The History of Niagara Falls Through Poetry by Alison Langley

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Niagara Falls Public Library’s Victoria Avenue branch. – Torstar file photo

When Andrew Porteus came across a poem about Niagara Falls in an old book on engineering, he was intrigued.

As manager of adult reference and information services at Niagara Falls Public Library, he knew it was unlikely anyone else would read the poem.

“I realized it wouldn’t be seen again, except by accident, so I put it in a vertical file at the library,” he recalled.

“I started finding more in odd places, and collected them.”

Now, more than 20 years later, the retired librarian has amassed more than 300 poems relating to Niagara Falls.

“… and I have tons more to put up.”

Porteus created a website — niagarapoetry.ca — to share his poetry project with others.

The collection includes “Niagara” by Jose Maria Heredia.

“He’s one of the best known Latin American poets and this poem helped solidify his reputation,” Porteus said.

There’s a plaque dedicated to Heredia at the Table Rock Welcome Centre.

On Friday, January 3 he’ll present “An incomplete and non-comprehensive history of Niagara Falls through poetry” at the Victoria Avenue library starting at 7 p.m.

The free event will look at some of the major events that occurred in Niagara Falls over the years.

The stunters and daredevils, the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, the Hermit of Niagara, everyday life in the city, the bridges, trains, honeymoons and deaths will all be covered.

Porteus will be doing a similar presentation in April at the Popular Culture Association of America conference in Philadelphia. He’s also developing a poetry walking tour based on the Poetry Project.

 

Published in the Niagara Falls Review, December 29, 2019 langley

See the article here

An Incomplete and Non-Chronological History of Niagara Falls in Poetry

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Bossy Simms Taking the Waters at Niagara Falls, 1860s. Photo Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

On Friday, January 3rd from 7-9 I will be presenting “An Incomplete and Non-Chronological History of Niagara Falls in Poetry” at the Niagara Falls (Ontario) Public Library.

Please feel free to join me for this lighthearted (most of the time) look at some of the major events that have happened in Niagara Falls over the last few thousand years. The stunters and daredevils, the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, the Hermit of Niagara, everyday life in the city, the bridges, trains, honeymoons and deaths will all be covered. Bossy Simms will make an appearance. Oh, did I mention the Falls over the last few thousand years will also be featured?

LaMarsh Room, Victoria Avenue Library, 4848 Victoria Avenue, Niagara Falls, Ontario

The Battle of Lundy’s Lane by Caleb Stark

Written after a moonlight ramble on Drummond’s Hill, U.C., the scene of that bloody action, fought July 25, 1814, where New Hampshire valor shone conspicuously.

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The 11th U.S. Infantry, 1814, by H. Charles McBarron, Jr. The 11th was Composed of Men from Vermont and New Hampshire

In other days yon fatal hill,
      Glittered with arms and waved with plumes,
When the sad sunset on their steel,
      Flashed its last splendors; even’s glooms
Rang with the bugles’s martial breath
That called the brave to deeds of death.

Then the dismal cry of slaughter
      Broke on midnight’s slumbering hour;
And the parched ground drank blood like water,
      As beneath a deadly shower
Of musket and artillery,
With motto calm yet bold, “I’LL TRY,”
      The bristling ranks move on,
Mid deafening thunder, sulphurous flash,
And shouts, and groans, and forests’ crash,
Till hark!  the sharp, clear bayonet’s clash,
      Tells that the work is done.

There deeds of deathless praise proclaim,
How rolled War’s tide when RIPLEY’s name
      Swelled the wild shout of victory;
And dauntless Miller and McNeil
Led foremost, in the strife of steel,
      The flower of northern chivalry;
While Scott from British brows then tore
The laurels dyed in Gallic gore.

But these terrific scenes are past;
The peasants’ slumbers, the wild blast
      Alone shall break them,
And those proud bannered hosts are gone,
Where the shrill trumpet’s charging tone
      No more may wake them.
Time in his flight has swept away,
Each vestige of the battle fray,
Save that the traveller views around,
The shattered oak — the grass-grown mound
      That shrines a hero’s ashes!

Peace to the brave!  around their stone
Shall Freedom twine her rosy wreath,
And, though with moss of year’s o’ergrown,
Fame shall applaud their glorious death,
      Long as Niagara dashes!

Source: Charles James Fox, ed. The New Hampshire Book, Being Specimens of the Literature of the Granite State. Nashville: C.T. Gill, 1844.

Caleb Stark was born in Dumbarton, New Hampshire on November 21, 1804 and took up residence in his birthplace. Stark was a lawyer, historian, and member of the New Hampshire State Senate, and died in 1864.

Sonnet Read at the Unveiling of the Lundy’s Lane Monument, 25th July, 1895 by William Kirby

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Unveiling of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane Monument, 1895 Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

STAND FAST! STAND FAST! STAND FAST!” A mighty cry sonnet
Rang from the British line at Lundys Lane.
CLOSE UP YOUR RANKS! STAND FAST! the foes again
Swarm up the hill, where our brave colours fly,
And Drummond shouts: To conquer or to die.”
Mid roar of guns, that rend the heavens in twain,
Our flashing bayonets back upon the plain
Hurl down their columns, heaps on heaps they lie;
And Canada, like Greece at Marathon,
Stands victor on the field of freedom won.
This Pillar fair, of sculptured stone, will show
Forever, in the light of glory, how
England and Canada stood fast that night
At Lundys Lane, and conquered for the right.

Source: An Account of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, Fought in 1814, Between the British and American Armies From the Best and Most Authorized Sources.   Niagara Falls: Niagara Publishers, 1947.

Click to see more poems about the Battle of Lundy’s Lane and other Poems of the War of 1812 in Niagara

The Hero of Bridgewater by Charles L.S. Jones

hero bridgewater General Winfield Scott at the Time of the War of 1812
General Winfield Scott at the Time of the War of 1812

Seize, O seize the sounding Lyre,
With its quivering string!
Strike the chords, in ecstasy,
Whilst loud the valleys ring!
Sing the Chief, who, gloriously,
From England’s veteran band,
Pluck’d the wreaths of Victory,
To grace his native land!

Where Bridgewater’s war-fam’d stream
Saw the foemen reel,
Thrice repuls’d, with burnish’d gleam
Of bayonet, knife, and steel;
And its crimson’d waters run
Red with gurgling flow,
As Albion’s gathering hosts his arm,
His mighty arm, laid low.

Strike the sounding string of fame,
O Lyre! Beat loud, ye drums!
Ye clarion blasts exalt his name!
Behold the hero comes!
I see Columbia, joyously,
Her palmy circlet throw
Around his high victorious brow
Who laid her foemen low!

Take him Fame! For thine he is!
On silvery columns, rear
The name of Scott, whence envious Time
Shall ne’er its honors tear!
And thou, O, Albion, quake with dread!
Ye veterans shrink, the while,
Whene’er his glorious name shall sound
To shake your sea girt isle!

Source: Charles L. S. Jones,  American Lyrics; Comprising The Discovery, a Poem; Sapphic, Pindaric and Common Odes; Songs and Tales of American and Patriotic Subjects, and also Imitations From the Greek, Latin, French, and Spanish. Mobile: Pollard & Dade, 1834

Click to see more poems about the Battle of Lundy’s Lane and other Poems of the War of 1812 in Niagara