Apostrophe to Niagara by Frank B. Palmer

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palmer
Niagara Falls, possibly by photographer Silas A. Holmes, c1855. Metropolitan Museum of Art

This is Jehovah’s fullest organ strain!
‡‡I hear the liquid music rolling, breaking.
From the gigantic pipes the great refrain
‡‡Bursts on my ravished ear, high thoughts awaking!

The low sub-bass, uprising from the deep,
‡‡Swells the great paean as it rolls supernal —
Anon, I hear, at one majestic sweep
‡‡The diapason of the keys eternal!

Standing beneath Niagara’s angry flood —
‡‡The thundering cataract above me bounding —
I hear the echo: “Man, there is a God!”
‡‡From the great arches of the gorge resounding.

Behold, O man, nor shrink aghast in fear!
‡‡Survey the vortex boiling deep before thee!
The Hand that ope’d the liquid gateway here
‡‡Hath set the beauteous bow of promise o’er thee!

Here, in the hollow of that Mighty Hand,
‡‡Which holds the basin of the tidal ocean,
Let not the jarring of the spray-washed strand
‡‡Disturb the orisons of pure devotion.

Roll on Niagara! great River King!
‡‡Beneath thy sceptre all earth’s rulers, mortal,
Bow reverently; and bards shall ever sing
‡‡The matchless grandeur of thy peerless portal!

I hear, Niagara, in this grand strain
‡‡His voice, who speaks in flood, in flame, and thunder —
Forever, mayst thou, singing, roll and reign —
‡‡Earth’s grand, sublime, supreme, supernal wonder.

Source: Severance, Frank H. Old Trails on the Niagara Frontier.  Buffalo:  The Matthews-Northrup Co.,  1899

Written in 1855

Click here to read Severance’s discussion on Palmer’s Apostrophe to Niagara  (To go directly to the page choose the html version and after it comes up add  #Page_317 to the end of the url)

 

 

Niagara Falls, NY by C.D. Onofrio

NFNY

NFNY
Aerial view showing Niagara Falls, NY on the left, with refineries lining the Niagara River. Photo by Andrew Porteus, 2004

All the restaurants are named Betty’s
The water is turquoise blue, deep and cool

Niagara Falls, NY

Driving towards the falls on the scenic Parkway
The scene on the left is deep turquoise blue
Unlike water anywhere else in the world
A river as wide as a lake, forests of trees
The scene to the right is chemical factories
And rusted warehouses, and inlets or outlets of water
That sit sick in the stomach of history
Billboards saying mesothelioma
Clinging from Buffalo
To the boarded up windows
That line Niagara St.
And welcome you into
What used to be
A wonder of the world

Source: The author, June 2018

The Falls of Niagara by J. Wellsteed

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wellsteed
Horseshoe Falls, circa 1895 by George Barker. Library of Congress

All must confess who view this wondrous scene,
That if God were not, this had never been;
His voice here thunders in the mighty flood,
And these rent rocks proclaim, their maker God.
I love the dullness of the Cataract’s roar,
And the wild grandeur of its craggy shore,
I love to look upon the gulf below,
Foaming and white like wildly-drifting snow;
I love to watch the cloud-like mists that rise,
To pay their weeping homage in the skies,
And when the blazing orb of day burns low,
I love to gaze upon the glorious bow,
And mark the beauties of that “bridge where time,
“Of light and darkness, forms an arch sublime,”
These wonders calm the passions of the mind,
And waken thoughts that leave the world behind.
I love to linger till the envious night,
Draws for her dark curtain o’er the gorgeous sight,
And when again the “balmy hour of rest,”
Returns, soft soother of the world distress’d,
The Cataract’s roar shall lull me to repose,
And slumber shut the door of mem’ry on my woes.

Source: Western Literary Messenger, July 1849. p232

To Niagara by James Warner Ward

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ward
Niagara Falls by H. C. Tunison, 1899

Rapt and amazed, midst scenes of rarest loveliness,
Stand I alone, entranced in awe and ecstasy
Gazing in silence o’er the cliffs precipitous,
Whence, with united front, thy waters ponderous
Tranquilly take their giant leap, Niagara!

Forward declining, wreathed in conscious majesty,
Shimmering spray and jewelled drop, tossed back from thee,
Wave pressed to wave in serried ranks, as, steadily,
Man against man, sweeps on a line of infantry, —
Into the vortex rolls thy flood intrepidly.

In the fierce rapids, many a sharp rock, secretly,
Under thy foaming current lay in wait for thee,
Gashing and tearing thy rent bosom wantonly ;
Lovliest of Rivers, sad and dire similitude,
So in life’s breakers strives man’s heart with destiny.

Tossed in their raging stream by waves impetuous,
Glamor of hope and youthful dreams deserting it,
So have we seen, — ah River wild and beautiful,
Art thou not here of “fortune’s buffets” typical? —
Under life’s chaos sinks heart-broke humanity.

Hither and thither whirled in eddies infinite,
Leaping in lambent jets and cascades showery.
Over the sunk rocks pourest thou unceasingly;
So in life’s drift and swirl man writhes defiantly,
Only in wreck at last to end disastrously.

Cometh a change to Life and River, presently;
Out of its perils Life emerges, jubilant,
E’en as thy waters seek in calm serenity,
Under this arched and rainbow broidered canopy,
Torrent immortal, rest an instant in thine agony.

Haste is there none, but eagerness and promptitude;
Frivolous things are cast aside disdainfully;
Nothing the brink can pass but heaven-lit purity;
As on they emerald crown, we see, Niagara.
Naught but the gem-like gleams from the blue sky over thee.

Out of the far off past emerging regally,
Stately in step, thy grandest one now daring thee, —
Architect fine and subtle, never loitering,
Minute by minute, frost and whirlwind aiding thee,
Toilest thou deftly, thine own highway channelling.

Onward proud River! — many a voiceless century
Into the shadow past had vanished recordless,
Did not the lines and chinks of thy shrewd chiseling,
Scarring the polished tablets of thy cenotaph,
Tell us the mystic story of thy genesis.

Source: The Magazine of  Poetry and Literary Review, vol. 6: American Poetry. 1894

Originally published in Niagara River and Falls. Buffalo: Thos. F. Fryer, 1886; also in Warren, Ina Russelle (ed.) The Poets and Poetry of Buffalo. Buffalo: Charles W. Moulton, n.d.

The Song of Niagara (1911) by Katharine Lee Bates

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bates song 2
Statue of Katharine Lee Bates at Falmouth, Massachusetts library.

An alien song. Though day by day I listen,
No syllable of that majestic chant
May my adoring passion comprehend.
With many a lucent, evanescent hue
The plunging torrents glisten.
Far-seen, colossal plumes of spray ascend,
Their dazzling white shot through and through
With quivering rainbows, until every plant,
Each hoar, blue-berried cedar loved of bird,
Each fine fern tracery, the cold mists christen
To spirit grace. The frosted branches bend
With sparkle of such jewels as transcend
All fantasy of elfin-craft. Yet who
Interpreteth the great enchantment’s word?

Ye are the primal Sibyls, Sisters twain ;
Far elder than the whispering Cumaean,
Or Delphi’s burning prophetess, ye hold
Your splendid thrones unvisited of Time,
— One robed in rushing waters whose rich gold,
Imperial fold on fold,
Was wrought from sunsets of an earlier aeon,
Of an intenser clime,
Yet tinged by April willows and the rain
Of forest leaves autumnal, powdery drift
The eddies bring as tribute gift
Of Huron and Superior ; and One,
More graciously sublime,
Mantled in raiment spun
From foliage of some strange, supernal spring,
Such pure ethereal green
That Heaven stoops down, her holy azure fain
To blend with it and revel in the sun;
And oftentimes each iris-scarfèd Queen,
As angel-wing reflecteth angel-wing,
Puts on her sister’s sheen.

Mysterious ! if eyes can hardly bear
The glory of your opalescent robes,
Your diamond aureoles and veils empearled,
May the stunned ear divine
Your awful oracle? August, yet wild,
Do your tremendous paeans still prolong
Creation’s old, unhumanized delight,
The laughter of the Titans? Were ye there
With your deep diapason answering
The archangelic, chanting, golden globes,
What time they chorused forth their crystalline,
Exultant welcome to the stranger world?
Or is it, tolling Cataracts, the doom,
The unrevealable, forbidden thing,
Your antiphonic, solemn voices boom?
Or peradventure do your peals proclaim
Some all-triumphal Name
That could it once be won by mortal ear
Would ecstasy the griefs we suffer here
And charter Love to wing
Her radiant flight beyond oblivion ?
Dread Sisters, ye who smite
The senses with intolerable roar,
Is there no meaning in your ceaseless song,
No word of God in all your mighty throng
Of multitudinous thunders evermore?

Source: Katharine Lee Bates.  America the Beautiful and Other Poems.  New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, Publishers, 1911

Click to see an earlier version of this poem

bates song 2