Niagara by Emma Lazarus


Clifton House Hotel, ca 1860. Photo courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

Thou art a giant altar, where the Earth
Must needs send up her thanks to Him above
Who did create her. Nature cometh here
To lay its offerings upon thy shrine.
The morning and the evening shower down
Bright jewels, — changeful opals, em’ralds fair.
The burning noon sends floods of molten gold,
The calm night crowns thee with her silver veil,
And o’er thee e’er is arched the rainbow’s span, —
The gorgeous marriage-ring of Earth and Heaven.
While ever from the holy altar grand
Ascends the incense of the mist and spray,
That mounts to God with thy wild roar of praise.

Clifton House, Niagara Falls, Canada, August 24th, 1865

Source:  Emma Lazarus. Poems and Translations.  New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1867


Under the Bridge at Niagara by Samuel Longfellow


Samuel Longfellow, 1819 – 1892

We sat beneath the wooden bridge
‡‡As in a sheltering tent,
And watched the water’s emerald ridge
‡‡And marvelous white descent

The schoolboys, ruddy-cheeked and fair,
‡‡Stood round in lightsome mood,
Nor saw the awful presence there, —
‡‡The spirit of the flood.

And yet on one of them, thought I,
‡‡Some deeper influence stole
To touch the slumbering chords that lie
‡‡Even in childish soul.

And when, in later years, his ways
‡‡Beside these steeps shall be,
The wonder-joy his foot that stays
‡‡Shall seem half memory.

Oh, may some heavenly influence
‡‡Still to my soul be nigh
To blend the child’s unconscious sense
‡‡With manhood’s seeing eye!

Written in 1857

Source: Samuel Longfellow.  Hymns and Verses.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1894

Helen Keller at Niagara Falls by Meryl Stratford

helen keller

helen keller
Cover of Helen Keller’s The World I Live In. Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan, Edmund Lyon, and Polly Prate at Niagara Falls, ca. 1893

She could not see the avalanche cascade
from foam-flecked marble rapids, being blind,
but torrents of egrets and apple blossoms played
whirlpools of nebulous beauty in her mind.
She could not hear, tumultuous mystery,
the thunderous plunge, a sea’s storm-breaking crests,
crescendo of a choral symphony,
only the silence when the music rests.
But the earth beneath her trembled. She could feel
a power like perseverance, truth, or love,
the joyous lifting of a bridal veil,
a thirst fulfilled, the mist, the memory of
her teacher’s cool, wet fingers like a brand,
burning that first word water in her hand.


Meryl Stratford is a poet living in Hallandale Beach, Florida.

First Published August 7, 2014 on The Society of Classical Poets website

Virginia A. D**** by William B. Tappan


Young Girl in a Coffin. Courtesy Shirley Stoner / Niagara Falls Public Library

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Have thou never seen,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When the orb of day
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Lightens with his sheen
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Dark Niagara,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡How his glories act
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡On the foam, and show,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡O’er the cataract,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Heaven’s beauteous bow?
She, who lately plumed for flight, seeking rest above,
Saw thus over Jordan’s tide, arched, the bow of love.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Hath, at eve, thine eye
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Watched the little billow
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Rise and gleam and die,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡On Atlantic’s pillow —
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When it seemed to thee
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Sighing into rest,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Melting peacefully
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Into ocean’s breast?
She, as kindly in repose, sighed away her breath,
Peacefully and gently thus, blended into death.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Saw’st thou, when, in light,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Sabbath glories rose?
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡She, a Sabbath bright,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Saw, yet not like those.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Longed she then to go,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Rest above, to spend?
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Yes! begun below,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Rest that ne’er shall end.
Voices heard she, loved ones saw, sweetly from the sky
Beckoning to their holy home, wooing her to die.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡In the troublous hour,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡In life’s weary doom,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When disease hath power,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When appears the tomb —
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Where’s the sovereign arm,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Strong and swift to save?
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡What can chase alarm,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡What adorn the grave?
She could answer, HE was there, swift, the sufferer knew,
HE that through the grave had passed, strong to bear her through.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When Niagara
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Lifts his bow no more,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡When have fled away
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Ocean and the shore, —
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡She shall live again,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Where the mortal sigh
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Heaves not, and where pain,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Yea, and Death shall die.
She, a child, a seraph now, leans on Jesus’ breast,
Oh, for wings!  that we might be, sweet one!  thus at rest.

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


Niagara by William B. 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