A Legend of Niagara by Florio

florio
Upper Niagara River and Goat Island. Photograph by Andrew Porteus, 2004

An Indian, in the days of yore —
Of “fish and fur’s” abounding store —
Would cross Niagara’s stream —
Just where the river, smooth and wide,
Pours toward the gulf its treacherous tide,
Like some deceitful dream.

Near by, a bear was crossing, too :
Whose head no sooner rose to view,
Than straight the “Brave” urged his canoe
To grasp an easy prey ;
But Bruin fled not — glad to greet
A resting-place for weary feet,
He turned and swam his foe to meet,
Upon the watery way.

They met — the paddle’s blow was dealt ;
With paw received, or scarcely felt
By fur-protected bear.
Who, reaching up as for a bough,
Climbed gracefully into the prow
And sat serenely there.
The astonished “Brave” sought in his turn
The “ultima thule” of the stern,
And then sat down to stare.

And thus in armed neutrality
They sat in thoughtful “vis-à-vis,”
While the bark drifted silently
To meet the breakers white ;

But when the Indian seized an oar,
To stay his course, or seek the shore,
Admonished by an ominous roar,
He dropped it in affright :

For in those cavernous jaws he sees
Molars, incisors, cuspidés —
Enough a hero’s heart to freeze
Or dentist to delight.

More dreadful still, the angry Fall,
Like some huge monster seemed to call,
Impatient for its prey ;
And shows its breakers’ flashing teeth,
To welcome him to depths beneath ; —
And breathes its breath of spray.

Visions of fire and frying pan
Encompassed that bewildered man
(Tho’ watery fears oppressed)
And Shakspeare’s thought his bosom fills
“Better to bear our present ills
Than fly” — you know the rest.

Whether the Brave proved dainty fare,
And then the Fall devoured the bear,
Though unto them the “loss was sair”
To us is less ado :
But still, arrayed in fancy’s gleam,
Have floated down Tradition’s stream
The twain in that canoe —
And furnished to the faces pale,
The matter to “adorn a tale,”
And “point a moral,” too.

We float upon life’s lapsing tide
While toward some gulf the waters glide
With unremitting might ;
And some black bear holds us in awe,
Like the “black Care” which Horace saw
Behind the Roman knight.

We fain would seize an oar to reach
Some sylvan shore, some silvery beach ;
But still the moment miss —
For Pride, or Ease, or Care, or Fear,
Sits with o’erwhelming presence near ;
The saving hand we dare not lift,
And gently thus we drift, drift, drift,
Into the dread abyss.

Our land, which boasts that it prepares
Its morel and material wares,
Should make its legends, too :
And mixing one of native clay,
Let’s drop “a lion’s in the way,”
And in its stead hereafter say —
A bear’s in the canoe.”


Source: The Crayon, vol. 8, no. 7, July 1861.

Florio is possibly a pseudonym used by Clement Clarke Moore.  Two poems published in the New York Evening Post under the name of Florio later appeared in Moore’s 1844 book Poems, as outlined in the blog post Two Poems by Clement C. Moore, as First Published in the New York Evening Post

 

Bear and Falls by James McIntyre

bear

Strange incidents do happen ever
On the famed Niagara river,
This thought to mind it now recalls
Event three miles above the falls.

Thrilling ventures there abound,
A bear which weighed eight hundred pounds,
Hunters they do him discover
As he was swimming down the river.

They felt he would be glorious prize
This grand fat bear of mighty size,
Three men they jump’d into canoe,
A skilful and determined crew.

Soon alongside of him they row,
But kindly feelings he doth show,
Quick he scrambled o’er the boat side
For to enjoy a good boat ride.

And as o’er the side he straddles
They hit him on head with paddles,
But all in vain, so two of crew
A short time bade the bear adieu.

And soon they swiftly swam to shore,
But current down the river bore
Man, bear and boat, the sound appals
Of roaring mighty water falls.

But vigorous now he plys the oar,
In hopes to safely reach the shore,
But this made bear to grin and growl
And wear on brow a horrid scowl.

So poor man sore against his will
Finds that in boat he must keep still,
Or else be hugged to death by bear,
While sound of falls becomes more near.

But his two friends so brave and true
Row quick ’longside in a canoe,
And fire in bruin leaden balls,
Thus saving friend from bear and falls.


Source: McIntyre, James. Poems of James McIntyre.  Ingersoll: The Chronicle, 1889.

Biography of James McIntyre in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

Worldly Wounds by Ryan Racine

ryan racine
Niagara Parks Commission Butterfly Conservatory – Interior View – Statue Of Boy & Dog, 1997. Photo by Reg Deacon. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

My dog is a narrative archivist,
unearthing the forgotten and
polluted histories that are
scattered across Niagara Falls’ ecosystem.

Like the bacterial intrusions that make
their way into his body and
cause biological mutations, the
city’s traumas enter and impregnate my mind.

Realizing that i do not have the ability to
recreate a preinfectious state,
i instead reflect on what it means to be
in a postinfection state where i see myself

as part of the problem.
All i have is my dog’s nose,
the bringer of light
that grants recognition to the unsaid.


Ryan Racine earned his master’s of English language and literature from Brock University. He is currently working as a high school teacher and college instructor in Ontario. His poetry can be found in The Steel Chisel, Pauses/Words/Noises, The Brock University Anthology, Pictures & Portraits, Ekphrastic, Joypuke, Weekly Poems, and PACE Magazine.

See other poems by Ryan Racine on the Niagara Falls Poetry Project website:
•    Flow State
•    Sorting Skins

King of the Mist by Diana Williamson

williamson
Annie Taylor, “Queen of the Mist,” posing with the cat, “The King of the Mist,” and the barrel used to go over Niagara Falls. Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library


Annie Edson Taylor

Wanted to be first over the falls

A school teacher from New York

She was gonna’ show them all

She had a custom barrel made

But first tested it on a cat

The poor thing plunged over the falls

It had no say, cause that was that

Luckily the cat emerged

A little tattered but still alive

So on her 63rd birthday, 1901

Ms. Taylor, finally took her dive

 

They called her Queen of the Mist

Queen of the Mist

The first to conquer the falls

But in real actuality

The cat deserved it all

The glory, the title, the award for the first

The cat deserves it all

Cause the Queen of the Mist, the Queen of the Mist

Was the second to conquer the Falls

 

She peddled her wares for many a day

As souvenirs to passers by

‘Til her manager ran off with the famous barrel

And the detectives bled her dry

She swore she’d never do such a feat again

That once, was already too much

They say she lived from hand to mouth

And the fame was never enough

But the tawdry cat he lived the life

Fat on rats and crumpets and tea

Everyone wanted to know the cat

Who was famous, as famous can be

 

Sometimes you can hear them play their jazz

Near midnight along the old lagoon

They call him King of the Mist

And so they wrote him this tune…..

©2020 by Diana Williamson

Source: Diana Williamson, 2020

Visit Diana Williamson’s website

Read more about Annie Edson Taylor