MacDonnell On The Heights by Stan Rogers

Too thin the line that charged the Heights
And scrambled in the clay.
Too thin the Eastern Township Scot
Who showed them all the way,
And perhaps had you not fallen,
You might be what Brock became
But not one in ten thousand knows your name.

To say the name, MacDonnell,
It would bring no bugle call
But the Redcoats stayed beside you
When they saw the General fall.
Twas MacDonnell raised the banner then
And set the Heights aflame,
But not one in ten thousand knows your name.

You brought the field all standing with your courage and your luck
But unknown to most, you’re lying there beside old General Brock.
So you know what it is to scale the Heights and fall just short of fame
And have not one in ten thousand know your name.

At Queenston now, the General on his tower stands alone
And there’s lichen on ‘MacDonnell’ carved upon that weathered stone
In a corner of the monument to glory you could claim,
But not one in ten thousand knows your name.

You brought the field all standing with your courage and your luck
But unknown to most, you’re lying there beside old General Brock.
So you know what it is to scale the Heights and fall just short of fame
And have not one in ten thousand know your name.

Written and recorded by Stan Rogers. Copyright Fogarty’s Cove Music 

N.B. Although written in the song as MacDonnell, the correct spelling is John Macdonell.

The River None Believe by John B. Lee

 

John B Lee
John B. Lee / theOntariopoetrysociety.ca

I think of the Niagara
and if I say
“the river it seems remembers nothing”
and you might say
“What?” you might say “are you crazy?”
and if I say
“well, the War of 1812 was fought here
from mouth to source
and it was
the worst conflict, the most violent
ever fought by Europeans
right here on Canadian soil…
not as ‘remember the Alamo’
but as ‘remember Lundy’s Lane'”
the heat of battle
to the death–the worst in North America
until the Civil War
yet if you travel now
to the sight
it’s like hardening of the arteries
of history
it’s carnival traffic, tarmac
and the roar of a frothy falls
full of whisky barrel values
like empty thread spools
dangling from a mad tailor
and all you see
is Blondin on his tight rope
over the rapids
not the red wind
of a single crimson night
how many summers ago
and gone
and if I say
“go to the heights above Burlington Bay
and listen for those headless ghosts
of eight men hanged
go to Queenston
and watch the far banks
for the bad boats
go to Newark/Niagara
and look for the conflagration
listen for the hiss of torches
and the crash of blackened rafters
go to little St. David’s
ride there on a dead horse
trample the vineyards
watch for the wine stain
in the blight of fire and ink
and if by
the echo of a wet rock
if by the strangled cry
of some turning eddy
foaming round in eternal rubble
wearing the shape of the flow
perilous enough
to the jarred heel
to spin a man’s craft
and crack his memory loose
as quick as a war club will
and if I look
to this land
and see
how a man is missed
as if he were never there
how his shape might drop away
like a walker in the fog
some phantom colour fading in the mist
with a ragged twin
of someone watching from the other way
what of this
this earth that holds us
this deeper gravity
this float of stones
these stories
dead tongues tell?

 

Source: The Author, 2001.

John B. Lee. From In the Terrible Weather of Guns  [manuscript]

[Father Louis Hennepin] by Captain Flynn

Straight up Frontenac’s Northmost side
Ever a West he sailed,
Crossing in blessed Advent tide,
Landing on great Niagara’s shore.
South he turned to a sullen roar;
His Crucifix on his heart he bore;
Never his spirit failed.

Now Glory to God, whose hand did forge
This wondrous watery road!
On ragged rim of the fearful gorge
South he toiled through brambles and moss,
Past rapids roaring like souls atoss.
He blessed himself with the sign of the Cross
At the cliff where the torrent flowed.

His little altar was quick untied;
Small waxen tapers alight,
He said the Mass of the Sanctified.
Turning South through the wintry haze,
His eyes aglow, his heart ablaze,
At Chippawa’s flow, with a song of praise,
He made his camp for the night.

Source: Ray Corry Bond. Peninsula Village: The Story of Chippawa. Chippawa: [s.n.], 1964.

Looking for Niagara by E. R. Baxter III

It’s Niagara lost
in the 20th century, disappeared
from the cereal box, up in mist,
a canvas backdrop in one hundred thousand
dead photographs, fading from postcards,
gone to Bermuda, Disney World, flown
to Aruba, splish took a bath at Niagara
splash went to Vegas for the weekend—
but had room at the motel
for Joseph and Marilyn
and were they impressed?
There’s no record of it.

But the first human record at Niagara
before it had name–the first human at ?
who left a flint spear point, water
falling at the whirlpool then,
at old gorge, and the spear point:
dropped in fear, in awe,
in wonder at new water,
ice falling who thought of it as !

Wandering hunter, archaeologists say, who
if he were there at all, didn’t stay long,
as if he had, for months let’s say, they’d
have known—would have found the tree
against which he relieved himself,
charcoal trace on stone, where he
cooked fish—as if no Niagara rock
has been left unturned.

The most recent evidence indicates he
did stay but a brief time—only minutes—
that dizzy from spoiled fish innards
he stumbled out of the woods
toward thunder, saw falling water, stared
slack-jawed into mists and steam rising
against south gorge wall, had visions:

The wall exploding, water rushing forth
gnawing south, divers fearful things—
dropped his spear, fled empty-handed
and throwing up back among the trees
and who wouldn’t have?

What he saw: the sun rising and setting
3 million 647 thousand 445 times, ten
thousand winters and springs, trees
leafing out, hot suns, leaves coloring,
withering, dropping, snows whirling,
grass greening, fogs gathering, rains,
trees dying, toppling, new trees as slim
as spears growing thicker than his body,
salamanders mating between his gnarled toes,
mice nibbling algae from his ankles, a wolf
marking territory on his left shin

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