Avery, 1853 by William Dean Howells

Joseph Avery stranded just above Niagara Falls. Daguerreotype by Platt Babbitt
All night long they heard in the houses beside the shore,
Heard, or seemed to hear, through the multitudinous roar,
Out of the hell of the rapids as 't were a lost soul's cries, --
Heard and could not believe; and the morning mocked their eyes,
Showing where wildest and fiercest the waters leaped and ran
Raving round him and past, the visage of a man
Clinging, or seeming to cling, to the trunk of a tree that, caught
Fast in the rocks below, scarce out of the surges raught.
Was it a life, could it be, to yon slender hope that clung?
Shrill, above all the tumult, the answering terror rung.

                                            II.

Under the weltering rapids a boat from the bridge is drowned,
Over the rocks the line of another are tangled and wound;
And the long, fateful hours of the morning have wasted soon,
As it had been in some blessed trance, and now it is noon.
Hurry, now with the raft! But O, build it strong and staunch,
And to the lines and treacherous rocks look well as you launch!
Over the foamy tops of the waves, and their foam-sprent sides,
Over hidden reefs, and through the embattled tides,
Onward rushes the raft, with many a lurch and leap, --
Lord! if it strike him loose, from the hold he scarce can keep!
No! through all peril unharmed, it reaches him harmless at last,
And to its proven strength he lashes his weakness fast.
Now, for the shore? But steady, steady, my men and slow;
Taut, now, the quivering lines; now slack; and so, let her go!
Thronging the shores around stand the pitying multitude;
Wan as his own are their looks, and a nightmare seems to brood
Heavy upon them, and heavy the silence hangs on all,
Save for the rapids' plunge, and the thunder of the fall.
But on a sudden thrills from the people still and pale,
Chorusing his unheard despair, a desperate wail:
Caught on a lurking point of rock, it sways and swings,
Sport of the pitiless waters, the raft to which he clings.

                                            III.

All the long afternoon it idly swings and sways:
And on the shore the crowd lifts up its hands and prays:
Lifts to Heaven and wrings the hands so helpless to save,
Prays for the mercy of God on him whom the rock and the wave
Battle for, fettered betwixt them, and who, amid their strife,
Struggles to help his helpers, and fights so hard for his life, --
Tugging at rope and at reef, while men weep and women swoon.
Priceless second by second, so wastes the afternoon,
And it is sunset now; and another boat and the last
Down to him from the bridge through the rapids has safely passed.

                                            IV.

Wild through the crowd comes flying a man that nothing can stay,
Maddening against the gate that is locked athwart his way.
"No! we keep the bridge for them that can help him. You,
Tell us, who are you?" "His brother!" "God help you both! Pass through."
Wild, with wide arms of imploring, he calls aloud to him,
Unto the face of his brother, scarce seen in the distance dim;
But in the roar of the rapids his fluttering words are lost
As in a wind of autumn the leaves of autumn are tossed.
And from the bridge he sees his brother sever the rope
Holding him to the raft, and rise secure in his hope;
Sees all as in a dream the terrible pageantry, --
Populous shores, the woods, the sky, the birds flying free;
Sees, then, the form -- that, spent with effort and fasting and fear,
Flings itself feebly and fails of the boat that is lying so near --
Caught in the long-baffled clutch of the rapids, and rolled and hurled
Headlong on the cataract's brink and out of the world.

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

Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

About Joseph Avery

Niagara by Thomas Gold Appleton

Thomas Gold Appleton

Niagara

Though the dusk has extinguished the green
And the glow of the down-falling silver,
In my heart I prefer this subdued,
Cathedral-like gloom on the water:
When the fancy capriciously wills,
Nor loves to define or distinguish,
As a dream which enchants us with fear;
And scarce throbs the heart unaffrighted.
With a colour and voice of its own
I behold this wondrous creature
More as a living thing.
And joyous with joy Titanic,
Its brothers in sandstone are locked,
Yet from their graves speak to it.
It sings to them as it moves,
And the hills and uplands re-echo,
The sunshine kindles its scales,
And they gleam with opal and sapphire.
It uplifts its tawny mane,
With its undulations of silver,
And tosses through showers of foam,
Its flanks seamed with shadow and sunshine.
Like the life of man is its course,
Born far in some cloudy sierra,
Dimpled and wayward and small,
O’erleaped by the swerving roebuck;
But enlarging with mighty growth,
And wearing wide lakes for its bracelets,
It moves, the king of streams,
As man wears the crown of his manhood.
It shouts to the loving fields,
Which toss to it flowers and perfume;
It eddies and winds round its isles,
And its kisses thrill them with rapture;
Till it fights in its strength and o’ercomes
The rocks which would bar its progress.
The earth hears its cries of rage,
As it tramples them in its rushing,
Leaping, exultant above
And smiting them in derision;
Till at length, its life fulfilled,
Sublime in majestic calmness,
It submits to death, and falls
With a beauty it wins in dying,
Still, wan, prone, till curtains of foam enclose it,
To arise a spirit of mist,
And return to the Heaven it came from.

As deepens the night, all is changed,
And the joy of my dream is extinguished:
I hear but a measureless prayer,
As of multitudes wailing in anguish;
I see but one fluttering plunge,
As if angels were falling from Heaven.
Indistinctly, at times, I behold
Cuthullin and Ossian’s old heroes
Look at me with eyes sad with tears,
And a summons to follow their flying,
Absorbed in wild, eerie rout,
Of wind-swept and desolate spectres.
As deepens the night, a clear cry
At times cleaves the boom of the waters;
Comes with it a terrible sense
Of suffering extreme and forever.
The beautiful rainbow is dead,
And gone are the birds that sang through it.
The incense so mounting is now
A stifling, sulphurous vapour.
The abyss is the hell of the lost,
Hopeless falling to fires everlasting.

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

Goat Island – Thomas Gold Appleton

Thomas Gold Appleton

Goat Island

Peace and perpetual quiet are around,
Upon the erect and dusky file of stems,
Sustaining yon far roof, expelling sound,
Through which the sky sparkles (a rain of gems
Lost in the forest’s depth of shade), the sun
At times doth shoot an arrow of pure gold,
Flecking majestic trunks with hues of dun,
Veining their barks with silver, and betraying
Secret initials tied in true love knots;
Of hearts no longer through green alleys straying,
But stifled in the world’s distasteful grots.
The silence in monastic, save in spots
Where heaves a glimmer of uncertain light,
And rich wild tones enchant the woodland night.

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

About Boris Glikman

BORIS GLIKMAN is a writer, poet and philosopher from Melbourne, Australia. The biggest
influences on his writing are dreams, Kafka and Borges. His stories, poems
and non-fiction articles have been published in various online and print
publications, as well as being featured on national radio and other radio programs. His writings can be found on his blog: https://bozlich.wordpress.com/

After his visit to USA in 2009, he wrote a series of impressions of America, of whichFalling with the Fallsforms one part. The full series can be found at the link below:
https://bozlich.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/impressions-of-america-complete-updated/

Niagara Falls by William Allen

    Lo Niagara! down the depth profound
Plunges thy broad and mighty gleaming flood,
Fed by vast lakes, in symbol union bound.
On Table Rock, now fall'n, in youth I stood
Gazing on all the scene in rapt'rous mood.
There, at my level, the majestic stream
O'er long curv'd cliff, with ample plentitude,
Begins its stoop in reg'lar bending gleam;
Then falls till shape is lost in foam and misty steam.

    Perched on thin leaf of overhanging rock,
I venture to the edge and look below;
I see the eddying depth; and feel the shock,
The shore all trembling at the earthquake blow.
Ah, what if sudden dizziness should grow,
As, at Passaic cliff, in her who fell?
Or what if shock my foothold ledge o'erthrow,
And to abyss I sink with loosen'd shell?
The solitary fate no tongue could tell.

    But though no brother man with me did stand,
Yet God was there who scooped the basin wide
And poured the flood out from his hollow hand,
Yet God was there, whose voice on ev'ry side
Issued in thunders from the angry tide,
Yet God was there, the cloud-built arch to rear,
With mingled hues of beauteous brightness dyed,
Symbol once caused o'er wider flood t'appear,
Blest pledge of earth's escape from destiny severe.

    Stand here, mortal presumptuous! and say -
While ear is stunn'd with torrent's ceaseless roar,
And solid rocks do tremble with dismay -
Cannot God's hand the flood of vengeance pour,
To sweep the proud, where they will boast no more?
Let warring tribes this voice of thunder hear,
And hush their rage, lest whirlpool wrath devour!
Christian! the bow of promise shines forth clear,
And thou mayst smile secure, when earth shall quake with fear.

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