And gurgle in their cascades' gleam
    From isle to isle and isle to shore;
        And oft repeat the dazzling feat,
Display their leaping wonders more,
Rush round the rocks with flaring locks,
Lead as bellweathers do their flocks,
    While through their tree-trimmed way they pour,
        These bounding waters, fleet, more fleet,
To gather in one onward rush
    Adown their troubled, rocky bed,
And struggle, straggle, gurgle, gush,
    To follow where their leaders led;
        But panting now for breath,
            They stagger to the edge
            Of overhanging ledge,
        Fearing the plunge beneath;
When forth in foam their fellows come,
Cheering and jeering the faltering and fearing,
Till onto the precipice they rush with a roar,
Exulting and leaping, as comrades before;
Yet staring, stumbling, crashing, crumbling,
    As host with host o'erpowering,
Each glistening wight of air commingled,
    They fall in gulf devouring;
Or, flaring, flashing, darting, dashing,
    To break as gleaming snow,
While splitting, splashing, gnawing, gnashing
    Upon the rocks below;
Whence o'er the heights their spirits towering,
Sweeping, swaying, rising, lowering,
    Rejoin the ceaseless flow,
That with recurring, falling shock,
    Born on the wind's bluff blast,
Wears e'er amain the shelving rock,
    And undermines aghast.
    There as by mighty hand,
A cavern forms, carved by the storms
    Of vexed spray's pelting wave;
    And in that rocky cave
Rough columns stand with altar grand;
    While fittingly conforms
The spray-worn dome and bowlder pave,
Round which reëcho e'er a stave
    Of wailing wind's weird band;
And there before the cavern door,
Attended with intoning roar,
    E'er falls the Bridal Veil
    And sweeps the filmy rail,
Which now through Bridal Hall are fanned,
Now screen that Wind's Cave from the land. 
 Continue reading "Niagara  by Arthur William Fisher" 

Looking for Niagara by E. R. Baxter III

It’s Niagara lost
in the 20th century, disappeared
from the cereal box, up in mist,
a canvas backdrop in one hundred thousand
dead photographs, fading from postcards,
gone to Bermuda, Disney World, flown
to Aruba, splish took a bath at Niagara
splash went to Vegas for the weekend—
but had room at the motel
for Joseph and Marilyn
and were they impressed?
There’s no record of it.

But the first human record at Niagara
before it had name–the first human at ?
who left a flint spear point, water
falling at the whirlpool then,
at old gorge, and the spear point:
dropped in fear, in awe,
in wonder at new water,
ice falling who thought of it as !

Wandering hunter, archaeologists say, who
if he were there at all, didn’t stay long,
as if he had, for months let’s say, they’d
have known—would have found the tree
against which he relieved himself,
charcoal trace on stone, where he
cooked fish—as if no Niagara rock
has been left unturned.

The most recent evidence indicates he
did stay but a brief time—only minutes—
that dizzy from spoiled fish innards
he stumbled out of the woods
toward thunder, saw falling water, stared
slack-jawed into mists and steam rising
against south gorge wall, had visions:

The wall exploding, water rushing forth
gnawing south, divers fearful things—
dropped his spear, fled empty-handed
and throwing up back among the trees
and who wouldn’t have?

What he saw: the sun rising and setting
3 million 647 thousand 445 times, ten
thousand winters and springs, trees
leafing out, hot suns, leaves coloring,
withering, dropping, snows whirling,
grass greening, fogs gathering, rains,
trees dying, toppling, new trees as slim
as spears growing thicker than his body,
salamanders mating between his gnarled toes,
mice nibbling algae from his ankles, a wolf
marking territory on his left shin

Continue reading “Looking for Niagara by E. R. Baxter III”