Laura Secord; or, The Battle of Beaver Dams by Lieut.-Col. J. R. Wilkinson

wilkinson laura

wilkinson laura
Laura Secord warns British commander James FitzGibbon of an impending American attack at Beaver Dams. by Lorne Kidd Smith, 1920. Library and Archives Canada reproduction reference number C-011053

Fought June 24th, 1813. British 47 Regulars and 200 Indians. Americans, 570 with 50 cavalry and 3 guns

She knew, and her heart beat faster,
‡‡The foe would march that day !
And resolved, though only a woman,
‡‡To silently steal away
And warn the outpost at Beaver Dams ;
‡‡Alone, and on foot, to go
Through the dim and awesome forest,
‡‡To evade the vigilant foe.

And no one thought of a woman,
‡‡And she gained a path she knew
In the lonesome, stately forest,
‡‡And over the dark way flew.
On and on with a beating heart,
‡‡And never a pause for rest ;
Twenty miles of dim and distance,
‡‡And the sun low down the west.

Startled sometimes to terror
‡‡By the blood-curdling cry
Of wolves from the faint far distance,
‡‡And sometimes nearer by ;
And hollow sounds and weird whispers
‡‡That rose from the forest deep ;
And ghostly and phantom voices
‡‡That caused her nerves to creep.

But she pauses not, nor falters,
‡‡But presses along the way ;
Noiselessly through the dread distance,
‡‡Through the shadows weird and gray.
In time must the warning be given,
‡‡She must not, must not fail ;
Though rough is the path and toilsome,
‡‡Her courage must prevail.

“To arms ! to arms, FitzGibbon !”
‡‡Came a woman’s thrilling cry ;
“Lose not a precious moment —
‡‡The foe ! the foe is nigh !”
And a woman pale and weary
‡‡Burst on the startled sight
Out from the dark, awesome forest,
‡‡Out of the shadowy night.

“They come ! they come six hundred strong,
‡‡Stealing upon you here !
But I, a weak woman, tell you,
‡‡Prepare and have no fear.”
The handful of British heroes
‡‡Resolved the outpost to save,
With the aid of two hundred Indians,
‡‡Allies cunning and brave.

Still as death the line is waiting
‡‡The onset of the foe ;
And the summer winds make whisper
‡‡In the foliage soft and low.
“Ready !” and each heart beats faster ;
‡‡“Fire low, and without fear.”
And they fired a crashing volley,
‡‡And gave a defiant cheer.

Staggered by the deadly missiles,
‡‡That like a mighty blow
Fell swift on the line advancing,
‡‡Fell on the astonished foe.
And for two long, desperate hours
‡‡The furious fight raged there,
Till the foemen, foiled and beaten,
‡‡Surrendered in despair.

Well done, valiant FitzGibbon !
‡‡Thy name shall live in story ;
Thy daring feat of arms that day
‡‡Is wreathed with fadeless glory.
One other name my song would praise,
‡‡A patriot soul so brave,
That dared the forest’s lonely wilds
‡‡FitzGibbon’s post to save.

Noble woman ! heroic soul !
‡‡We would honor thee to-day ;
Thou canst not, shall not be forgot.
‡‡More lustrous is the ray
Time relects upon thy deed.
‡‡Thy talismanic name —
Canadians, sound it through the land,
‡‡Perpetuate her fadeless fame !

Source: Lieut.-Col. J. R. Wilkinson. Canadian Battlefields and Other Poems. 2nd ed. Toronto, William Briggs, 1901

Click here to see other poems of the Battle of Beaverdams and the War of 1812

wilkinson laura

Niagara Captive: a Poem by Edward Zaremba

zaremba

zaremba
Horseshoe Falls with a Storm, 1847, by Henry Samuel Davis, hand-tinting by Erna Jahnke. Courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

Niagara captive!   And by ribbons led!
His mighty force with that of toiling head
And hand to join.   So changed since ancient days
When red men chanted hymns of praise;
In flower-laden white canoe
Each spring their fairest maiden sent into
The Thunder of the Waters.

Niagara an adult and to Effort bred —
No more to play the livelong day,
But proudly share the sweat and grime
Of stalwart manhood’s laboring prime.
The evergrowing purpose runs; —
Earth’s wealth is measured, not the sun’s;
The stewards of great treasure may
Not waste Tomorrow’s dire need
For Pleasure’s or for Profit’s greed.

Oh, Hercules, still at thy labors keep!
Canst take the raging current from the flood
And swiftly, silent ’round a cable sweep?
Ye Seven Wonders of the ancient world,
Long since into oblivion hurled,
Your kings and gods born to commemorate —
‘Tis to the people do we dedicate
The Wonders of Today.

 

Source: Charles Mason Dow. Anthology and Bibliography of Niagara Falls. Albany: State of New York, 1921.  p840-841.

Originally published in Metallurgical and Chemical Engineering, March, 1913

The Indians by Evelyn M. Watson

watson indians

watson indians
Captain Webb’s Indian Bazaar (located between the current Oakes Garden Theatre and the Rainbow Bridge). Photo courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

How can you come to boldly gape
At some red mother, in cowling cape
Who sews stiff beads on stiffer pillows —
“Souvenirs” — but here are willows,
And here the trails and paths of their feet
In regal days found sweet.

That small papoose with wrinkled chin
Now gravely offers — a moccasin,
And there a princess, with features weathered,
Wears weeds — oh, once an arrow feathered
She flashed — or rather some ancestress
In doe-skin, festal dress.

But if they offer beads, then buy,
Theirs this ancient forestry —
Theirs the windy sun-steeped willows
With roots beneath the pouring billows —
Theirs a grim regality
Chiding, chiding me.

Source: Evelyn M. Watson. Poems of the Niagara Frontier. New York: Dean & Company, 1929.

Click to see more poems from Watson’s Poems of the Niagara Frontier

The Legend of the White Canoe by William Trumbull

legend white

legend white
The American Falls From Prospect Point, by F. V. Du Mond. Taken from The Legend of the White Canoe.

“Long before the solitudes of western New York were disturbed by the advent of the white man, it was the custom of the Indian tribes to assemble occasionally at Niagara, and offer sacrifice to the Spirit of the Falls.
This sacrifice consisted of a white birch-bark canoe, which was sent over the terrible cliff, filled with ripe fruits and blooming flowers, and bearing the fairest girl in the tribe who had just attained the age of womanhood.”

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡I. PROEM.

MID the rush of mighty waters, in the thundering cataract’s roar,
Where Niagara’s streaming rapids down in headlong torrent pour ;
Where the serried waves like chargers madly leaping to the fray,
Fling aloft their snowy crests and toss their manes of flying spray,
Rearing, plunging, onward urging — Nature’s glorious cavalry !
Where th’ eternal sweep of waters like the unending surge of time,
Pulsing, throbs in rhythmic measure to a wondrous strain sublime :
Dwells, so ancient legends say, the mighty Spirit of the Falls,
Who from out the tumult, hoarsely, for unbounded homage calls.
Here the children of the forest, spellbound by that deafening roar,
Stopped to gaze with listening wonder, in the simpler days of yore ;
Awe-struck, gazed in silent worship, well beseeming Nature’s child,
As in chase they roamed the plain, or tracked in war the pathless wild :
And as often as they listened, on the voices of the flood
Deep were borne the Spirit’s mutterings, calling fierce for human blood ;
Ay, and sacrifice more cruel in that cry they understood :
Gift of Nature’s choicest treasure, peerless budding womanhood !    Continue reading “The Legend of the White Canoe by William Trumbull”

Niagara’s Rainbow: The Legend of the White Canoe by Willard Parker

‡‡‡‡‡‡Old Ya-Gao-Tah’s Tale white canoe

white canoe
Illustration from Parker’s Niagara’s Rainbow, by Mary Muse Fletcher

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡I

Yon Rainbow, circling great Niagara’s brow,
Tells, children, of a chieftain’s awful vow;
Hark to its tale of sadness and of love,
All other legends of our race above:
The story of Wenona’s White Canoe,
The grand devotion of her lover true,
The fate that swept their youthful lives away,
Marked by Niagara’s Rainbow to this day.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡II

For know, my children, in the days of yore,
Or ever white man’s foot had pressed this shore,
In forest deep and dark our fathers dwelt,
Before the Manitou devoted knelt,
Craved His protection and His mighty aid
Against the foe and famine — to Him prayed
When pestilence up-raised its baleful head,
Swelling the gruesome ranks of warrior dead.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡III

But comes a day when prayer and offering fail,
When medicines of wise men naught avail,
When through the tribe, with footsteps grim and gaunt,
Stalk the twin spectres, Pestilence and Want.
In terror then, around the council fire
Gather the chiefs, their head Wenonah’s sire;
“What can we offer Thee, Oh! Manitou?”
Speaks the Great Spirit then: “The White Canoe!”

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡IV

Full well they know the precious sacrifice
Demanded, but, though terrible the price,
To save the few still left it must be paid —
Niagara’s Water-god the fairest maid
Of all the tribe as offering must claim —
Her sacrifice to cleanse the tribe of blame.
Who shall it be?    Alas! there is but one
On whom the lot can fall!     The deed is done!

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡V

Like arrow to the mark each glance now turns
Toward fair Wenonah, and her sire’s heart yearns
At thought that she – his dear – his only child,
Must seek her fate beneath the waters wild.
Stately he rises in his place: “Nay! nay!”
He cries, “If naught but that our doom can stay,
We’ll brave the famine’s pestilential breath,
Till all the tribe lies stark and cold in death!”

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡VI

Up springs Wenonah:  “Father! hear me speak!
Though but a woman, think me not so weak
That I would shrink, a coward, from flood or fire,
To save my tribe! My blood is thine, my sire!
Lead on, Oh! warriors, to Niagara’s Fall
Its might shall not my woman’s heart appal!
Farewell, my sire! Uncas, my love, farewell!
Great Water-god! sound thou Wenonah’s knell!”

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡VII

And now, through leagues of forest have they tracked
Their mournful way toward the Cataract.
Before that band of dusky warriors grim
Stalks, stern and silent, the gaunt form of him
Who, savage chieftain of a savage race,
Yet, sorrow pictured in his warrior face,
Now, torn with anguish, offers up his child,
A sacrifice unto the waters wild.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡VIII

Amid the circle of her dusky maids,
Wenonah treads the darksome forest glades,
The fairest of her tribe — her Nation’s pride —
While Uncas walks dejected by her side.
And though her own brave eyes are filled with tears,
She strives with cheerful word to calm his fears,
But nought can give his troubled spirit rest,
Or loose those savage lips, with grief compressed.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡IX

Now, as she hears Niagara’s deep boom,
A premonition of her dreadful doom,
Reverberating through the forest aisles,
Up in her lover’s face she faintly smiles,
And whispers of that land beyond the grave,
That bourne of maiden pure and warrior brave,
Where she, though now torn weeping from his side,
In the Great Spirit’s home may be his bride.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡X

The White Canoe receives its precious freight
Of flowers and fruit, and clad in mimic state,
Reclines amid the bloom, Wenonah fair —
Most luscious fruit, and fairest blossom there.
The warriors grim, smile on such beauteous bribe,
To lure the spirits’ blessing on their tribe,
And all save Uncas gaze with eager eye,
As bark and burden down the current fly.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XI

But not alone must poor Wenonah brave
That dreadful vortex, for, though nought can save,
A love there is, death even cannot part,
And such the love that fills brave Uncas’ heart;
A single stroke and they are side by side,
Alone — together — ‘mid the boiling tide!
Hand clasped in hand as plunging o’er the brink —
Heart throbs with heart as in the flood they sink.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡XII

The striken warriors turn in mute dismay,
Then silent — saddened — take their homeward way,
And on their heads, from out the cloudless blue,
The spray-drops fall, tinted with rainbow’s hue
“The Spirit weeps,” they cry, “for Uncas brave —
The Spirit’s bow lies upon Uncas’ Grave!”
And still the mists from her vexed bosom rise,
Niagara’s tears for Love’s great sacrifice,
And still o’er Uncas’ grave the spirit’s rainbow lies.

Source: Willard Parker. Niagara’s Rainbow: The Legend of the White Canoe. Conshohocken, PA:  Willard Parker Publishing Co., 1922.