Mist-Pictures by Evelyn M. Watson

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(At the foot of the American Falls)

watson mist
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

Thoughts at Niagara by J. S. W.

thoughts   

thoughts
Horseshoe Falls From a Stereograph by Charles Bierstadt, 1893. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

How sad, my God, to linger here,
‡‡‘Mid all these works of thine.
Alone, bereft of all I’ve loved,
‡‡And joys that once were mine!
Loud anthems cheer those crested waves,
‡‡And kiss the floods below;
Where hidden thunder smites the rocks,
‡‡And bursts in ceaseless praise,
Of HIM who fix’d the rainbow there,
‡‡To mark its brightest days!
Oh! where ‘mid all this radiant joy,
‡‡Can sorrow hope to live,
Deserted by those rays of Peace,
‡‡Which Thou alone can’st give? 

*                          *                   *                   *

Cold, cold, and blank, that once bright home,
‡‡Where now, in lonely hours,
Love hovers round the vacant chair,
‡‡And haunts the silent bowers;
And Hopes once cherish’d there, have chang’d,
‡‡To Tears in sorrow shed,
Reflecting back the scenes I lov’d,
‡‡Ere that sweet spirit fled!
Kindred scenes, my GOD are these,
‡‡Which now around me lie,
Ever whisp’ring ― “cease poor soul,
‡‡WE too have yet to die!”

September 21, 1871

Source: Ridgway, Robert (ed.) The Canadian Magazine vol. 1 – July to December 1871. Toronto: Irving, Flint & Co., 1871. p. 295

Niagara In Spring by William Carey Richards

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Undated Postcard Showing Niagara Falls in Springtime. Courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library.

Oh, could I gaze forever on they face,
Unwearied still, thou matchless waterfall,
Whose twining spells of majesty and grace
My ardent sense bewilder and enthrall!

In all my moods thy charms puissant sway
Enforce my will their master-spell to own;
My heart leaps at thy voice — or grave or gay —
And every chord is vibrant to thy tone.

So many years I have come back to stand,
With reverent awe, before thy glorious shrine —
So close and long thy lineaments Ive scanned —
It seemed thou shouldst grow something less divine.

I know thy face, its shifting glooms and smiles,
As cloud or sun upon thy bosom lies;
Thy wrathful guise, thy witching rainbow wiles
Can wake no more for me the sweet surprise.

I know thy voice — its terror and its glee
Have in my ear so oft their changes rung;
Nor forest winds nor anthems of the sea
Speak to my soul with more familiar tongue.

My feet have scaled thy storm-scarred battlements,
And pressed the moss most emerald with thy tears;
And still profaned thy lucent caverns, whence
The neophyte comes pale with ghostly fears. Continue reading “Niagara In Spring by William Carey Richards”

Niagara by Joseph Hart Clinch

Describe Niagara!     Ah, who shall dare
Attempt the indescribable, and train
Thoughts fragile wing to skim the heavy air,
Wet with the cataracts incessant rain?
The “glowing muse of fire invoked in vain
By Shakespeare, who shall hope from Heaven to win?
And burning words alone become the strain,
Which to the mind would bring the awful din
Where seas in thunder fall, and eddying oceans spin.

Long had the savage on thy glorious shroud,
Fringed with vast foam-wreaths, gazd with stoic eye
And deemed that on thy rising rainbow cloud
The wings of the Great Spirit hovered nigh;
And, as he marked the solemn woods reply
In echoes to thy rolling thunder tone,
He heard His voice upon the breeze go by,
And his heart bowed — for to the heart alone
God speaking through His works, makes what he utters known.

But ages passed away — and to the West
Came Europes sons to seek for fame or gold;
And one, perchance, more daring than the rest,
Lured by the chase or by strange stories told
By Indian guide of oceans downward rolled,
Felt on his throbbing ear thy far-off roar,
Then sped the mighty wonder to behold,
Thy voice around him and thy cloud before,
Till breathless — trembling — rapt — he trod thy foaming shore.
Continue reading “Niagara by Joseph Hart Clinch”