Niagara by Arthur William Fisher

Niagara by Arthur William Fisher
Portrait of Arthur William Fisher
                        I

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.

                    II

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. 
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The Test of Cantilever by James Walton Jackson

Sketch of the testing of the cantilever bridge 1883
Sketch of the testing of the cantilever bridge 1883 Courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

Lo! Cantilever stands the test,
See! see! it bears upon its breast
Fully twenty locomotives’ weight,
Nor bends beneath the heavy freight.
See! twenty engines safely ride
Across Niagara’s seething tide –
Across the mystic iron span –
Last product of the god-like man.
“The Cantilever bridge is strong!”
Exultant shout the wondering throng.
Lo! fifty locomotives screech,
Two nations’ praise blends each with each,
Resounds the East, resounds the West,
The matchless triumph each attest.
The loud applause – the palm each yields
To Cantilever and to Fields.

First published May 10, 1884 in …ridge Journal

Niagara by C. E. Whiton-Stone

Portrait of Cara Elizabeth Whiton-Stone
Gift inscription by Cara Elizabeth Whiton-Stone

What wild convulsion in the ages past
Shook thee to such immeasurable unrest,
Oh, mad Niagara?     Did the huge crest
Of some black mountain, splintered by a blast
From Heaven down-bolted, leave these fissures vast
Whence rush thy waters?     Or was ocean pressed
From its storm-beaten shores, to dash thy breast
And hurl out rage from thee, while Time shall last?
          Rage on, imperial mystery, that thou art;
          Chance, in the azoic age, with wonders rife,
          At mandate of the gods, from out earth’s heart,
          In embryo doomed to everlasting strife,
          Thou sprang’st defiant, thundering to thy part,
          Magnificent and terrible, as Life.

Rage on, for giant raging thou may’st show,
Through veins that interlace the land, thy power,
And with thy foaming passion, bring to flower
The genius of man; may’st writhing go
Like a colossal serpent, to and fro,
Winding through ribs of steel that massive tower,
And so imprisoned, strike the zenith hour
When science shall supremest secret know:
          I liken thee to soul wherein is pent
          Divinest madness, that song surging keeps,
          Till by unconquerable forces rent,
          To mighty music it majestic sweeps.
          As the great Odyssey blind Homer sent
          Crashing sublimely down eternal steeps.

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

Secrets of Niagara Falls by Laryalee Fraser

Headshot of Laryalee Fraser
Laryalee Fraser

The book lay closed; each page encased in ice,
till languid eons breathed candescent mist,
releasing knowledge, drip by ponderous drip…

* * *

Twelve thousand years ago, Niagara shaped
its first intent; a trickled thoroughfare
along a chasm scarcely there. It swelled,
became a torrent — nudging, pushing, filled
with rampant longings, surging onward, thrust
of power building, frothing thunder leaping!

The source has birthed a sorcerer who hurls
ebullient roars of ecstasy, wears robes
of lucent majesty. The crowds are hushed,
bewitched by spells of wonderment and awe.

* * * 

The book was opened; secrets poured from cores
of weighted centuries and wisdom flowed –
in fluid script that no one understood.

Source: My Gentle Garden, 2001.

Biography of Laryalee Fraser

Niagara Falls by John Robert Colombo

(a found poem from the unpublished writings of Bishop John Strachan)

Bishop John Strachan

My brother, after some hesitation,
ventured down the precipice;
and, having reached the bed
of the river below,
we were well rewarded.
It was now
that my expectations were realized:
the height of the rock —
the thundering of the Fall —
the spray forming in rain-bows —
the vast volume of water
rolling over the impending precipice,
produced a sensation overpoweringly
sublime.

Source: Colombo, John Robert; and Strachan, John. John Toronto: New Poems by Dr. Strachan Found by John Robert Colombo. [Ottawa] : Oberon Press, 1969.

From the dust jacket: The poems are taken verbatim from Strachan’s uncollected writings. They are poems by virtue of the special character of their eloquence. They are new in that they speak with fresh urgency and directness to a new age.