Untitled by Joseph John Gurney

gurney

gurney
Joseph John Gurney Figurine by Staffordshire Pottery

Six hundred twenty thousand tuns, each minute, is the measure,
That fills thy giant bowl for us with wonder, awe, and pleasure ;
Niagara the great, the free, old Erie’s swift discharger,
The billowy breast that banished thee, but sends thee to a larger.
Ontario bids a welcome to thy foaming, gushing waters,
That freshly fill her yawning caves, and nourish all her daughters.
Sunshine and rain contend for thee, thou plaything of all weathers,
Thy falling flood of glass and pearls breaks into fairest feathers ;
But where the deeper billows roll o’er the centre of thy crescent,
Thy vest is of liquid emerald, with native snows florescent.
Thy stream below is a floating field of winter’s purest whiteness,
Till it melts away into green and grey, rejoicing in its brightness.
Clouds of thy own creation rise, in wild array, around thee,
And in her zone of magic hues, the radiant bow hath bound thee.
Farewell, flow on — in bygone worlds thy veteran locks were hoary,
And forests wild, untrod by man, have sung thine ancient glory.
A meaner muse of modern days, now ventures to admire thee,
Her music thou may’st well despise — thy own shall never tire thee.

Source: Joseph John Gurney. A Journey in North America, Described in Familiar Letters to Amelia Opie. Norwich: Printed for Private Circulation, 1841. p. 320

Included in the anthology:  Charles Mason Dow. Anthology and Bibliography of Niagara Falls. Albany: State of New York, 1921

The Genius of Niagara by John Chase Lord

lord

lord
John Chase Lord

Proud demon of the waters — thou
‡‡Around whose stern and stormy brow
Circles the rainbow’s varied gem —
‡‡The Vapor Spirit’s diadem —
While rushing headlong at they feet,
The everlasting thunders meet.

Throned on the mists, around thy form
‡‡Is dashing an eternal storm,
Whose ceaseless, changeless earthquake shock
‡‡The tempests of old Ocean mock.
And the dark Sea-King yields to thee,
The meed of might and majesty.

Depth, Sound, Immensity have lent
‡‡Their terrors to thy element;
Thy congregated waters yell
‡‡Down caverns fathomless as Hell,
While in Heaven’s glorious hues are set
About thy gorgeous coronet.

Titanic winter strives in vain
‡‡To bind thee in his icy chain,
Which rent by thy resistless wave
‡‡Finds in thy fearful depths — a grave;
Or the torn fragments glistening lie
In the glare of thy kingly eye.

A silvery web among thy trees
‡‡Unruffled by the passing breeze
The vanquished Ice-King for thee weaves,
‡‡And gives them gems for winter leaves,
And rears thee columns, bright and vast,
Their radiance through thy halls to cast.

The giant Time hath never yet
‡‡His footsteps in thy waters set:
Grimly passing thy fall, he tries
‡‡To notch his by-gone centuries
Along the dark and devious track
Of they rock-crashing Cataract.

Emblem of Power —  the mighty Sun
‡‡Hath found and left thee roaring on,
Thou wert with Chaos, e’re his light
‡‡Shone out upon the starless night,
Sole relic of that awful day
When all in wild confusion lay.

And when Air, Earth, and Sea and Sky
‡‡Formless again together lie,
When judgement fires are kindling o’er
‡‡Old Nature’s wreck — Niagara’s roar,
First echo in the ear of Time,
Shall sing his requiem sublime.

Source: John Chase Lord. Occasional Poems. Buffalo: Breed and Lent, 1869

Also published in Dow, Charles Mason.  Anthology and Bibliography of Niagara Falls. Albany: State of New York, 1921

 

Marriage by Gregory Corso

corso

Should I get married? Should I be Good?
Astound the girl next door with my velvet suit and faustaus hood?
Don’t take her to movies but to cemeteries
tell all about werewolf bathtubs and forked clarinets
then desire her and kiss her and all the preliminaries
and she going just so far and I understanding why
not getting angry saying You must feel! It’s beautiful to feel!
Instead take her in my arms lean against an old crooked tombstone
and woo her the entire night the constellations in the sky—

When she introduces me to her parents
back straightened, hair finally combed, strangled by a tie,
should I sit knees together on their 3rd degree sofa
and not ask Where’s the bathroom?
How else to feel other than I am,
often thinking Flash Gordon soap—
O how terrible it must be for a young man
seated before a family and the family thinking
We never saw him before! He wants our Mary Lou!
After tea and homemade cookies they ask What do you do for a living?
Should I tell them? Would they like me then?
Say All right get married, we’re losing a daughter
but we’re gaining a son—
And should I then ask Where’s the bathroom?

O God, and the wedding! All her family and her friends
and only a handful of mine all scroungy and bearded
just waiting to get at the drinks and food—
And the priest! He looking at me as if I masturbated
asking me Do you take this woman for your lawful wedded wife?
And I trembling what to say say Pie Glue!
I kiss the bride all those corny men slapping me on the back
She’s all yours, boy! Ha-ha-ha!
And in their eyes you could see some obscene honeymoon going on—

then all that absurd rice and clanky cans and shoes
Niagara Falls! Hordes of us! Husbands! Wives! Flowers! Chocolates!
All streaming into cozy hotels
All going to do the same thing tonight
The indifferent clerk he knowing what was going to happen
The lobby zombies they knowing what
The whistling elevator man he knowing
The winking bellboy knowing
Everybody knowing! I’d be almost inclined not to do anything!
Stay up all night! Stare that hotel clerk in the eye!
Screaming: I deny honeymoon! I deny honeymoon!
running rampant into those almost climatic suites
yelling Radio belly! Cat shovel!
O I’d live in Niagara forever! in a dark cave beneath the Falls
I’d sit there the Mad Honeymooner devising ways to break marriages, a scourge of bigamy a saint of divorce—

But I should get married I should be good
How nice it’d be to come home to her
and sit by the fireplace and she in the kitchen
aproned young and lovely wanting my baby
and so happy about me she burns the roast beef
and comes crying to me and I get up from my big papa chair
saying Christmas teeth! Radiant brains! Apple deaf!
God what a husband I’d make! Yes, I should get married!
So much to do! like sneaking into Mr Jones’ house late at night
and cover his golf clubs with 1920 Norwegian books
Like hanging a picture of Rimbaud on the lawnmower
like pasting Tannu Tuva postage stamps all over the picket fence
like when Mrs Kindhead comes to collect for the Community Chest
grab her and tell her There are unfavorable omens in the sky!
And when the mayor comes to get my vote tell him
When are you going to stop people killing whales!
And when the milkman comes leave him a note in the bottle
Penguin dust, bring me penguin dust, I want penguin dust—

Yet if I should get married and it’s Connecticut and snow
and she gives birth to a child and I am sleepless, worn,
up for nights, head bowed against a quiet window, the past behind me,
finding myself in the most common of situations a trembling man
knowledged with responsibility not twig-smear not Roman coin soup—
O what would that be like!
Surely I’d give it for a nipple a rubber Tacitus
For a rattle bag of broken Bach records
Tack Della Francesca all over its crib
Sew the Greek alphabet on its bib
And build for its playpen a roofless Parthenon

No, I doubt I’d be that kind of father
not rural not snow no quiet window
but hot smelly New York City
seven flights up, roaches and rats in the walls
a fat Reichian wife screeching over potatoes Get a job!
And five nose running brats in love with Batman
And the neighbors all toothless and dry haired
like those hag masses of the 18th century
all wanting to come in and watch TV
The landlord wants his rent
Grocery store Blue Cross Gas & Electric Knights of Columbus
Impossible to lie back and dream Telephone snow, ghost parking–
No! I should not get married and I should never get married!
But—imagine if I were to marry a beautiful sophisticated woman
tall and pale wearing an elegant black dress and long black gloves
holding a cigarette holder in one hand and highball in the other
and we lived high up a penthouse with a huge window
from which we could see all of New York and even farther on clearer days
No I can’t imagine myself married to that pleasant prison dream—

O but what about love? I forget love
not that I am incapable of love
it’s just that I see love as odd as wearing shoes—
I never wanted to marry a girl who was like my mother
And Ingrid Bergman was always impossible
And there’s maybe a girl now but she’s already married
And I don’t like men and—
but there’s got to be somebody!
Because what if I’m 60 years old and not married,
all alone in furnished room with pee stains on my underwear
and everybody else is married! All in the universe married but me!

Ah, yet well I know that were a woman possible as I am possible
then marriage would be possible—
Like SHE in her lonely alien gaud waiting her Egyptian lover
so I wait—bereft of 2,000 years and the bath of life.

Source: Corso, Gregory.  The Happy Birthday of Death. New York: New Directions Publishing, 1960

Niagara by Edith Wyatt

wyatt

wyatt
Panoramic view of Niagara Falls from Canadian side of river showing both American and Horseshoe Falls, 1913. Photo by Francis King. Courtesy of Library of Congress

(a nature poem)

Cool the crystal mist is falling where my song is calling, calling
‡‡Over highland, over lowland, fog-blown bluff and bouldered shore:
Proud my snow-rapt currents leaping from Superior’s green keeping.
‡‡Down from Michigan’s gray sweeping toward the Rapid’s eddied floor.

Rain, hail, dew and storm-cloud swing me; from the heights the hollows wring me;
‡‡Filtered clay and field silt bring me silent through the dark-breathed loam,
Down the thousand-terraced highlands till the skyland lake-beds wing me —
‡‡Flying down and down in beauty through the chasm’s flocking foam.

Down from Huron, down from Erie, tho the wild duck’s wing grow weary,
‡‡Tribe and nation part and vanish like the spin-drift haze of morn,
Fresh my full-fold song is falling and my voice is calling, calling
‡‡Down from far-poured lake and highland as I sang when I was born.

South, North, East and West untiring speak my brother seas in splendor,
‡‡Tell their dominant, desiring, claimant over coast and main,
Mine the choiring of a woman’s chord immortal, of surrender —
‡‡Of the splendor of desiring, deep to give and give again.

Chord of star-fused loam and silver-surgent lake cloud’s generation,
‡‡Here I sing the earth’s still dreaming down my green-poured currents’ length,
Voice of river-rocking valleys, rich heart plains and heights’ creation,
‡‡Clear-veiled chord that locked in your mother’s life, your father’s strength.

Cool the fog-flocked mists are swinging. Soar, my dream; and silver winging,
‡‡Call my air-hung music ringing, toward the crystal-buoyed morn —
Full-fold music from the highlands, where my splendor’s voice is singing,
‡‡Fresh from flooded shores and skylands as I sang when I was born.

Source:  Literary Digest, September 27, 1913 p. 544

Originally published in Collier’s Weekly

Hymn of Niagara by Thomas Hill, D.D.

hymn

hymn
The Falls of Niagara From the Canadian Side, 1868. Painted by B. Hess. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Here I stand ! here from the flood, raving unceasingly,
Hoarse, shrill murmurs arise; shrill as the wind, when it
‡‡‡‡Roars through the trees stripped of their foliage,
‡‡‡‡Singing its wild anthem of liberty.

With these come to the ear, ever at intervals,
Quick notes, rattling and sharp; like the artillery
‡‡‡‡Heard when a storm, driving up rapidly,
‡‡‡‡Crashes the oaks down with its thunderbolts.

Now rise, muffled in mist, rolling up heavily,
Deep tones, awfully grand, shaking the earth, as they
‡‡‡‡Swell like the low bass of the thunder-storm,
‡‡‡‡Heard by the strained ear of the listener.

Thus float over the mist ever in harmony
Three tones, joyous and free, forming Niagara’s
‡‡‡‡Anthem of praise, new every moment, yet
‡‡‡‡Changeless as time, old as eternity.

Source:  Putnam’s Magazine, May 1868, p.538