Niagara by William B. Tappan

 

tappan
William Bingham Tappan, 1794-1849. From his Poet’s Tribute.

Niagara! — the poetry of God!
Whose numbers tell, in everlasting hymn,
Only of God!    The morning stars that woke
Music along their courses, early caught
Its far off echoes, and in wild delight
Returned them, softened, round the universe.
Think not, think not, Earth’s triflers!  that for you
And garish Day, these melodies chime on.
When ye, diminished, lost, are known not, Night,
Night to the aweful anthem ever hearkens,
And ever with new joy.    Oh, how sublime
The symphony, that, under the expanse
Of stars, peals on in unexhausted power:
Niagara! — and the sole listener, Night!

Source:  William B. Tappan. Poet’s Tribute; Poems of William B. Tappan. Boston: King, Crocker & Brewster, 1840

Niagara by Joseph Cook

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cook
Falls of Niagara by George Heriot, 1801.. Colour tint by Erna Jahnke. Courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

I hear the thunderous thud, the muffled roar
I see the blinding, wheeling, smiting mists,
The greens, the grays, purples, and amethysts,
From Heaven’s wide palm thy frightened cataracts pour,
And I look up beneath them and adore.
Above me hang chain lightnings on the wrists
Of summer tempests.  In the awesome lists
Of contests are the thunders and thy shore.
Beneath thy quivering riven cliff I lie
And gaze into the lightning and the sky
But I hear only thee and touch and see
A hand which undergirds immensity.
Thou speakest much, but speaketh most of him;
God, God, God walks on thy watery rim.

Source: Charles Mason Dow. Anthology and Bibliography of Niagara Falls. Albany: State of New York, 1921. p 825

Originally published in Joseph Cook. Overtones: a Book of Verse. New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1903

Niagara by Mrs. Phebe A. Hanaford

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Hanaford
Mrs. Phoebe A Hanaford, Universalist Minister, women’s rights activist, lesbian, and author

Awe-struck I stand
Beside this avalanche of waves, and hear
The voice of God from out these watery depths.
Emotion-full, my soul in vain essays
To speak the thoughts that by this scene have birth.
Hark! to the voice of many waters here:
Like that great voice in Patmos heard by John,
It speaks of power, resistless energy,
And mighty purpose unconfined by man.
To me it speaks of God’s almighty love,
Forever surging round the human soul:
The rocks of sin, the shoals of ignorance,
But bid those waves of love in tumult rise,
In rapids like old ocean’s storm-waves, or, as here,
In one vast water-sheet, the cataract’s plunge.
Thus shall it flow till time shall be no more,
And every soul is borne upon its waves,
All cleansed by its pure waters, to the land
Where, joyful, they shall all be moored at last.

 

Source: Charles Mason Dow. Anthology and Bibliography of Niagara Falls. Albany: State of New York, 1921. p. 756-757

Originally published in Mrs. Phebe A. Hanaford.  From Shore to Shore and Other Poems. Boston: D. B. Russell; San Francisco: A. L. Bancroft & Co., 1871.

Mist-Pictures by Evelyn M. Watson

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(At the foot of the American Falls)

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American Falls from the Canadian side (stereograph), 1902. Courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

Through drifty silver smoke, that’s opalescent,
The soft-spun rainbows curve, each one a crescent
And we who stand, where once the hoary otter
Trailed sooty moles, behold the self-same water
And revel in the tender-tinted blur
That blows about this perpendicular
Descent these maiden-veils, so evanescent —
One feels the beautiful, our God, a-stir.
From dim concealment whips of color leap,
His many glories, powers, find voice and keep
The living spirit conscious of the deep.

The mind can pierce the past — the fragrant wood —
Each wild flower with its aureole, a snood,
In convents green that shield each sisterhood :
The tallish primrose in its shapely scone
A candle for some barren place of stone.
We see how driven drifts of spray can linger
In opal moonlight, star-companioned : finger
The budding pine tree, tipped with emerald crosses,
And underneath, the cool and long drenched mosses —
We’ve touched the tarnished rocks and silver bosses :
There seems no sadness — other songs malinger.

Again one sees a twisting vine, a rope
Of wild growth twining on a footless slope,
Men descending, English Lord, or cotter,
To catch this very view of misting water. . .
Upon our hands spilt dews, like some baptism
To honor daily idylls, heroism ;
And early Warriors with their many nations
Who gave their Mystic One their bright oblations
Of fruit and flower and youth, like ancient Stoic —
(Soul-courage may not deem itself heroic) —
And now we make ourselves our consecrations.

Within these organ-tones of color-thunder
There tides to mind an old, yet-dim wonder :
Man’s NOT the spider forever clambering down
Old causeways where forbidding rocks shall frown,
Nor yet the soldier with defiant plume. . .
(How many phantoms in this dull-green gloom) —
But here he stands so near the Farther Border
He finds in seeming chaos, love’s deep order,
Serenity behind the cataclysm,
The same sweet rainbow in each haunting prism —
In all this welter, sheerest symmetry,
And then beyond — God’s choice simplicity.
Beyond the auric smoke and dazzling dews,
Beyond these organ-tones that far diffuse
Their song, there’s ever pierceless Mystery,
For far within Man finds himself and Thee.

But there’s more beauty than’s interpreted;
(Beyond the song that’s heard, the song that’s hid,)
And if there’s Immanence within the mists
And Radiance where moon-gold weaves and twists
Strange forms for eyes, there’s greater light within
The heart of man and in the soul there’s been
Implanted Truth — oh, so imperative —
That we, in turn, are kin not fugitive
As slaves, and not idolatrous,
But His Beloved, who asks all love of us,
As mists shall hide the waters from the sight
This beauty-veil conceals, reveals, His Light.

Through drifty silver smoke, that’s opalescent,
The soft-spun rainbows curve, each one a crescent
And we, who stand where once the hoary otter
Trailed sooty moles, behold the self-same water
And revel in the tender-tinted blur
That blows about this perpendicular
Descent these maiden-veils, so evanescent
One feels the beautiful, our God, a-stir.
From dim concealment whips of color leap,
His many glories, powers, find voice and keep
The living spirit conscious of the Deep.

watson mist

Source: Evelyn M. Watson. Poems of the Niagara Frontier. New York: Dean & Company, 1929.

Click to see more poems from Watson’s Poems of the Niagara Frontier 

Niagara by Lieut.-Col. J. R. Wilkinson

wilkinson niagara  

wilkinson niagara
Lieut.-Col. J. R. Wilkinson, Commander of the 21st Essex Battalion of Infantry, Essex & Kent Scottish Regiment

I was rapt in unutterable amaze
As I looked upon its awful front,
And saw the terrific roll of waters
As down the deadly mesmeric gorge they fell
In power irresistible, tremendous,
As if the wrath of God would rend the world asunder
For the sin and wrong that man hath done !
And the earth trembled as one in fear —
And the thunderous roar of its awesome voice
Made all else seem silent as the dead !

Yet, majestic and supremely beautiful art thou
When the god of day pours o’er thy front his wondrous light,
Or when the golden stars and dreaming, silvery moon
Lighteth up the slumb’rous shadows of the night.
Aye, thou are sublime, though terrible, Niagara !
How diminutive are man’s works compared to thee,
Thou awe-inspiring, terrific world-wide wonder —
Marvellous work of the Deity !

And thou has rolled and rolled, Niagara !
Adown the ages of the dim, mysterious past
Thou hast thundered in derision of the flight of time,
And mocked when nations to the grave were cast !
But the creator holds thee in the hollow of His hand,
And when the sea shall render up its ghastly dead
Thou shall be shorn of thy stupendous power,
And bow thy cruel and imperious head.

Source: Wilkinson, Lieut.-Col. J. R.  Canadian Battlefields and Other Poems. 2nd ed., Toronto: William Briggs, 1901

wilkinson niagara