Niagara by Edith Wyatt

wyatt

wyatt
Panoramic view of Niagara Falls from Canadian side of river showing both American and Horseshoe Falls, 1913. Photo by Francis King. Courtesy of Library of Congress

(a nature poem)

Cool the crystal mist is falling where my song is calling, calling
‡‡Over highland, over lowland, fog-blown bluff and bouldered shore:
Proud my snow-rapt currents leaping from Superior’s green keeping.
‡‡Down from Michigan’s gray sweeping toward the Rapid’s eddied floor.

Rain, hail, dew and storm-cloud swing me; from the heights the hollows wring me;
‡‡Filtered clay and field silt bring me silent through the dark-breathed loam,
Down the thousand-terraced highlands till the skyland lake-beds wing me —
‡‡Flying down and down in beauty through the chasm’s flocking foam.

Down from Huron, down from Erie, tho the wild duck’s wing grow weary,
‡‡Tribe and nation part and vanish like the spin-drift haze of morn,
Fresh my full-fold song is falling and my voice is calling, calling
‡‡Down from far-poured lake and highland as I sang when I was born.

South, North, East and West untiring speak my brother seas in splendor,
‡‡Tell their dominant, desiring, claimant over coast and main,
Mine the choiring of a woman’s chord immortal, of surrender —
‡‡Of the splendor of desiring, deep to give and give again.

Chord of star-fused loam and silver-surgent lake cloud’s generation,
‡‡Here I sing the earth’s still dreaming down my green-poured currents’ length,
Voice of river-rocking valleys, rich heart plains and heights’ creation,
‡‡Clear-veiled chord that locked in your mother’s life, your father’s strength.

Cool the fog-flocked mists are swinging. Soar, my dream; and silver winging,
‡‡Call my air-hung music ringing, toward the crystal-buoyed morn —
Full-fold music from the highlands, where my splendor’s voice is singing,
‡‡Fresh from flooded shores and skylands as I sang when I was born.

Source:  Literary Digest, September 27, 1913 p. 544

Originally published in Collier’s Weekly

Hymn of Niagara by Thomas Hill, D.D.

hymn

hymn
The Falls of Niagara From the Canadian Side, 1868. Painted by B. Hess. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Here I stand ! here from the flood, raving unceasingly,
Hoarse, shrill murmurs arise; shrill as the wind, when it
‡‡‡‡Roars through the trees stripped of their foliage,
‡‡‡‡Singing its wild anthem of liberty.

With these come to the ear, ever at intervals,
Quick notes, rattling and sharp; like the artillery
‡‡‡‡Heard when a storm, driving up rapidly,
‡‡‡‡Crashes the oaks down with its thunderbolts.

Now rise, muffled in mist, rolling up heavily,
Deep tones, awfully grand, shaking the earth, as they
‡‡‡‡Swell like the low bass of the thunder-storm,
‡‡‡‡Heard by the strained ear of the listener.

Thus float over the mist ever in harmony
Three tones, joyous and free, forming Niagara’s
‡‡‡‡Anthem of praise, new every moment, yet
‡‡‡‡Changeless as time, old as eternity.

Source:  Putnam’s Magazine, May 1868, p.538

Niagara by Katharine Lee Bates

bates

bates
Katharine Lee Bates, 1859 – 1929

PASSION of plunging waters, blanched to spray,
‡‡‡‡But shot with sheen of chrysolite and beryl ;
Columnar mist and glistening rainbow play ;
‡‡‡‡A splendid thrill of glory and of peril.

 

Source: Katharine Lee Bates.  America the Beautiful and Other Poems.  New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, Publishers, 1911

 

Niagara by Joseph Cook

cook

cook
Falls of Niagara by George Heriot, 1801.. Colour tint by Erna Jahnke. Courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

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

Niagara by Florence Wilkinson

wilkinson florence

wilkinson florence
Ontario Power Co. Generating Station, Opened 1905. Courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

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.

Source: Outlook February 24, 1906  p. 432-433

wilkinson florence