Rivers of Light by Wayne Ritchie


A Canopy of Trees
Photo supplied by Wayne Ritchie

I often look up and into the sky.
I’m guessing, Heaven only knows the reason why.
WhenI get lonesome as I usually do.
I contemplate about the time spent with you. 
My youthful years went by far too quick.
Looking up into heaven for my uncle Nick.
Being my Cub Scout leader teaching me well.
Learned a lot more, it’s amazing to tell.
Laying on my back, I see rivers of light.
I can see water flowing. It’s a wonderful sight.
He taught the boys to row a canoe.
Down through the rapids here’s what you do.
With a paddle you could make water flow.
Making your vessel travel where you wanted to go.
Tops of the trees have plenty of leaves. 
Rivers of light flowing thanks to the breeze.
One Summer we circumnavigated around the Great lakes.
We learned from his talking, by our mistakes.
I remember a river that became Niagara Falls.
The swift mighty river that became river stalls.
Rivers of my youth flowed like blood in my veins.
Learned to build fires when no one complains. 
He loved to joke, here’s one of his best.
His laughter made tears, let’s get some rest.
Folks should know you can’t drink Canada Dry.
The answer is easy, just ask yourself why.
The answer is as comfortable as nightly dreams.
Canada has too many lakes, rivers, and streams.
Nighttime fell upon my campsite under the trees.
The rivers went dark, went to my knees.
Giving thanks to the Lord for the view.
So very thankful that I can tell you.
Open your eyes to the great sights we see.
There all around us, take it from me.

Source: Wayne Ritchie, 2023

At the time of submitting this poem, Wayne Ritchie was 73 years old and had been writing poetry and short stories for 60 years.

Niagara Falls by Rev. Roswell Park

Written in remembrance of a visit to Niagara, and Queenstown ; April 20, 1827.

Niagara Falls With a Rainbow, 1819 by Ralph Gore. Colour tint by Erne Jahnke.
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Niagara rolls on. The faithless wave,
That tore the Indian from his gentle cove,
Is smooth and bright as silver. Nothing speaks
Of last night’s rain : and now the rainbow smiles,
And the white gull flaps through its orange light ;
And the eternal roaring of the Falls
Goes on the same. Wild Indian, farewell !
Thou wert a brother, and thy dying bed
Was the white lashing spray ;— thy only knell
The Rapid’s thunder ;—and the deep, deep gulf
Thy sunless sepulchre !”
— J. R. ORTON.

THE sun shone brightly o’er me as I stood
And gazed upon Niagara’s swelling flood ;—
Whose waters, springing from a distant source,
Through ages past have sped their solemn course ;
Then rushing downward, o’er the lofty rock,
Have made the mountains tremble with their shock ;
Till flowing on majestical and free,
They join’d afar the bosom of the sea.
Between rich plains, extending far around,
And gentle hills with verdant foliage crown’d,
Whose sloping sides grow dim in distant blue,
Niagara river steals upon the view.
Then winding slow the current glides along
Its fertile isles and sunny banks among,
Till soon it meets a rough and rocky bed,
And o’er the rapids dashes on with speed ;—
Sinks in the hollows, swells and sinks again,
And rolls its billows like the raging main :—
Now the huge breakers raise it to the skies,
Whirlpools revolve, and foaming mountains rise.
New floods behind, the waves before them urge,
Approaching nearer to the giddy verge ;
Till a fair isle the mighty current braves,
And with its front divides the yielding waves.
On either side the mighty waters roll,
And ceaseless hurry to the frightful goal ;
Then from the lofty rocks with awful sound
Fall headlong downward to the vast profound,—
Speed to the bottom, swell the deeps below,—
Rise to the surface, boiling as they flow ;—
In eddying circles vent their angry force ;—
Then join the current and pursue their course.
Here on the brow the sea-green flood rolls by,
Reflecting all the brightness of the sky,
While piles of foam, the cataract beneath,
Hang o’er the rocks and round the billows wreathe.
There, as the falling torrent meets the air,
White foaming fleeces down the chasm appear ;
And the bright rainbow through the misty spray,
Shines in the sun and gilds the face of day.
And far below, from adamantine beds,
The rocky banks erect their hoary heads ;—
While lofty trees, like dwarfs, above them seen,
Clothe the high cliffs with robes of brightest green ;
Like uptorn Ossa, from its centre riven,
When the fierce giants fought the pow’rs of heav’n.
‡‡I thought when gazing on this glorious view,
How once the Indian, in his bark canoe,
While fishing far away upon the wave,
Was swiftly buried in a wat’ry grave.
As moor’d at anchor on the treacherous flood,
He throws his net and line in sportive mood,
How great his horror when at first he hears
The cataract swelling louder on his ears ;
When first, beneath the evening’s dusky hue,
The mighty rapid breaks upon his view ;
And unsuspected, with the currents’ glide,
His little boat is carried by the tide,—
While the dim figures seen upon the strand
Move with the stream which bears him from the land !
Then is his angle rod in haste thrown by,
While resolution flashes from his eye ;
Then his strong arm, unceasing bends the oar,
His course directing to the nearest shore ;
At every stroke he dashes through the foam,
And anxiously seems drawing toward his home.
Row ! Indian, row ! avoid the fearful steep !
Bend the light bark, and o’er the waters sweep !
Too late, alas ! the vigorous arm is strung ;
The rapid current hurries him along !
In vain he sees his cabin gleam afar,
Beneath the twinkling of the evening star;—
The shore recedes, the hut eludes his sight,
Then fades in distance mid the gloom of night !
And now the breakers swell with lofty waves,
And now his bark their foaming summit cleaves ;
Despair now seizes on his wearied breast,
His oars neglected lie upon their rest ;
His dog, unheeded, fawns upon his side,
Then leaps, unconscious, in the fatal tide.
One pray’r is utter’d by his wilder’d mind ;
Then sits the Indian, silent and resign’d,
And in his light canoe with patience waits
The speedy issue of his awful fates.
Now roar the waters, terrible and loud,
As heaviest thunder from the blackest cloud ;
And now the chasm its awful depth reveals,
And now the bark upon its summit reels ;
Then down the vast abyss is viewless borne,
To depths of darkness, never to return !
The setting sun beheld him far from shore,
Whom rising morn shall ne’er awaken more ;
But on the beach his bones unburied lie,
And whiten under many a summer’s sky ;
And oft, the Indians say, his spirit roves,
Where once he hunted in his native groves ;
And ever as he flies before the wind,
His faithful dog still follows close behind ;
And oft in loneliness the maiden weeps,
Beside the waters where her hero sleeps ;
And oft the stranger listens to his tale,
And hears the warriors raise his funeral wail ;
While fervent prayers to the Great Spirit rise,
To bless their brother-hunter in the skies.

West Point, Oct., 1828.

Source: Rev. Roswell Park. Selections of Juvenile and Miscellaneous Poems.  Philadelphia: DeSilver, Thomas & Co, 1836

Read about Rev. Roswell Park

Bear and Falls by James McIntyre


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.

The Launch of the Griffin by Thomas D’Arcy McGee


Building of the Griffin, Canada, ca. 1690. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Within Cayuga’s forest shade
The stocks were set—the keel was laid—
Wet with the nightly forest dew,
The frame of that first vessel grew.
Strange was the sight upon the brim
Of the swift river, even to him
 ‡‡The builder of the bark;
To see its artificial lines
Festoon’d with summer’s sudden vines,
 ‡‡Another New World’s ark.


As rounds to ripeness manhood’s schemes
Out of youth’s fond, disjointed dreams,
So ripen’d in her kindred wood
That traveller of the untried flood.
And often as the evening sun
Gleam’d on the group, their labor done—
 ‡‡The Indian prowling out of sight
 ‡‡Of corded friar and belted knight—
And smiled upon them as they smiled,
The builders on the bark—their child!


The hour has come: upon the stocks
The masted hull already rocks—
The mallet in the master’s hand
Is poised to launch her from the land.
Beside him, partner of his quest
For the great river of the West,
Stands the adventurous Recollet
Whose page records that anxions day.
To him the master would defer
The final act—he will not bear
That any else than him who plann’d,
Should launch “the Griffin” from the land.
In courteous conflict they contend,
The knight and priest, as friend with friend—
 ‡‡In that strange savage scene
The swift blue river glides before,
And still Niagara’s awful roar
 ‡‡Booms through the vistas green.


And now the mallet falls, stroke—stroke—
On prop of pine and wedge of oak
 ‡‡The vessel feels her way;
The quick mechanics leap aside
As, rushing downward to the tide,
 ‡‡She dashes them with spray.
The ready, warp arrests her course,
And holds her for a while perforce,
While on her deck the merry crew
Man every rope, loose every clew,
 ‡‡And spread her canvas free.
Away! ’tis done! the Griffin floats,
First of Lake Erie’s winged boats—
 ‡‡Her flag, the Fleur-de-lis.


Gun after gun proclaims the hour,
As nature yields to human power;
And now upon the deeper calm
The Indian hears the holy psalm—
Laudamus to the Lord of Hosts!
Whose name unknown on all their coasts,
The inmost wilderness shall know,
Wafted upon yon wings of snow
That, sinking in the waters blue,
Seem but some lake-bird lost to view.


In old romance and fairy lays
Its wondrous part the Griffin plays—
Grimly it guards the gloomy gate
Seal’d by the strong behest of Fate—
Or, spreading its portentous wings,
Wafts Virgil to the Court of Kings;
And unto scenes as wondrous shall
Thy Griffin bear thee, brave La Salle!
Thy winged steed shall stall where grows
On Michigan the sweet wild rose;
Lost in the mazes of St. Clair,
Shall give thee hope amid despair,
And bear thee past those isles of dread
The Huron peoples with the dead,
Where foot of savage never trod
Within the precinct of his god;
And it may be thy lot to trace
The footprints of the unknown race
‘Graved on Superior’s iron shore,
Which knows their very name no more
Through scenes so vast and wondrous shall
Thy Griffin bear thee, brave La Salle—
True Wizard of the Wild! whose art,
An eye of power, a knightly heart,
A patient purpose silence-nursed,
A high, enduring, saintly trust—
Are mighty spells—we honor these,
Columbus of the inland seas!

Source: Thomas D’Arcy McGee. The Poems of Thomas D’Arcy McGee. London: D. & J. Sadlier, 1870

Note: The Griffin was originally known as Le Griffon. It was built at Cayuga Creek, just south of Niagara Falls, New York.

Read more about The Griffin