The Hermit of Niagara by Professor James A. Martling

martling

martling
Francis Abbott Drowning in Niagara River. From Osgoode Bradbury, Francis Abbott; or, The Hermit of Niagara: A Tale of the Old and New World.  1846

“Though in thy veil of mist thou hid’st from me,
‡‡Thy glistening footsteps have I hither tracked :
Here on this rock I sit and wait for thee —
‡‡Thee love, thou Spirit of the Cataract.
O list again my tale of constancy !

“I’ve dreamed of thee since boyhood.   I have thought
‡‡Of thee at midnight, when beneath the stars
The whole earth slept, and thou hast been inwrought
‡‡Into my daytime reveries on the cloudy cars
Which sailed the sky with happy breezes fraught.

“And I have heard thy voice come calling me
‡‡When underneath the rustling beech I lay,
And watched the wave that to the terraced knee
‡‡Of the green hill leaped, hound-like, then away
Along the sands went gambolling toward thee.

“And I have thought that all things sought for thee ;
‡‡For thee the Sun climbed up the eastern shore,
Fresh bathed from the Atlantic’s purity,
‡‡And weaved thee rainbow garlands, and threw o’er
Thy form, of sheen and gold a gorgeous drapery.

“I have not sought the circles of the gay,
‡‡Where wanton beauty half unveiled is whirled
In the mad dance, by passionate youths that pay
‡‡Their amorous glances ; nor to breasts impearled
Nor all their wealth of charms are eyes forbid to stray.

“Nor could halls of learning, — nor the stage
‡‡Rich with enchantment, where the poet’s soul
Hath shed its affluence, — nor the voice of sage
‡‡Dewy with scripture, weaken thy control,
Nor me from my devotion disengage.

“Nor love, nor wine, nor song, nor power, nor gold
‡‡Nor the sweet glimpses of domestic bliss
That wooed me oft !   No, thy caresses cold
‡‡And pure embraces, and the frequent kiss
That falls like rain, dearer than all I hold !

“Thou hast all power, all passion in thyself
‡‡Thou Spirit of the Cataract, and I gaze
Where leap the waters from their rocky shelf
‡‡Down the abyss to thee with no amaze,
For thy charms lure sea-sprite and mountain-elf.

“The spirits of the mountain peaks, that keep
‡‡The hidden treasures of the mighty west,
Steal down the moonlit rivulets to peep
‡‡Upon the beauty of thy snowy breast
Unveiled amid the tossings of thy sleep.

“The spirits that collect the dews, and fill
‡‡The broad lakes, fill them for my love alone,
Their purity but equals thine : distil
‡‡The stars on thee their light, and o’er thy throne
Scatter the radiance of their holy bill.

“No more delay, my destiny divine,
‡‡But give the token of my speedy bliss :
I know my life shall be drawn into thine
‡‡Even as my whole heart already is :
And yet I wait the anticipated sign.

“Three happy yet three weary months have seen
‡‡Me waiting in my strange novitiate,
O love, thou knowest how constant I have been
‡‡Watching and waiting at the diamond gate
That flashes me and my pure love between.

“She comes !   She comes !   I see the radiant star
‡‡Upon her brow — the glory of her face !
She comes !   She comes !   she lifts the silver bar !
O love, in thine my arms I interlace,
And we forever more united are !”

Source: Professor James Abraham Martling. Poems of Home and Country. Boston: James H. Earle, Publisher, 1885

Uncle Alvin at Niagara by Almon Trask Allis

Alvin   

alvin
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 Hermit of the Falls by Lydia Huntley Sigourney

sigourney hermit
Hut on Goat Island Used By Francis Abbott. the Hermit of Niagara, from 1829-1831. Sketch by C. Breckinridge Porter

It was the leafy month of June,
And joyous Nature, all in tune,
‡‡With wreathing buds was drest,
As toward Niagaras fearful side
‡‡A youthful stranger prest;
His ruddy cheek was blanched with awe
And scarce he seemed his breath to draw,
‡‡While bending oer its brim,
He marked its strong, unfathomed tide,
‡‡And heard its thunder-hymn.

His measured week too quickly fled,
Another, and another sped,
And soon the summer rose decayed,
The moon of autumn sank in shade;
Years filled their circle, brief and fair,
Yet still the enthusiast lingered there,
‡‡Till winter hurled its dart:
For deeper round his soul was wove
A mystic chain of quenchless love,
That would not let him part. Continue reading “The Hermit of the Falls by Lydia Huntley Sigourney”

To a Flower by Alexander Wellington Crawford

(Found Some Years Ago at the Foot of Goat Island, Niagara)
To a Flower
Horseshoe Fall and Goat Island Seen from Table Rock by James Hope-Wallace. Courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

I turned aside to pluck thee, sweetest flower,
From thy low bed, where, almost hid from sight,
Thou lay’st besieged by rocks, whose giant power
Was broken ere they reached thee with their might.

Thou grewest there, so tiny and alone,
Among the rocks that formed thy hardened bed;
And yet thou seem’st no sadness to have known,
For heaven’s blue had crowned thy tender head.

Thou wast the only flower that I could see —
The place around was ruinously bare;
And yet thou grewest there contentedly,
Although thou livedst on but rocky fare.

Thou only heardst the cataract’s fierce roar —
The torrents never reached thy rocky bed;
So thou wast safe, though near where fierce floods pour;
The spray but dashed upon thy bending head.

I found thee with thy sweetness hid away,
Far from my path upon the rocks beneath;
I clambered down to claim without delay
Thy slender beauty and thy fragrant breath.

Thou hast for me the tenderest memory,
For him, who was my comrade in those days;
Scarce can I meet until eternity,
When God brings him from India’s burning rays.

I hold thee as a treasure to my heart —
Thy life was so much like my own poor life;
For I, like thee, alone must do my part,
And stand unaided amidst rocks of strife.

And, like thee, may I pass my feeble day,
And never know the torrent’s deadly force;
But may just feel the invigorating spray,
And bless some traveller in his earthly course.

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

Originally published in Crawford’s Poems of Yesterday  Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1924

The Cataract Isle by Christopher Pearse Cranch

The Emerald Isle by Christopher Pearse Cranch
Christopher Pearse Cranch
I wandered through the ancient wood
    That crowns the cataract isle.
I heard the roaring of the flood
    And saw its wild, fierce smile.

Through tall tree-tops the sunshine flecked
    The huge trunks and the ground;
And the pomp of fullest summer decked
    The island all around.

And winding paths led all along
    Where friends and lovers strayed;
And voices rose with laugh and song
    From sheltered nooks of shade.

Through opening forest vistas whirled
    The rapids’ foamy flash,
As they boiled along and plunged and swirled,
    And neared the last long dash.

I crept to the island’s outer verge,
    Where the grand, broad river fell —
Fell sheer down mid foam and surge,
    In a white and blinding hell!

The steady rainbow gayly shone
    Above the precipice;
And a deep, low tone of a thunder-groan
    Rolled up from the drear abyss.

And all the day sprang up the spray,
    Where the broad, white sheets were poured,
And fell around in showery play,
    And upward curled and soared.

And all the night those sheets of white
    Gleamed through the spectral mist,
When o’er the isle the broad moonlight
    The wintry foam-flakes kissed.

Mirrored within thy dreamy thought,
    I see it, feel it all
That island with sweet visions fraught,
    That awful waterfall.

With sun-flecked trees, and birds, and flowers,
    The Isle of Life is fair:
But one deep voice thrills through its hours,
    One spectral form is there!

A power no mortal can resist,
    Rolling forever on —
A floating cloud, a shadowy mist,
    Eternal undertone!

And through the sunny vistas gleam
    The fate, the solemn smile;
Life is Niagara’s rushing stream,
    Its dreams — that peaceful isle!

Source: Myron T. Pritchard, comp. Poetry of Niagara. Boston: Lothrop Publishing Co., 1901.

Previously published in R. L. Johnson. Niagara: Its History, Incidents and Poetry Washington: W. Neale, 1898