Niagara by Lieut.-Col. J. R. Wilkinson

wilkinson niagara  

wilkinson niagara
Lieut.-Col. J. R. Wilkinson, Commander of the 21st Essex Battalion of Infantry, Essex & Kent Scottish Regiment

I was rapt in unutterable amaze
As I looked upon its awful front,
And saw the terrific roll of waters
As down the deadly mesmeric gorge they fell
In power irresistible, tremendous,
As if the wrath of God would rend the world asunder
For the sin and wrong that man hath done !
And the earth trembled as one in fear —
And the thunderous roar of its awesome voice
Made all else seem silent as the dead !

Yet, majestic and supremely beautiful art thou
When the god of day pours o’er thy front his wondrous light,
Or when the golden stars and dreaming, silvery moon
Lighteth up the slumb’rous shadows of the night.
Aye, thou are sublime, though terrible, Niagara !
How diminutive are man’s works compared to thee,
Thou awe-inspiring, terrific world-wide wonder —
Marvellous work of the Deity !

And thou has rolled and rolled, Niagara !
Adown the ages of the dim, mysterious past
Thou hast thundered in derision of the flight of time,
And mocked when nations to the grave were cast !
But the creator holds thee in the hollow of His hand,
And when the sea shall render up its ghastly dead
Thou shall be shorn of thy stupendous power,
And bow thy cruel and imperious head.

Source: Wilkinson, Lieut.-Col. J. R.  Canadian Battlefields and Other Poems. 2nd ed., Toronto: William Briggs, 1901

wilkinson niagara

Glen Albert Near DeCew Falls by A Traveller


Glen Albert
Decew Falls by Miller’s Photographic Saloon – Possibly Chauncey C Miller, active in St. Catharines c. 1865-1868

Glen Albert ! How lovely thy beautiful scene —
As lovely to me as a nymph of sixteen,
All blushing with health and unconscious of guile,
‘Tis a foretaste of Eden to bask in thy smile ;
To list in suspense to the sound of thy falls —
Hearing nature’s sweet music in nature’s own halls,
While the hue-changing leaves by the zephyr caressed,
Murmur softly and sweetly a sigh of love bless’d.
Though the sun’s glowing rays gild the woods on thy heights,
In thy depths far below there’s a gloom that delights,
Where the wandering traveller, wearied with care,
Can pause in thy Glen and find solitude there —
There alone in thy bosom, from tumult apart,
He can have a fit place to commune with his heart.
Proud Niagara calls him with voice loud and bold,
And lures to her falls, as the siren of old.
But thy sparkling cascades, gushing smiles mixed with tears,
Cause so modern Ulysses to stop up his ears.
Here retired from the haunts of fashion and crime,
Thou art seen in thy loveliness, truly sublime;
E’en in history’s page thou did’st shine long ago
When our heroes stood by thee to ward off their foe,
And a ‘Merritt’ held post after Beaver Dam fight,
Thou did’st bravely assist with a Spartan girl’s might
Let the foreigner share in Niagara’s roar,
That with menacing fury growls “Dieu et mon Droit,”
Yet Glen Albert ! the bird that loves its own nest
For a love — all its own — sure will love thee the best.

Source: Courtesy Dennis Gannon.

Poem clipped from an unknown and undated newspaper,  pasted to the back of the photograph above.

See more poems of the Battle of Beaverdams and the War of 1812 in Niagara

CANAL CAMP BALLADS No. 3: The Port of Call By Jimmie Loftus

loftus canal 3

loftus canal 3
Welland Ship Canal Construction of a Lock in Thorold, June, 1928. Photo Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

(Sequel to The Drifting Legion)

Heading Northward, heading Northward
‡‡‡‡‡‡To the cooler Canadian clime,
Is the rear-guard of the Legion,
‡‡‡‡‡‡The Men who’ve Forgotten Time.
Never hurrying, never falt’ring,
‡‡‡‡‡‡But steadily on the go,
Following in the wake of summer
‡‡‡‡‡‡From the torrid strands below.

Highways beckon, lure them onward;  They must answer to the Call,
And midway in their pilgrimage is the Welland Ship Canal.

Was watching Jimmy Slattery work
‡‡‡‡‡‡In a “gym” in Buffalo,
When I met Miama Murphy
‡‡‡‡‡‡Moving through to Toronto.
“Say, Kid,” he asks. “how’re things up North?
‡‡‡‡‡‡How is work along the Ditch?
I figure sluggin’ for a spell,
‡‡‡‡‡‡For I’ll need a stake to switch.”

Peach trees blooming;  work a plenty;  Irish Jimmy, Joe and All
Are back again along the banks of the Welland Ship Canal.

“Crude Oil” Mickey Gannon hails me
‡‡‡‡‡‡On the street in Ol-e-an
“Just come up from Oklahoma,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Me and Kansas Kid McCann;
Across the line at Bridgeburg,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Then the lights of old St. Kitts,
A stretch of work in the Welland camps,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And money to play the Ritz.”

He moves along with a cheery grin, and a “See you in the Fall.”
And hops a freight in the “Pen” yards for the Welland Ship Canal.

Comes booming up from Mexico,
‡‡‡‡‡‡On a tanker to Baltimore,
Louie the Scar of Tenth Street fame,
‡‡‡‡‡‡The savant of hobo lore.
“The Canal?  Why, Yes.  You c’n bet
‡‡‡‡‡‡Before a week I’ll be there.
Tampico sure is dead in June,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Even lurid Union Square.”

Between the Great Lakes and the Gulf, there is one sure Port of Call
Louie the Scar will never miss―That’s the Welland Ship Canal.

In a sleepy, backwoods village
‡‡‡‡‡‡Near the Virginia coast,
I greets the veteran, Pegleg Ike,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Stayed along to hear him boast:
“Married a widow here last fall,
‡‡‡‡‡‡She got right smart property;
Lots to eat and nawthin’ to do.
‡‡‡‡‡‡Some soft for a guy like me.”

But wistful eye and restless Mien tells the story all too well,
I’m thinking he’ll be with you yet on the Welland Ship Canal.

Gee, I wish I was heading north―
‡‡‡‡‡‡Then again I’m not so sure;
For my Open Road this summer
‡‡‡‡‡‡Lies over the Great Azure.
My Port of Call may be Hong Kong,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Or it may be Tripoli,
Or maybe Capetown, Sydney, Rio,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Liverpool or Waikiki.

Still, I’d like to spend an evening with Jimmie and Joe and All,
A visit’n’ on the ragged banks of the Welland Ship Canal.

Off the Virginia Coast, 1925.

Source: Courtesy Dennis Gannon.

Originally published in The St. Catharines Standard, Tuesday July 21, 1925 p7

CANAL CAMP BALLADS No. 2: The Drifting Legion by Jimmie Loftus

loftus canal 2

loftus canal 2
Digging of the 4th Welland Ship Canal on the Left & 3rd Welland Canal on the Right, 1925. Photo Courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

When winter slacks its icy grip, back to the canal they roam
From all corners of the earth, come the Men Without a Home.
Race nor creed, nor age debars you, nor it isn’t what you know,
Only join the Drifting Legion, who never arrive―just go

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Oh, here’s to the job we take,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Though it isn’t much we’ll make
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡We’ll get a travelling stake
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡On the Welland Ship Canal.

From somewhere down near old Mobile comes Alabama Moe,
To tinkle through the summer nights on his battered old banjo.
His wistful, crooning melodies of the Southland far away,
Lures many a steady rustie lad to drift on the broad highway.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Oh, on dese piles o’ gumbo
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Ah’s laborin’ fo’ mah dough;
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Come Fall Ah will se no mo’
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Of the Welland Ship Canal.

“Yukon Bill” O’Brien drifts in from north o’ Kamakalute.
Broke, shaggy, and togged in “a boxin’ glove and rubber boot.”
Flush with health and dollar bills from a big season at the traps,
He hit the town to teach the boys that science known as “craps.”

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Now he’s sluggin’ in the Ditch;
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Though he’ll never become rich;
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡He will get enough to switch
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡North o’ the Welland Canal.

A knight of the road, Seattle Slim, drops down from his side door coach.
Promotes, him a job washin’ dishes from “Navy Bean” Johnny Roach.
Just a “pay” for eating money, then he’s long gone on his way,
Roaming across the continent, to pretty San Pedro Bay.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡And so he washes cup and plate,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Dreams of Frisco’s golden gate,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Sure there’s not long now to wait,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Till s’long Welland Ship Canal.

Dour Duncan’s here from Breton’s Cape, Quebec sends Louie Courteau,
Auburn Petie, the Ghetto gun, the “spick” from Vista Porto;
And five score more with wondrous tales―things they saw and heard and did.
They sing their songs and so it’s set in rhyme by “The Writin’ Kid.”

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Oh, they’re here for but a day,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡On the sticky gumbo clay;
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Then drifting, drifting away
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡From the Welland Ship Canal.

When you’ve come to view the Big Scar, and the Gargantuan concrete
That rears its mighty palisades from ditch bottom to your feet,
You’ve seen little till you’ve looked into the hearts o’ the men below,
The men of the Drifting Legion, who never arrive―just go.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Oh here’s to the job we take,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Though it isn’t much we’ll make
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡―We’ll get a travelling stake
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡On the Welland Ship Canal.


In Camp on the Welland Ship Canal, 1925.

See the sequel to this poem: The Port of Call by Jimmie Loftus

Source: Courtesy Dennis Gannon.

Originally published in The St. Catharines Standard – Tuesday June 2, 1925 p7

The Legend of the White Canoe by William Trumbull

legend white

legend white
The American Falls From Prospect Point, by F. V. Du Mond. Taken from The Legend of the White Canoe.

“Long before the solitudes of western New York were disturbed by the advent of the white man, it was the custom of the Indian tribes to assemble occasionally at Niagara, and offer sacrifice to the Spirit of the Falls.
This sacrifice consisted of a white birch-bark canoe, which was sent over the terrible cliff, filled with ripe fruits and blooming flowers, and bearing the fairest girl in the tribe who had just attained the age of womanhood.”

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡I. PROEM.

MID the rush of mighty waters, in the thundering cataract’s roar,
Where Niagara’s streaming rapids down in headlong torrent pour ;
Where the serried waves like chargers madly leaping to the fray,
Fling aloft their snowy crests and toss their manes of flying spray,
Rearing, plunging, onward urging — Nature’s glorious cavalry !
Where th’ eternal sweep of waters like the unending surge of time,
Pulsing, throbs in rhythmic measure to a wondrous strain sublime :
Dwells, so ancient legends say, the mighty Spirit of the Falls,
Who from out the tumult, hoarsely, for unbounded homage calls.
Here the children of the forest, spellbound by that deafening roar,
Stopped to gaze with listening wonder, in the simpler days of yore ;
Awe-struck, gazed in silent worship, well beseeming Nature’s child,
As in chase they roamed the plain, or tracked in war the pathless wild :
And as often as they listened, on the voices of the flood
Deep were borne the Spirit’s mutterings, calling fierce for human blood ;
Ay, and sacrifice more cruel in that cry they understood :
Gift of Nature’s choicest treasure, peerless budding womanhood !    Continue reading “The Legend of the White Canoe by William Trumbull”