Canada Seventy Years Ago, or, Prince Edward’s Visit to Niagara by J. P. Merritt

Jedediah Prendergast Merritt wrote a long poem on Prince Edward’s visit to Canada in 1860, bound with a number of other poems that he wrote. This page contains the introduction to the poem, and the parts relevant to the Niagara area. The complete book can be viewed here on the Hathi Trust website


Introduction

Through glare and dust at evening’s hour
Say, you have reached the gorge of power.
The headlong haste they did pursue
Arrested, you a picture view.

merritt
Edward, Prince of Wales, at Niagara Falls, 1860. (Edward is in white pants with one leg resting on rock) Photo by Platt D. Babbitt. Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library.

A picture to which the opposing rays,
Of Sol on moving water lays
Noiseless and clear, without a glare —
Unawed, as when too close you are.

Be not in haste to approach the wonder,
But like the lightning without thunder,
Arrest your course, view it awhile,
And with my lay your time beguile.

Ye denizens of cities, list, I pray
To this rough measure of a sylvan lay
Though one from foreign lands in this I bring,
‘Tis not of courts, a people rude I sing.

Forget not ye who now in palace car,
Ride swiftly, smoothly to the scene from far.
How hard it was the way for them to tread,
Who o’er this forest darkened road first sped,

Think not this epic for the scene too high,
Niagara can with all the Grecian valleys vie ;
In this the thought directed to as far between
As is this spot from the farthest you have been.

When up the gorge a mile or two you ride,
And reach this wonder on the Canada side,
And while from coach to elevator step,
Prepared to see the myriads of water leap.

Look back and see yon gossamer span,
Work, great as earth displays of man ;
A train disturbs the cataract’s roar,
Soon it rolls on — that sight is o’er.

It’s past; and grandeur as of yore
Reigns, ruler of the scene once more.
Improvements cease to intervene.
When cataract alone is seen.

Regard again a Fall whose power,
Existed ages as this hour,
And will to future ages last,
As strong as now, and as the past.

What spot imposing more to stand,
And drink the water from your hand,
While Iris tips the rough rocks now,
And leaves are waving round your brow.

No vigorous shoot obstructs the way,
No wood’s inhabitant strikes with dismay,
Cleared all those terrors from the road
O’er which in their reverse our fathers trod.

Part II

Visit to Niagara

With gracious thanks the Prince replied,
And tokens worthy, more supplied.
The eastern wind had changed to north,
Tossed were the billows in their wrath.

He who had steered upon the ocean
His ship, now felt the wild commotion
While buffetting opposing wind,
The light of day had ne’er declined.

When winding round a point once more,
They see an opening in the shore,
Briefly conflicting waves oppose,
And then the barque find calm repose.

A greeting on the land they find,
To which they were not disinclined ;
The hospitality of their host they test,
Nor are due honors spared their guest.

A friendly table broad is laid,
And dainties from afar displayed,
The forest did its game afford,
Rich venison crowned the ample board.

The friendly greeting hand first shook.
The feast the royal toast partook,
The night with dance and cards dispose,
And daylight dawned before repose.

The morn had brought them from the fort,
Where stored within its ample halls,
Spoils of the traders who there resort
For safety to its staunch stone wallst.

Where naval men before resort,
In council grave the Governor sat,
Nor had the council raised yet,
Debating on the new Land Grant.

Nor they alone, the Indian band,
To meet their eastern friends resort,
Together with one heart and hand,
The title to their land support.

The Governor sat to say a word,
Respectful stood they all,
Completely still was every sound
In that debating hall.

You left your home and country,
The land where you were born,
The happy land of childhood,
Of manhood’s early dawn.

The rock-clothed, grassy hills,
The waving corn-grown plain,
Where naught reached you of the ills
Which now to you remain.

And well you summed the cost,
You would not bear the ready taunt
Nor brook, when all was lost,
To have the scornful finger cast.

Tory is he from old and young,
Expressed with laugh and jeer ;
The thought that through your strong frames run
Was not the thought of fear.

Then to the wilds and to the stream
Your precious charge you trust,
And look unto the western realms
For the reward that’s due the just.

Towards them and their dark isles then
You cast your troubled, anxious ken,
And feeling that to keep you up
You need all — be vigorous men.

Butler Johnson, with you I leave
Claus, Tenbroeck ancl Paulding too,
I trust in friendship you’ll remain,
And each to all prove true.

Wait yet I fear my trusty friends
When all finished in our cause,
The differences of settlers
Oft will cause to break the laws.

Give ye my friends the Sheriff aid,
Regard ye his command,
The laws when made must be obeyed,
Then lend a helping hand.

Nor fear in want to suffer here,
For barges still will ply
Up every creek, up every pond,
Your wants they shall supply.

I now toward our new bourne tend.
Beverly, Fay, Jones with me,
Brant now, once Johnson’s friend,
Our firm and staunch ally.

A shout arose from the brave band,
A shout that rent the skies,
And towards the chief who rose,
Alike were turned all eyes.

Simcoe’s Rangers.

A gregarious crowd around the door
With various surmises the scene rehearse,
They filled the ample court before,
And of the coming grants discourse.

Fiercer now the contest wore,
For Simcoe’s about to take his way
Westward, to lay out acres more,
And make the acres broad his followers pay.

A noise is heard, a settler calls,
A hurrying here and there they come,
Adown the stairs and through the hall,
Still’d was the sound and hushed the hum.

Nor pageant’s wont to grace the scene,
Nor men with lace, scarlet and blue,
Staffmen and voyageurs I ween,
All wait, the great man’s will to do.

But first in visage doth appear,
A veteran band in martial mien,
Their steeds are poor, tarnished their gear ;
But rare a goodlier band is seen.

He passed on until the serried band
Before the house had met his eye,
Saluting with uplifted hand,
With eye elate, which all did spy.

He turned and spoke one other word,
Respectful stood they all,
And as he spoke there could be heard
The noiseless pin drop fall.

Companions of my arms, he said,
I know the hardships that ye bear,
I know the heart that keeps you up,
I know the men ye are.

But now towards the west I go,
For you my friends new land to bear,
And for my faithful followers, so
New and happy homes prepare.

First to the Mohawk station
With blankets a good store,
Nor ever yet has Britain’s band
Forgot the Sagamore.

The pressing crowd the chief surrounds,
Sympathetic glances cast.
And make the neighboring banks resound
With shouts, that echoing last.

He mounts and westward takes his way
The loud huzza from the veteran band
Arose, and all him heard do pray
Success attend bold Simcoe’s hand.

For a brave man was “Simcoe,”
And a brave band were they,
Strive they till the strife is o’er,
And then the work repay.

They felt the toils of war require
From one that doth command
Returns, and well did Simcoe pay
The true devotion of his band.

For soldiers fight and soldiers die.
Till they decide the day,
And then the sword into a plough,
The spear a hook make they.

PART III.

Voyage Up the River

Niagara, may I, as I onward go,
My verse like thee in smoother numbers flow,
Catch the refrection of thy azure wave,
Some truth recall, and from oblivion save.

Observation from the realm of mind,
Suggested and in this task designed,
Increase the interest, and attention gain,
As voyaging onward we reach the boundless main.

Into a strong raiment brought,
And like a garment of fine tissue wrought,
Or built on nature’s ground, consistence gain,
And of a nation’s birth a monument remain.

A people’s chronicles, compared how small,
Like the first streamlet of thy mighty fall,
Convince the mind and stir the sympathies,
Catch thy reflection from the azure skies.

The impression stamped as vivid, but as true
As thy far font, beyond the Huron blue,
Nor at the present we alone remain,
liut like thee travel till we reach the main.

——————————————————————

At length a barge the party reached,
To mount the stream each nerve was stretched,
And when the centre flood was gained,
Slow progress upward they attained ;

Why was’t? The same spot on the shore
Added regret to them the more ;
And when impatience forced to wait,
Reproached the current with their fate.

The barge propelled by laboring oar
Glides by itself along the shore,
The change at once awakes surprise,
The question and reply arise.

The guide at hand to his desires,
The knowledge gives that he requires ;
The current passing downward ever
By opposing points is turned up river.

Where doth this chasm vast disclose?
Where issuing out, the water flows,
A whirlpool sweeps with noiseless might,
That stoutest hearts it might affright.

For tree or barque within its eddy
Sails round and round in circles steady,
And once in this, the shore again.
Your bark nor you shall e’er attain.

Fort Niagara 100 Years Ago

The sun was rising, and the hour
When thought exerts its magic power,
His rays cast on Niagara’s banks
Revealed its trees in neighboring ranks.

The cloud of distant cataract gave
Back to the sight a scene less grave.
Edward, who yet had much to learn
Of wild woods, stands upon the stern,

Ardent and bold the ocean’s child
He’d trust the deep, and shun the wild ;
His friend and guide those thoughts opined,
Then to remove his skill designed.

See you where trees less dense in ranks,
Betoken clearings on the banks.
To one like this we turn our prow,
Patiently wait, we go not now.

Wait till I tell you how we fought,
And gave the French their final rout,
Niagara round — leagured we stand,
Decided at the Chief’s command.

Now as July passed quickly by,
And “Sol” darts arrows from the sky ;
And when men look in vain for aid
The dubious trial of the sword assayed.

How lined in ranks promptly they try
The issue ; then the Frenchmen fly
Back to their fort, and there
Await the verdict of protracted war.

And then the sun the scene illumed,
And then our force the siege resumed ;
At length the aid long looked for comes ;
No greeting shout, no beating drums ;

But stealthily their guile pursue,
The fort to gain, and shun our view.
The sentinel of outpost stands,
With gun reclining in his hands ;

A crack is heard from neighboring wood,
His ear it catches, that bodes no good,
It is the deer — listless he droops.
Nor heeds the approach of hostile troops.

A pause ensues, and there is heard no more,
Naught but the sound of cataract’s roar,
His thoughts are wandering forth afar,
To Mohawk’s banks, where naught’s of war ;
The solemn music to his ear
Seems like the tread was used to hear.

Ere war was earnest, and idle boys
To train were wont, with boisterous noise ;
And all the neighborhood resort,
To enjoy a day of country sport.

The clouds break off, the wind once more
Drives inward to the neighboring shore,
They seem to drive those trees along,
Like them a dense and serried throng
A cannon from the fort awakes his trance.
Before him sees the marshal’d hosts of France.
He from the bark to shore doth land.
And following goes the portage band,
The Falls not yet had met his eyes,
The voyage pursuing, Edward hies.

Fire-Water and Falling Water

Forward the word, portage half passed,
And men and oxen painfully tasked ;
When nearing now the cataract meet
A denizen of the woods complete.
Accosted fair, the wild man stood,
And half laid off his savage mood.
When we, the red men, held command,
Silence prevailed o’er all the land,
Nor scared the wild bird from the wave,
Nor ceased the deer his sides to lave,
The white man trod along the way,
And then was drove our game away ;
Their constant passing by the flood ;
Deprived us of our ample food;
The buffalo binds he to his load,
And trails trees on where once men trod.

You see those bleached bones through the wood !
The remnants of the buzzard’s food ;
We met them once on their careless way,
And then our wrongs did amply pay,
The sight was that the blood to freeze,
And yet the savage seemed to please,
As spake his form, delate with pride,
The voyageur’s load he casual spied ;
Kegs with their stores, along the track
Were borne in wagons, and on back.

Was changed the native of the soil,
As gazing on the voyager’s toil.
“Fire-water” up the billows came,
Have scarcely left us now a name ?
If with you came this pest not here
We would not now so disappear ;
Our greatest foe made us forlorn,
A nation by its breath is gone.
Finished his speech, his gun he takes
And through the woods quick steps he makes ;
And like his race whose end so near,
Through the dark woods to disappear.

——————————————————————

As forward of his convoy goes,
The presence of a fall he knows.
Needless to say surprise, not wonder,
A mountain seemed as torn asunder,
Like a vision before him passed,
The scene upon his eye so vast.

Resounding flood, surrounding wood,
Astonished as at distance stood —
When first to traveller’s anxious eyes
Appeared this fall — vast thoughts arise.

Forgive if to his ‘stonished ken
More grand appeared the cataract then ;
Forgive if as too careless pass’d
The first explorer’s views were vast.

——————————————————————

The convoy came, the camp they make,
And of a generous supper take ;
Then each one’s course he does pursue,
And separate round the Falls they view.

A ladder of a pine tree made,
To reach the foot affords its aid,
They ne’er before the like did see,
Till then, such grandeur, all agree.

Back to Niagara and Wild Flowers

Late in the day the company find
The clearing past in woods that it confin’d.
As now the escort to the wood
Parting, upon the clearing stood,
Struck at all sights when all are rare,
And idly sauntering here and there.

And backwards turned along the road,
No more in clearing friends are heard,
It contained a cottage hid with green ;
Tho’ humble, admired was the scene,
The cottage all that summer day
Detained the company. And away
Scarce could the pleasant party break,
And onward still their journey take.

Long at the landing lay the barge,
Long there his crew true to their charge ;
And still it seemed as if a spell
Had bound him  — and to say farewell,
Why still so hard, he could not tell.

——————————————————————

You ask a bouquet to bestow
Of flowers that in our wilds do grow,
When summer cheers the glorious scene
With blossoms interspersed with green.

Accept this simple nosegay here,
From one not distant would appear,
No perfumed flowers give I to you,
Our flowers are scentless but yet true ;
They smell but slight, but yet they show
As deep a dye as those you grow.
Despise not the productions of the wild.
The cultivated man was once a child.
If this, my floral gift, should please,
A liberty allow to add with these ;
As they may meet due favor in your eyes,
A sentiment conveyed may also prize.
So self-denying acts may move,
And approbation follow fruits of love.
Grant me the wish, as summer crowns the year
Changes flower to fruit the sight to cheer,
As the revolving season onward flows,
A winter garnished with richest fruit that grows.

The day was breaking, and the time
When nature shows in all her prime,
And Edward now the journey o’er,
Wished through wilds he’d wander more.
Musing thus he inward spake,
Shall commercial toils this silence break ?
Thought oft how men would down the spell,
And business on the affections tell.

Then from the camp ere “Sol” arose
To break the scene of deep repose ;
There appeared a tenant of the wild
Along the bank, free nature’s child,
From the high steep she quickly sped
And reached the fort with agile tread.

Surprised and pleased he views once more
The siren of the day before
As quick she pass’d, who art thou, maid ?
Sir William’s daughter, sir, she said.
Retarded, brief her onward speed,
And to his short discourse gave heed.
Where go ye now ? where do ye hie ?
To Brant’s quarters was the reply ;
Where they prepare the warlike feat,
And give our father’s son a treat.
From thence go to the “Miami,”
From thence to the Auglaize ;
Where lit up is the council fires
Our Indian bands to raise.

A sigh escaped — he said no more,
This very day I leave your shore,
Never to see this land again,
I take my passage o’er the main.
My Progeny may view this land,
I ne’er again shall press your strand.
One look she gave, the “traveller” learned
The interest he had early earned.
He lingers — saddened at the thought,
And loth to break the feelings wrought.

Not long he mused until the sound
Arose from sleeping tents around
Of a hasty meal despatch is made,
And to return the troops arrayed.

Departure by Lake and River

The farewell taken, the parting o’er,
Adieus returned from boat to shore :
As they upon the billows bound,
Strains like this from shore resound.

Frail bark, my heart beats in pity for thee,
Unknowing the fate thou mayest see.
With bustle and shouting, with running and noise,
Your attention engages and your time employs ;
But when all is finished, the white sail ye raise,
And you cast on the land the last parting gaze,
You think of the dangers to your far distant home,
Talk of its comforts when no more you will roam,
The gulf lies between you with its dreary alarms,
The perils of ice and its dark winter storms,
But trust ye in Providence, He will procure
A landing of safety, a haven secure,
The pathway of honor still may you pursue,
More enduring than power will it prove to you ;
An obelisk firmer than brass will be found,
A name than emblazoned more ample resound.


Source: J. P. Merritt.  Canada Seventy Years Ago, or, Prince Edward’s Visit to Niagara. 3rd. ed. St. Catharines, 1860.

While at Niagara Prince Edward visited Laura Secord and rewarded her for her service in the War of 1812.  Read Visit of the Prince of Wales to Laura Secord  by Sarah Anne Curzon.

Read about Prince Edward’s tour ine this article by Hugh Brewster.  The Prince of Hearts: Remembering Canada’s First Royal Tour 160 Years Later

Rest! by William H. C. Hosmer

hosmer
Cemetery at Fort Niagara, in the midst of a gravestone cleaning project. Image courtesy of New York State Parks


A  few rods from the barrier-gate of Fort Niagara was the burying-ground. It was filled with memorials
of the mutability and brevity of human life, and over the portals of entrance was painted, in large and emphatic characters, the word ‘Rest’ — Judge De Veaux.

Earth, upon her ample face,
Boasts no sweeter burial-place
Than a small enclosure green,
Near an ancient fortress seen ;
Mossy head-stones here and there
Names of fallen warriors bear,
But no eulogistic phrase,
Cut on rock, that meets the gaze,
Can our reverence command,
Like that brief inscription grand,
On the portal arch impressed —
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡“Rest!”

River wide, and mighty lake
For the dead an anthem wake,
And with old, forgotten graves
Well comports the wash of waves,
Motto of the hallowed ground
Murmuring with solemn sound ;
Birds that by like spirits pass,
Winds that murmur in the grass,
Seem repeating evermore
That one word the gateway o’er,
Word that haunts a troubled breast—
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡“Rest!”

Pilgrim, for a moment wait
Near the narrow entrance gate,
And one word peruse — no more —
Boldly traced the portals o’er ;
Mortal heart was never stirred
By a more emphatic word ;
One with deeper meaning fraught,
Or the power to quicken thought ;
Sermon, hymn, and funeral lay,
Eloquence the soul to sway,
In four letters are compressed —
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡“Rest!”


Source:  Hosmer, William H.C.  The Poetical Works of William H.C. Hosmer. New York: Redfield, 1854

See casual references to Niagara in other poems by Hosmer

Read about William Howe Cuyler Hosmer

Old Fort Niagara website