The Falls of Niagara by H.D.M.

An original poem from the “album of Mr. Hooker”

Niagara, Chute du Fer a Cheval. Print from a photo by Hugh Pattinson, 1842 Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Majestic ! and stupendous ! Wonder-work,
Sublime beyond Imagination !
Beyond expression, glorious and grand !
Awe-struck I stand, soul-swelling with emotion
Too powerful for thought; soul-wrapt with feeling
Too mighty for endurance. Yet to feel
Thus for one moment, might repay existence,
Though life had been more darkly cast than mine,
And mine has been — no matter: Now I’m blest.

I gaze till I am lost in what I gaze on;
Sense flies; self vanishes; I mingle with,
And am part of what I see and hear, —
The foaming torrents, and their deaf’ning roar !
At once elated and depressed, my soul
Drinks in the spectacle, conscious alike
Of weakness and power. ‘Tis glorious !
I swear ’tis glorious ! — Altar and fountain
Of the Eternal God ! — And there ye roll
Ye volumed waters, from age unchronicled,
To ages moveless in the womb of time !
Forever changing, yet fore’er the same: —
The same when broke the promise-bow of heaven,
To diadem your awful brow; the same: —
When bent the red-man o’er your thundering fall: —
To be the same when earth and sky shall meet
In final wreck, and mute eternity
Forever reign ! O ! ye are wonderful,
Ye massive rocks ! Ye rapids in your rush !
Ye trembling cataracts ! thou boiling surge !
To heaven up-rising like the good man’s prayer,
In the dark hour of tumult and dismay.
And O ! thou dread abyss in which are poured
Those endless torrents, that thy fountains lash
To tempest fury in their reckless fall,
O ! ye are dizzy to the mortal eye,
And terrible — most terrible to mortal sense !
And the loud roar of your undying thunder !
Ah ! what is Man to your surpassing might?
And what are you, proud monuments of Time,
To Him who called you from the depths of nought,
And cast you careless from his plastic hand,
The playthings of Omnipotence?

Omnipotence ! Eternity ! oh there,
Rise thou my thought ! fix thou my soul on Him,
Th’Omnipotent — the Eternal ! led by Him,
Safe o’er the cataracts of time, to dwell
Sweetly embosomed on the shores of bliss.

Source: Charles Mason Dow. Anthology and Bibliography of Niagara Falls. Albany: State of New York, 1921

Originally published in Western Literary Messenger (August 17, 1842 p. 56

Bossy Sims: A Limerick by Andrew Porteus

Bossy Sims Taking the Waters at Niagara Falls, 1860s. Photo Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

A cow named Bossy took her drink
Daily, by the Falls at the brink
She never went over
She must have et clover
Of the four-leaved kind, or she’d sink!

Bossy Simms the cow was owned by the Superintendent of the Incline Railway. She frequently would wade out into the water less than 100 feet from the brink of the American Falls. The sight of Bossy was a curious attraction to many a visitor of the times.

Source: The author, 2019

Untitled by Anonymous

Below Table Rock, Niagara. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Niagara, Niagara — careering in its might,
The fierce and free Niagara shall be my theme to-night !
A glorious theme — a glorious home, Niagara, are mine ;
Heaven’s fire is on thy flashing wave, it’s thunder blends with thine.
The clouds are bursting fearfully, the rocks beneath me quiver :
But thou unscathed ar’t hurrying on, for ever and for ever.
Years touch thee not, Niagara — thou art a changeless thing,
For still the same deep roundelay thy solemn waters sing.

Source: Dr. Thomas Rolph. A Brief Account, Together With Observations, Made During a Visit in the West Indies, and a Tour Through the United States of America, in Parts of the Years 1832-3; Together With a Statistical Account of Upper Canada. Dundas, U.C. : G. Heyworth Hackstaff, Printer, 1836.

Rolph mentions this poem was written in the Table Rock Album; it is not published in Thomas & Lathrop’s excerpts from the Table Rock Album. Rolph would have been looking at the original.

Niagara River and Falls by The Bard of Niagara (J.B. Waid)

J.B. Waid, “The Bard of Niagara”
Pleasant, peaceful, quiet river,
Limpid, constant, onward ever,
    Gentle waters roll away ;
Calm as summer, bright as morning,
Not a look, or sign of warning,
    Naught of danger dost thou say,
But gliding along, mild and strong,
               To the Rapids.
Sporting, murm'ring, tossing, splashing,
Storming, raving, crossing, dashing,
    Troubled waters fret away ;
Hasting, pushing, staving, darting,
Islands mad'ning thee to parting,
    Yet thy tumult cannot stay;
But, tearing along, mad and strong,
               To the chasm.
Curving, bending, bursting, breaking,
Sliding, leaping, rushing, quaking,
    Flying waters dart away ;
Flashing, sparkling, wailing, rumbling,
O'er the brink an ocean tumbling,
    To a world of foam and spray,
Fierce shooting along, proud and strong,
               We see thee now
Stately grandeur, awful wonder,
Hear thy voice in terms of thunder;
    Falling waters roar away,
Pouring, showering, misting, streaming,
Rob'd in rainbow colors beaming,
    Deck'd by Sol's, or Luna's ray,
Swift plunging along, grand and strong,
               To the bottom.
Foaming, boiling, surging, thrashing,
Breaching, swelling, heaving, crashing,
    Furious waters foam away,
Babbling, roaring, brawling, curling,
Gurgling, wailing, whisking, whirling ;
    Fanciful thy currents play,
Still pressing along, bold and strong,
               Dimpling, pouting.
Gathering, kissing, whispering, hushing,
Panting, smiling, frisking, rushing,
    Lovely waters roll away ;
Winding, eddying, purling, playing,
Lakeward still, and never staying,
    Rustling on thy shining way ;
Free coursing along, calm and strong,
               Soon to mingle
Ontario's tideless waters—
Long to be thy prison quarters ;
    Noble river die away.
But I err, a poet's blunder,
Still I hear thy deaf'ning thunder ;
    Here thou art, and here must stay
World-wide wonder, mighty, strong
      Niagara !

Source: J.B. Waid. Variety : Poetry and Prose. Montreal : J. Lovell, 1872.
Waid, born 1804, was (self?)styled The Bard of Niagara

Niagara by Bruce Bond

And then the husband, head bowed, eyes closed,
a tourist pamphlet in his lap, says,

Bruce Bond. Courtesy of the author

did you know the green color of the water
is the color of the falls coming to an end.

And the bride says, you do not look good, love,
pale as an angel. Are you sleeping well,

eating well. Did you know, he says,
sixty tons of salt and rock flour drain

each minute, a foot each year, and in a thousand
lifetimes, there will be no falls at all.

And the bride takes the pamphlet from his hands
and folds it tenderly as if it were a thing

she loved and worried over. Did you know,
he says on the verge of sleep that never arrives,

the end of his sentence carried out to sea.
And the rainbow comes and goes according

to the clouds. And when it comes, the petals
of the cameras open, as they did just now.

And somewhere in a stranger’s photograph,
the man turns to the woman and says, did you

know. And she says, no, dear, I did not.
Or was it, yes, I did. Either way

her palm on his brow is a bridal veil
of water. It cures the sleepless, that sound.

It is the angel in the downpour, the coin
so old it passes faceless through our hands.

And with that, the couple vanishes.
And a thousand tons of mist rises and falls.

Source: Prairie Schooner, Spring 2018

Bruce Bond is the author of twenty-three books including, most recently, Immanent Distance: Poetry and the Metaphysics of the Near at Hand (U of MI, 2015), Black Anthem (Tampa Review Prize, U of Tampa, 2016), Gold Bee (Helen C. Smith Award, Crab Orchard Award, SIU Press, 2016), Sacrum (Four Way, 2017), Blackout Starlight: New and Selected Poems 1997-2015 (L.E. Phillabaum Award, LSU, 2017), Rise and Fall of the Lesser Sun Gods (Elixir Book Prize, Elixir Press, 2018), Dear Reader (Free Verse Editions, 2018), and Frankenstein’s Children (Lost Horse, 2018).  Presently he is a Regents Professor of English at University of North Texas.