Seeing Niagara by Lini Grol

All excited,
they landed with their camera
to see all of Canada,
but most of all,
that great NIAGARA FALL.

Worldy-wise they ignore
the neon signs enticing them
to spend their precious time,
and dole out their hard-won yens.

Eagerly they go on
then falter to a silent stare
at the Niagara in its roaring Fall …
Intimidated, for a moment
they marvel at its immense powers.
Then turning
they quietly drink
in with glowing delight
the scent and sight
of the billions of flowers,
who silently ring
the roaring powers
of the Niagara Falls.

Source: Grol, Lini, ed. by Kevin McCabe and Lynne Prunskus. Lake to Lake: Lini Grol’s Niagara.  St. Catharines: Blarney Stone Books, c2000.

At Niagara by Richard Watson Gilder

Richard Watson Gilder as an American Civil War soldier. By Sarah Wyman Whitman
R. W. Gilder as an American Civil War soldier. By Sarah Wyman Whitman

There at the chasm’s edge behold her lean
Trembling as, ‘neath the charm,
A wild bird lifts no wing to ‘scape from harm;
Her very soul drawn to the glittering green,
Smooth, lustrous, awful, lovely curve of peril;
While far below the bending sea of beryl
Thunder and tumult — whence a billowy spray
Enclouds the day.

What dream is hers? no dream hath wrought that spell!
The long waves rise and sink;
Pity that virgin soul on passion’s brink,
Confronting Fate — swift, unescapable, —
Fate, which of nature, is the intent and core,
And dark and strong as the steep river’s pour,
Cruel as love, and wild as love’s first kiss!
Ah, God! the abyss!

Source: Myron T. Pritchard, comp. Poetry of Niagara. Boston: Lothrup Publishing Co., 1901
First published in his The Great Remembrance and Other Poems, New York: The Century Co., 1893

Niagara by Arthur William Fisher

Niagara by Arthur William Fisher
Portrait of Arthur William Fisher

NIAGARA, how charms thy name
    Resounding from thy high walled sheer!
How sweet thy water's far acclaim
    That bursts upon my pricking ear!
How beams my eye with kindling flame
    As to thy presence I draw near,
Where beautied grandure's falling swell
Weaves still time's awful, mystic spell!

I gaze at thee from nearest shore,
    Close by the impending brink,
In wonder at thy fearful pour
Of waters, til, amazèd more
    Than I can tell or think,
I only see thy mist's fine shower
    That wafts upon these walls,
And vision dim that mighty Power,
    The Great Spirit of the Falls.


But lo ! up stream, in fitful dream,
    The rolling, rumbling rapids roar,
And toss and tilt and turn and teem,
And gurgle in their cascades' gleam
    From isle to isle and isle to shore;
        And oft repeat the dazzling feat,
Display their leaping wonders more,
Rush round the rocks with flaring locks,
Lead as bellweathers do their flocks,
    While through their tree-trimmed way they pour,
        These bounding waters, fleet, more fleet,
To gather in one onward rush
    Adown their troubled, rocky bed,
And struggle, straggle, gurgle, gush,
    To follow where their leaders led;
        But panting now for breath,
            They stagger to the edge
            Of overhanging ledge,
        Fearing the plunge beneath;
When forth in foam their fellows come,
Cheering and jeering the faltering and fearing,
Till onto the precipice they rush with a roar,
Exulting and leaping, as comrades before;
Yet staring, stumbling, crashing, crumbling,
    As host with host o'erpowering,
Each glistening wight of air commingled,
    They fall in gulf devouring;
Or, flaring, flashing, darting, dashing,
    To break as gleaming snow,
While splitting, splashing, gnawing, gnashing
    Upon the rocks below;
Whence o'er the heights their spirits towering,
Sweeping, swaying, rising, lowering,
    Rejoin the ceaseless flow,
That with recurring, falling shock,
    Born on the wind's bluff blast,
Wears e'er amain the shelving rock,
    And undermines aghast.
    There as by mighty hand,
A cavern forms, carved by the storms
    Of vexed spray's pelting wave;
    And in that rocky cave
Rough columns stand with altar grand;
    While fittingly conforms
The spray-worn dome and bowlder pave,
Round which reëcho e'er a stave
    Of wailing wind's weird band;
And there before the cavern door,
Attended with intoning roar,
    E'er falls the Bridal Veil
    And sweeps the filmy rail,
Which now through Bridal Hall are fanned,
Now screen that Wind's Cave from the land. 
 Continue reading "Niagara  by Arthur William Fisher" 

Apostrophe to Niagara by Horace Dresser

Below Table Rock
Below Table Rock, Drawn from nature for the Proprietor Hermann J. Meyer. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

I HEAR flood voices in thy cavern halls,
    Deep unto deep there uttereth grave speech;
    The sounds of torrent minstrelsy here reach
To heaven from the profound within thy walls;
Upon my deafened ear in terror falls,
    Thy roar, as of some dread volcano’s breach,
    Or ocean storm-waves hurled upon the beach!

Earth trembleth at thy passing mighty flood!
    From the unfathomed chambers of the deep,
    These voices of thy many waters keep,
In thunder-tones and grand majestic mood,
One everlasting anthem praising God!
    Thy fearful pathway leads thee o’er a steep,
    Which thou thyself alone dost dare to leap!

I feel to worship now — here from this seat,
    High o’er the beetling cliffs above the brink
    Of thy abyss, I wonder, gaze, and think : —
How restless is thy surge beneath my feet!
For ever rolling rushing on to meet
    Old Ocean’s boundless depths, for aye to sink
    Deep in oblivion, whence we mortals shrink!

Heaven archeth o’er thy gates, great deluge-born!
    With bow that sprang from world-submerging waves:
    Below its circling reach thy maddened flood here raves;
And chronicles on walls of adamant deep worn,
The years that have been since thy birth-day morn!
    For ever lost the bark that rashly braves
    The war of adverse waters — no arm saves!

Proud kings and purpled potentates of earth,
    With trophies borne in march from battle-plain,
    Where sleep the glorious dead in havoc slain,
Sound clarion loud and seek the distant hearth,
Through arch-triumphal reared at place of birth;
    How mean are they beside my monarch train,
    Thy going forth to join the Stormy Main!

Source: Swickhamer, Conrad, ed. United States Democratic Review. New Series, vol. 17, no. 6, December 1858. p. 475-476.

To a Flower by Alexander Wellington Crawford

(Found Some Years Ago at the Foot of Goat Island, Niagara)
To a Flower
Horseshoe Fall and Goat Island Seen from Table Rock by James Hope-Wallace. Courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

I turned aside to pluck thee, sweetest flower,
From thy low bed, where, almost hid from sight,
Thou lay’st besieged by rocks, whose giant power
Was broken ere they reached thee with their might.

Thou grewest there, so tiny and alone,
Among the rocks that formed thy hardened bed;
And yet thou seem’st no sadness to have known,
For heaven’s blue had crowned thy tender head.

Thou wast the only flower that I could see —
The place around was ruinously bare;
And yet thou grewest there contentedly,
Although thou livedst on but rocky fare.

Thou only heardst the cataract’s fierce roar —
The torrents never reached thy rocky bed;
So thou wast safe, though near where fierce floods pour;
The spray but dashed upon thy bending head.

I found thee with thy sweetness hid away,
Far from my path upon the rocks beneath;
I clambered down to claim without delay
Thy slender beauty and thy fragrant breath.

Thou hast for me the tenderest memory,
For him, who was my comrade in those days;
Scarce can I meet until eternity,
When God brings him from India’s burning rays.

I hold thee as a treasure to my heart —
Thy life was so much like my own poor life;
For I, like thee, alone must do my part,
And stand unaided amidst rocks of strife.

And, like thee, may I pass my feeble day,
And never know the torrent’s deadly force;
But may just feel the invigorating spray,
And bless some traveller in his earthly course.

Source: Kevin McCabe, ed. The Poetry of Old Niagara. St. Catharines, Ont. : Blarney Stone Books, 1999.

Originally published in Crawford’s Poems of Yesterday  Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1924