The Song of Niagara (1910) by Katharine Lee Bates

bates song 1

bates song 1
Katharine Lee Bates

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 trancsend
All fantasy of elfin-craft. Yet who
Interpreteth the great enchantment’s word?

Ye primal Sibyls, if eyes hardly bear
The glory of your opalescent robes,
Your diamond aureoles and veils impearled,
May the stunned ear divine
Your awful oracle? August, yet wild,
Do your tremendous paeans still prolong
Creation’s old, unhumanised 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 pearls 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: Canadian Magazine, May 1910, p 58

Click to see a later version of this poem

bates song 1


Niagara by Katharine Lee Bates


Katharine Lee Bates, 1859 – 1929

PASSION of plunging waters, blanched to spray,
‡‡‡‡But shot with sheen of chrysolite and beryl ;
Columnar mist and glistening rainbow play ;
‡‡‡‡A splendid thrill of glory and of peril.


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


Laura Secord; or, The Battle of Beaver Dams by Lieut.-Col. J. R. Wilkinson

wilkinson laura

wilkinson laura
Laura Secord warns British commander James FitzGibbon of an impending American attack at Beaver Dams. by Lorne Kidd Smith, 1920. Library and Archives Canada reproduction reference number C-011053

Fought June 24th, 1813. British 47 Regulars and 200 Indians. Americans, 570 with 50 cavalry and 3 guns

She knew, and her heart beat faster,
‡‡The foe would march that day !
And resolved, though only a woman,
‡‡To silently steal away
And warn the outpost at Beaver Dams ;
‡‡Alone, and on foot, to go
Through the dim and awesome forest,
‡‡To evade the vigilant foe.

And no one thought of a woman,
‡‡And she gained a path she knew
In the lonesome, stately forest,
‡‡And over the dark way flew.
On and on with a beating heart,
‡‡And never a pause for rest ;
Twenty miles of dim and distance,
‡‡And the sun low down the west.

Startled sometimes to terror
‡‡By the blood-curdling cry
Of wolves from the faint far distance,
‡‡And sometimes nearer by ;
And hollow sounds and weird whispers
‡‡That rose from the forest deep ;
And ghostly and phantom voices
‡‡That caused her nerves to creep.

But she pauses not, nor falters,
‡‡But presses along the way ;
Noiselessly through the dread distance,
‡‡Through the shadows weird and gray.
In time must the warning be given,
‡‡She must not, must not fail ;
Though rough is the path and toilsome,
‡‡Her courage must prevail.

“To arms ! to arms, FitzGibbon !”
‡‡Came a woman’s thrilling cry ;
“Lose not a precious moment —
‡‡The foe ! the foe is nigh !”
And a woman pale and weary
‡‡Burst on the startled sight
Out from the dark, awesome forest,
‡‡Out of the shadowy night.

“They come ! they come six hundred strong,
‡‡Stealing upon you here !
But I, a weak woman, tell you,
‡‡Prepare and have no fear.”
The handful of British heroes
‡‡Resolved the outpost to save,
With the aid of two hundred Indians,
‡‡Allies cunning and brave.

Still as death the line is waiting
‡‡The onset of the foe ;
And the summer winds make whisper
‡‡In the foliage soft and low.
“Ready !” and each heart beats faster ;
‡‡“Fire low, and without fear.”
And they fired a crashing volley,
‡‡And gave a defiant cheer.

Staggered by the deadly missiles,
‡‡That like a mighty blow
Fell swift on the line advancing,
‡‡Fell on the astonished foe.
And for two long, desperate hours
‡‡The furious fight raged there,
Till the foemen, foiled and beaten,
‡‡Surrendered in despair.

Well done, valiant FitzGibbon !
‡‡Thy name shall live in story ;
Thy daring feat of arms that day
‡‡Is wreathed with fadeless glory.
One other name my song would praise,
‡‡A patriot soul so brave,
That dared the forest’s lonely wilds
‡‡FitzGibbon’s post to save.

Noble woman ! heroic soul !
‡‡We would honor thee to-day ;
Thou canst not, shall not be forgot.
‡‡More lustrous is the ray
Time relects upon thy deed.
‡‡Thy talismanic name —
Canadians, sound it through the land,
‡‡Perpetuate her fadeless fame !

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

Click here to see other poems of the Battle of Beaverdams and the War of 1812

wilkinson laura

Forced Entry by RN Wagner


RN Wagner reciting his poetry

(Trigger warnings: a whole bunch)

My nayburz and I lived  a block from Clifton Hill
you know that street that employs us in the summer
but throws us to the curb in the winter
unless you fall to your knees in the fall
In front of your boss when no one else is looking

You don’t get a break if you want to earn a living…
In the city of repurposed broken guitar strings,
that held up our forgotten dreams

Across the street from Mom and I
Was a house
That made labatt blue a little more well off
When the Street lights came on
You couldn’t tell the difference between
Them yelling at the hockey game or
Their mouthy sugar stained children…
that coated the streets with unwanted frequencies
Two older brothers main concerns were to get laid
They modeled themselves after the noise in the living room
Kraft dinner was for royalty and so was kool-aid

Apparently, pillow fights were for pussies…
So it was five minutes of roughing every drunken period
but no roll-call model parents to call a real penalty.
No name food products dominated the space,
there was no room for anything natural or healthy

Headphones were too expensive
So I learned how to enjoy the fireworks without seeing them
Stuck between two broken homes across from each other
Both Mothers are Newfoundlanders, don’t talk to each other much
And our doors are locked at night if that shatters any stereotypes!

It’s hard out here for us Honeymoon Capital survivors
Trying to live in the Unemployment Wonder of the World
Vacancy for welfare checks in the off season
Doctors are not accepting any new patients
We carry our laundry to the mat, say hello to the owners parrot and
we welcome the tourists who try to run over our cats
(Meows gather at the 7-11’s)

There is a fine line that separates yelling from screaming when you’re close to that Clifton Hill
Because you’re either just a haunted house employee  practicing their creepshow
Or just another tourist
looking for their attraction coupons in a overpriced parking lot

The house across the street
Had a friend of the family
Who delivered my favorite thing in the world… PIZZA!
Plain and simple, hands down, unlike the life I live

If I ordered and asked for him to deliver it
I would get a decent discount every time
It was great for a while
Then i thought about delivering pizza myself…
Since I got my beginners licence recently
He was more than happy to offer me an opportunity to make some money
And said my tips were twice as good as his.
So since he never lost anything sharing his deliveries,
I was welcome anytime to his orders, and help him out

I was in high school
Grade 11, 16 years old
Taking university level courses to be eligible for potential golf scholarships
I hadn’t won any tournaments yet but my handicap was just a handful
It would get better if I didn’t have to work next summer and had my own set of wheels
(Ford Topaz foreshadow)

Getting back home from school a little late was normal
Golf and Graphic Design was my usual excuse
Mom was often passed out on the couch, Budweiser in hand

It was the billboard I memorized
To keep a promise..
That I wouldn’t take the same courses as my mother
“I may be a bad example, but you must not ever give up”, she said.

But there was this one time I broke our promise…

Out of the similar fear my mom had when she lost her house keys, and sat on some church steps to regain her strength, to sober up
It evolved into a vulnerable coffee date with a stranger offering friendship
Which turned into a late sunday drive behind a warehouse for some rape
All she wanted was a real ear in a city of lights, but there was none,
just lights that shined so bright you couldn’t see danger coming or hear it…from the fake house of fun.
The idea to be crying for help behind a candle factory, was just a wax mold and a trigger for thoughts of a single grandson kept the fear instilled to not fight back, pretending it was a good time like the floors she swept.
It was the people she worked for, just not this one.

The difference between Broom Hilda’s House of Horrors and mine,
Was that I hadn’t lost anything but my father and a chance to know him better than old union meeting minutes at this point.

I just wanted to earn a living delivering pizza
So I could buy myself groceries and Mother a decent christmas present.

My Moms rapist was just like mine in some ways…

When they pulled out
Onto the road
After they got what they wanted…
They did it nice and slow
Because they didn’t want to be suspicious

They asked us if we wanted anything from the store
Because they were so thoughtful of our hunger and thirst

They both decided to drive the speed limit
Because they didn’t want to break the law

They asked us to hang out again sometime
Maybe eat some pizza or go for a drink at their place
Because they wanted us to feel normal

They gave us stories about who they were
Who they knew
Because they didn’t want anyone else to know
Just how special we are to have met them

They tried to get away!!!

But my mom was killer at memorizing licence plates and fake names
And I am killer at remembering that my reflective  words
are better than my experience
I choose not to live in fear
Of you hearing this comeback someday
Because I will come back someday
Maybe even just go in myself for  a walk-in special
Slam this poem to your bosses face
The customers can judge your sorry ass
Right before the video gets submitted
Into film festivals worldwide
You may or may not have recorded my friends like you said you did, and offered for me to listen about how they bragged about fucking you without a condom.
I don’t really care to know anymore, especially those scary people you said you knew in case I got any ideas…
Because I just fucked you without a condom
And I didn’t even have to touch you.

Have fun, you’re so fucked now
Your dick is a just a lonely pepperoni flick after a game is lost in this Italian click-fest of a town.
Sitting against the boards of corporate sponsors and beer my mother and most Uncles drink.
Ready to be eaten by the zamboni that hates your limited edition discarded kind. In between periods of rage, I hit white balls over 300 yards into the wind of my justice system, and sometimes I just leave them there for juniors that haven’t met you yet.

Fucked up how things work out, you see there is this old testament bible that my stepfather used to carry around with him. Once he passed away, I found the court docket that spells my mother’s rapists name on it. I got this information after my step-dad had passed while going through his things, in preparation for his funeral. It was hidden from me, this information, because it’s the name of the person that stripped my mom of all her self worth. She gave up, broke her promise, then died from it. Her brain aneurysm was the reason I won 7 golf tournaments the following year, but also the reason every christmas will never be the same, and neither will you when you see your name, printed inside the chapbooks that scream my name.

Fuck you both!

I’m doing great, thanks for asking


RN Wagner

September 28th, 2016

Source: The author.

Niagara River Below the Falls by Emma Lazarus

lazarus river

lazarus river
Emma Lazarus, 1849-1887

Flow on forever, in thy tranquil sleep,
Thou stream, all wearied by thy giant leap;
Flow on in quiet and in peace fore’er,
No rocky steep, no precipice is there.

The rush, the roar, the agony are past;
The leap, the mighty fall, are o’er at last;
And now with drowsy ripplings dost thou flow,
All murmuring in whispers soft and low.

Oh tell us, slumb’ring, em’rald river, now,
With that torn veil of foam upon thy brow;
Now, while thou sleepest quietly below, —
What are thy dreams?    Spent river, let us know.

Again, in thought, dost dash o’er that dread steep,
By frenzy maddened to the fearful leap?
By passion’s mists all blinded, cold and white,
Dost plunge once more, now, from the dizzy height?

Or else, forgetful of the dangers past,
Art dreaming calm and peacefully, at last,
Of that fair nymph who pressed thy livid brow,
And gave thy past a glory vanished now?

The Rainbow, whom the royal Sun e’er wooes,
For whom, in tears, the mighty Storm-king sues;
Who left her cloud-built palace-home above,
To crown thy awful brow with light and love.

Yes, in thy tranquil sleep, O  wearied stream,
Still of the lovely Iris is thy dream;
The agony, the perils ne’er could last;
But with all these the rainbow, too, has past.

No life so wild and hopeless but some gleam
Doth lighten it, to make a future dream.
Thy course, O Stream, has been mid fears and woe,
But thou hast met the Rainbow in thy flow.

New York, November 3rd, 1865

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