Voice of Niagara by Caroline Eleanor Wilkinson

voice niagara

voice niagara
General View of Niagara Falls, ca. 1900. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Thou art the queen of all rivers, rejoicing in song,
‡‡As you toss the white spray, driving mist to the shore;
And your voice echoes jubilant, resonant, strong —
‡‡O such music neer greeted a mortal before.

And sublime your melodious, thundering boom, —
‡‡A far reaching refrain, so triumphant and long,
Tis the meeting of waters that dash to their doom,
‡‡And the sweet intermezzo that creeps in your song.

But the centuries come and the centuries go,
‡‡And the white man now treads where the Indian raced;
Loud your waters still sing, and as restlessly flow,
‡‡As when near the great cataract, wigwams were placed.

You are tragic in splendour, primordially grand,
‡‡And your mystical waves glow with opaline sheen,
With perpetual song, swelling out oer the land,
‡‡You enchant us forever, magnificent Queen.

Source: Caroline Eleanor Wilkinson. Poems That Appeal. Niagara Falls, Ont. : F.H. Leslie, Limited,. Printers, 1928.

voice niagara

Niagara Falls by Caroline Eleanor Wilkinson

niagara wilkinson

niagara wilkinson
Niagara Falls. Photo courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Stupendous in their majesty, the maddened waters leap,
‡‡Then raging like a demon who disdains the thought of sleep,
In wild abandon oer the brink they toss and foam and curl —
‡‡In the great abyss they surge and sink, then down the river whirl.

A silver cloud of spray, ethereal as bridal veil,
‡‡Rolls gaily toward the shore, in misty, shimmring masses pale,
When in the suns clear light, revealed, are bright prismatic rays,
‡‡That scintillate in rainbow hues, enchanting all who gaze.

But when the laggard sun, has not the surging waters kissed,
‡‡Then moody old Niagara sulks, in pall of dull grey mist,
While meeting waters dash and fight, then boiling pass along,
‡‡With a deep toned voice resounding in an everlasting song.

O the tumult and the grandeur of the water as it rolls —
‡‡We marvel as we look, with exaltation in our souls;
A seething, rushing torrent flows, whose troubled heaving breast,
‡‡Through ages has not known repose, tranquility or rest.

Source: Caroline Eleanor Wilkinson. Poems That Appeal. Niagara Falls, Ont. : F.H. Leslie, Limited, Printers, 1928.

Niagara by George Houghton

  houghton niagara   

houghton niagara
A Distant View of the Falls of Niagara. 1835, by Thomas Cole.  Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library.

Formed when the oceans were fashioned, when all the world
‡‡was a workshop;
Loud roared the furnace fires, and tall leapt the smoke
‡‡from volcanoes,
Scooped were round bowls for lakes, and grooves for the
‡‡sliding of rivers,
Whilst, with a cunning hand, the mountains were linked

Then through the daw-dawn, lurid with cloud, and rent
‡‡by forked lightning,
Striken by earthquake beneath, above by the rattle of
Sudden the clamour was pierced by a voice, deep-lunged
‡‡and portentous —
Thine, O Niagara, crying: “Now is created completed!”


Millions of cup-like blossoms, brimming with dew and with
Mingle their tributes together to form one slow-trickling
Thousands of brooklets and rills, leaping down from their
‡‡home in the uplands,
Grow to a smooth, blue river, serene and flowing in

Hundreds of smooth, blue rivers, flashing afar o’er the
Darkening ‘neath forests of pine, deep drowning the reeds
‡‡in the marshes,
Cleaving with noiseless sledge the rocks red-crusted with
Circle at last to one common goal, the Mighty Sea-Water.

Lo! to the northward outlying, wide glimmers the stretch
‡‡of the Great Lake,
White-capped and sprinkled with foam, that tumbles its
‡‡bellowing breakers
Landward on beaches of sand, and in hiding-holes hollow
‡‡with thunder,
Landward where plovers frequent, with the wolf and the
‡‡westering bison.    Continue reading “Niagara by George Houghton”

Farewell to Niagara by Lydia Huntley Sigourney

sigourney farewell
The Horse-shoe Falls (From the Canadian Side) by W. H. Bartlett, 1842. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

My spirit grieves to say, Farewell to thee,
Oh beautiful and glorious!
                                  Thou dost robe
Thyself in mantle of the coloured mist,
Most lightly tinged, and exquisite as thought,
Decking thy forehead with a crown of gems
Woven by Gods right hand.
                                  Hadst thou but wrapped
Thy brow in clouds, and swept the blinding mist
In showers upon us, it had been less hard
To part from thee.    But there thou art, sublime
In noon-day splendour, gathering all thy rays
Unto their climax, green, and fleecy white,
And changeful tinture, for which words of man
Have neither sign nor sound, until to breathe
Farewell in agony.    For we have roamed
Beside thee, at our will, and drawn thy voice
Into our secret soul, and felt how good
Thus to be here, until we half implored,
While long in wildering ecstasy we gazed,
To build us tabernacles, and behold
Always thy majesty.
                                  Fain would we dwell
Here at thy feet, and be thy worshipper,
And from the weariness and dust of earth
Steal evermore away.   Yea, were it not
That many a care doth bind us here below,
And in each care, a duty, like a flower,
Thorn-hedged, perchance, yet fed with dews of heaven,
And in each duty, an enclosed joy,
Which like a honey-searching bee doth sing, —
And were it not, that ever in our path
Spring up our planted seeds of love and grief,
Which we must watch, and bring their perfect fruit
Into our Masters garner, it were sweet
To linger here, and be thy worshipper,
Until deaths footstep broke this dream of life.

Source:  Sigourney, Lydia H. Scenes In My Native Land. London: W. Tweedie, 1844. p. 236-237.


The Whirlpool of Niagara River Viewed on a Sabbath Morning by Susan Hill Todd

Early View of the Niagara River Whirlpool, from a Copper Negative. Photo Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library
“It was a Sabbath of the Soul”;
I heard the distant cataract roll
     Its choral anthem high,
Whilst from the forest’s deep repose
A breath of mingled fragrance rose,
     Like incense to the sky.

Its azure dome was o’er my head,
The green leaves started at my tread,
     As if disturbed in prayer;
‘T was nature’s worship — we alone
Could jar its harp-strings — not a tone
     But breathed in concert there.

I saw, below my verdant seat,
The swift Niagara at my feet,
     As in a prison bound;
A rocky bed, with graceful bend
And narrow outlets at each end,
     Encircled it around.

While the proud rapids seem to pause
Indignantly to view the cause
     Of their unwont delay —
In solemn majesty, they turned,
Lingering, as if themselves they spurned,
     In durance thus to stay.

In circling eddies round and round,
I saw the careless driftwood bound,
     And watched it on its way,
Borne gayly on the rapids’ crest,
Till on the water-giant’s breast,
     The passive victim lay.

Within the whirlpool’s false embrace,
Condemned with never-ceasing pace
     Their aimless course to run,
Without a hope or goal in view,
An endless journey to pursue,
     Beginning, never done.

Yet viewlessly these links confine,
Brighter than diamond sparks they shine,
     And merrily they flow,
Whilst each fair shore stands smiling by,
And still the dancing waters fly,
     To music, as they go.

And then I felt like one who dreams,
And all his airy visions deems
     Realities of life;
The senseless logs like men were seen, —
A metamorphosis, I ween,
     Not much with truth at strife.

For is not human life a stream,
Whose rapids (cares and pleasures) seem
     To us but infant’s play,
Till, into passion’s current hurled,
Amid its restless vortex whirled,
     We chase the hours away?

What are the chains the hands have wrought?
The strongest chain is made of thought,
     The poet said of yore;
Spellbound by habit, thus we see,
The ocean of eternity,
     Yet seek its bliss no more.

O would we nature’s lessons read,
And draw our pure, exalted creed
     From her celestial lore,
All earth would then be hallowed ground,
In every stream some virtue found
     The spirit’s woes to cure.

Source: Myron T. Pritchard, comp. Poetry of Niagara. Boston: Lothrop Publishing Co., 1901.

Originally published in Susan Hill Todd’s Occasional Poems: a New Year’s Offering. Boston: W. Crosby and H. P. Nichols, 1851