I hear the thunderous thud, the muffled roar
I see the blinding, wheeling, smiting mists,
The greens, the grays, purples, and amethysts,
From Heaven’s wide palm thy frightened cataracts pour,
And I look up beneath them and adore.
Above me hang chain lightnings on the wrists
Of summer tempests. In the awesome lists
Of contests are the thunders and thy shore.
Beneath thy quivering riven cliff I lie
And gaze into the lightning and the sky
But I hear only thee and touch and see
A hand which undergirds immensity.
Thou speakest much, but speaketh most of him;
God, God, God walks on thy watery rim.
Source: Charles Mason Dow. Anthology and Bibliography of Niagara Falls. Albany: State of New York, 1921. p 825
Originally published in Joseph Cook. Overtones: a Book of Verse. New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1903
THE WATER TALKED TO THE TURBINE ‡‡AT THE INTAKE’S COUCHANT KNEE:
Brother, thy mouth is darkness ‡‡Devouring me.
I rush at the whirl of thy bidding; ‡‡I pour and spend
Through the wheel-pit’s nether tempest. ‡‡Brother, the end?
Before fierce days of tent and javelin, ‡‡Before the cloudy kings of Ur,
Before the Breath upon the waters, ‡‡My splendors were.
Red hurricanes of roving worlds, ‡‡Huge wallow of the uncharted Sea,
The formless births of fluid stars, ‡‡Remember me.
A glacial dawn, the smoke of rainbows, ‡‡The swiftness of the canoned west,
The steadfast column of white volcanoes, ‡‡Leap from my breast.
But now, subterranean, mirthless, ‡‡I tug and strain,
Beating out a dance thou hast taught me ‡‡With penstock, cylinder, vane.
I am more delicate than moonlight, ‡‡Grave as the thunder’s rocking brow;
I am genesis, revelation, ‡‡Yet less than thou.
By this I adjure thee, brother, ‡‡Beware to offend! For the least, the dumbfounded, the conquered, ‡‡Shall judge in the end.
THE TURBINE TALKED TO THE MAN ‡‡AT THE SWITCHBOARD’S CRYPTIC KEY:
Brother, thy touch is whirlwind ‡‡Consuming me.
I revolve at the pulse of thy finger. ‡‡Millions of power I flash
For the muted and ceaseless cables ‡‡And the engine’s crash.
Like Samson, fettered, blindfolded, ‡‡I sweat at my craft;
But I build a temple I know not, ‡‡Driver and ring and shaft.
Wheat-field and tunnel and furnace, ‡‡They tremble and are aware,
But beyond thou compellest me, brother, ‡‡Beyond these, where?
Singing like sunrise on battle, ‡‡I travail as hills that bow;
I am wind and fire of prophecy, ‡‡Yet less than thou.
By this I adjure thee, brother, ‡‡Be slow to offend! For the least, the blindfolded, the conquered, ‡‡Shall judge in the end.
THE MAN STROVE WITH HIS MAKER ‡‡AT THE CLANG OF THE POWER-HOUSE DOOR:
Lord, Lord, Thou art unsearchable, ‡‡Troubling me sore.
I have thrust my spade to the caverns; ‡‡I have yoked the cataract;
I have counted the steps of the planets.‡‡ ‡‡What thing have I lacked?
I am come to a goodly country, ‡‡Where, putting my hand to the plow,
I have not considered the lilies. ‡‡Am I less than Thou?
THE MAKER SPAKE WITH THE MAN ‡‡AT THE TERMINAL-HOUSE OF THE LINE:
For delight wouldst thou have desolation ‡‡O brother mine,
And flaunt on the highway of nations ‡‡A byword and sign?
Have I fashioned thee then in my image ‡‡And quickened thy spirit of old,
If thou spoil my garments of wonder ‡‡For a handful of gold?
I wrought for thy glittering possession ‡‡The waterfall’s glorious lust;
It is genesis, revelation,— ‡‡Wilt thou grind it to dust?
Niagara, the genius of freedom, ‡‡A creature for base command!
Thy soul is the pottage thou sellest; ‡‡Withhold thy hand.
Or take him and bind him and make him ‡‡A magnificent slave if thou must —
But remember that beauty is treasure ‡‡And gold is dust.
Yea, thou, returned to the fertile ground ‡‡In the humble days to be,
Shalt learn that he who slays a splendor ‡‡Has murdered Me.
By this I adjure thee, brother, ‡‡Beware to offend!
For the least, the extinguished, the conquered, ‡‡Shall judge in the end.
Let conversation seek the Beautiful — Rhyming bird-wings, and that so-magic poise
Of nature’s flute-song, or cello music mellow,
Green-berried vines that edge a lapping pool
Where lily-stars are doubled, white and yellow :
And let me find the day’s own cadences —
Gay frocks, that flower upon a windy line,
That old-blue plate with cakes for tea: yes, these
Amenities that seem so wise and fine :
You see, my memory holds loveliness,
For I awoke among old forestries
Where trees were as endued with consciousness
Till, now, I find fresh grace when work is hard,
And learn to live the inner poetry. . . .
Of course, not as a known, exalted bard,
But from a spirit, tree-wise, lifted Thee !
Each season, now, there’s towering luxury
In “Ceremonial trips” among small hills :
About my place I plant, each year, some tree,
(Green foil for double-gold of daffodils) —
And, for each day, a ritual — some joy,
The crisp delight of this, so tiny lawn,
And curved flower-buds that well employ
Ecstatic tints from summer’s tenderest dawn ;
And yet it seems I scarcely paused until
I went afar for beauty — then I found
The very burgeoning from homey hill,
The self-same glory from my plot of ground;
From nuded winter’s boles to Spring’s small buds,
To summer’s windy leaves that dance and quiver,
I find The Beautiful — oh ! wide green floods, Niagara-of-the-year, from Him, the Giver ;
And, though I go each season to the Fall,
Discovering one great Beauty, find it all !
Source: Evelyn M. Watson. Poems of the Niagara Frontier. New York: Dean & Company, 1929.
How long have people smiled concerning Spring And poets who make to her, an offering. . . .
As from the nascent mold, in thunder-riven
And water-tortured stone, a tree is given
So may my song be radiant — (for a season)
A shad-bush shining, its roots in earth’s old lesion,
Its bole, gray-brown, against the ice-blue sky,
Its fragrant festal torches swinging high. . .
So I ……………………………………. (if that I could, so I!)
And too, I’d give to you the water-song
Of surging streams that swiftly slip along
The silvered course, each rock a native gem,
But better, far, if that you visit them.
Oh, could I sketch, in fire, this ultimate
Outstanding loveliness, I’d hesitate
And with old reverence grow wisely mute
For Soul must see — there lives no substitute,
In words, for that first glossy green
Which garlands fairy twigs and springs between
Dark pads of moss, where even color smoulders
Like match-tip violets ‘mong ashen boulders
And here’s the flame of lingering snow, not wint’ry,
But evanescent crystals (gay and splint’ry
Encrustings) — vanishing in a rime of dew —
Those common beauties mind’s accustomed to.
Who claims we need more outer loveliness ?
We seek more poet-hearts, more consciousness
Of Inner Spring, till icy bonds must burst
And souls grow greatly with new hunger, thirst.
The early stars within their patterned fret,
The Dawn’s pastel from poplar minaret,
Have wrought, within, devout serenity
Yet stir me to a praying psalmody —
Where gray-cowled friar has chiseled deep
In rocks, the mystery of change and sleep
And death, one finds the sculptured esplanade
Brings near the warming sense of needed God.
And if it be the Day with jeweled light
Or that recurving dome of crystal night,
It seems not banal thus to pause to write
Of dusky folks who followed flowered trails
And ghostly paths where even twilight fails —
From legendary past they softly come
And pass to greet their own Elysium. But here is present heaven, here are we
Aware of Paradise, and Instancy ! Awakened, as by sight of one quick tree —
The future, vision-wise, unspells, unfolds,
As some closed bud must yield its pollen golds
At last — as meditative moments flower
In lifted torches — so Spring’s lighted hour
Is like Annunciation, a held flood,
Or new-veiled ecstacies within the bud.
The Virgin’s season, The Woman’s pregnant sign !
For wandering beams of beauty, fierce, divine,
Have stabbed earth vitally and she, the sheath
Of life’s triumphant sword, bears underneath
Her nuptial robes, so delicate and sheer,
The Living seed that justifies the year.
So now, the soul of Him seems even nearer
Than one’s own face within the curdled mirror
Of fretted water ; the lifted shad-flowers seem
To chord the melody of flame-blue stream
That chimes its silvery way among still rocks.
From fire-deep skies the migratory flocks
Of troubadors, those gay-winged messengers,
Now find cathedral lofts in oaks and firs,
And where June-berry censer sways and blows
They tell of Love in oratorios.
Delicate, wind-borne, is fragrance coming
To rhyme of wings, the hurrying and humming
Of insect life, in gossamer like elves,
Magicked from folded fronds on stony shelves.
And night, blue-velvet cloaked, and diamonded
But finds the clustered pearly shad-blooms hid
Against the moon’s serener, even pearl,
Or in an aureole of mist, a swirl
Of cloudy plumes that heavenly horsemen wear, Notes Boreal spears and hears the whispering prayer
Of Spring, the Maiden-Joan, (the youthful saint,
Who frees the ice-hard earth, without complaint,
Who buds and flowers while from a stricken pyre
Rekindles earth with that triumphant fire.)
Then as shad-flowers fall, and deep desire
Must fade in fruiting, so the poet dies
Shadowed by graces he’d apostrophize.
The poet rill would bubble small, swift rhymes
As shad flowers, dying, sway like silent chimes.
Better the quiet bloom among tall trees
Lyric with their own mute symphonies —
Better the fallow deer in solitude —
The dun hare and shadowy squirrel that elude
The note of man — better the fronds that push
‘Gainst sleeping roots of some sky-seeking bush, Than that I lift my tuneless voice to sing —
The world is right — to smile at songs of Spring.
Source: Evelyn M. Watson. Poems of the Niagara Frontier. New York: Dean & Company, 1929.