The Song of Niagara (1910) by Katharine Lee Bates

bates song 1

bates song 1
Katharine Lee Bates

An alien song. Though day by day I listen,
No syllable of that majestic chant
May my adoring passion comprehend.
With many a lucent evanescent hue
The plunging torrents glisten.
Far-seen, colossal plumes of spray ascend,
Their dazzling white shot through and through
With quivering rainbows, until every plant,
Each hoar, blue-berried cedar loved of bird,
Each fine fern tracery, the cold mists christen
To spirit grace. The frosted branches bend
With sparkle of such jewels as trancsend
All fantasy of elfin-craft. Yet who
Interpreteth the great enchantment’s word?

Ye primal Sibyls, if eyes hardly bear
The glory of your opalescent robes,
Your diamond aureoles and veils impearled,
May the stunned ear divine
Your awful oracle? August, yet wild,
Do your tremendous paeans still prolong
Creation’s old, unhumanised delight,
The laughter of the Titans? Were ye there
With your deep diapason answering
The Archangelic, chanting, golden globes,
What time they chorused forth their crystalline,
Exultant welcome to the stranger world?
Or is it, tolling cataracts, the doom,
The unrevealable, forbidden thing,
Your antiphonic, solemn voices boom?
Or peradventure do your pearls proclaim
Some all-triumphal Name
That could it once be won
By mortal ear
Would ecstasy the griefs we suffer here
And charter love to wing
Her radiant flight beyond oblivion?
Dread Sisters, ye who smite
The senses with intolerable roar,
Is there no meaning in your ceaseless song,
No word of God in all your mighty throng
Of multitudinous thunders evermore?

Source: Canadian Magazine, May 1910, p 58

Click to see a later version of this poem

bates song 1

 

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

 

Laura Secord; or, The Battle of Beaver Dams by Lieut.-Col. J. R. Wilkinson

wilkinson laura

wilkinson laura
Laura Secord warns British commander James FitzGibbon of an impending American attack at Beaver Dams. by Lorne Kidd Smith, 1920. Library and Archives Canada reproduction reference number C-011053

Fought June 24th, 1813. British 47 Regulars and 200 Indians. Americans, 570 with 50 cavalry and 3 guns

She knew, and her heart beat faster,
‡‡The foe would march that day !
And resolved, though only a woman,
‡‡To silently steal away
And warn the outpost at Beaver Dams ;
‡‡Alone, and on foot, to go
Through the dim and awesome forest,
‡‡To evade the vigilant foe.

And no one thought of a woman,
‡‡And she gained a path she knew
In the lonesome, stately forest,
‡‡And over the dark way flew.
On and on with a beating heart,
‡‡And never a pause for rest ;
Twenty miles of dim and distance,
‡‡And the sun low down the west.

Startled sometimes to terror
‡‡By the blood-curdling cry
Of wolves from the faint far distance,
‡‡And sometimes nearer by ;
And hollow sounds and weird whispers
‡‡That rose from the forest deep ;
And ghostly and phantom voices
‡‡That caused her nerves to creep.

But she pauses not, nor falters,
‡‡But presses along the way ;
Noiselessly through the dread distance,
‡‡Through the shadows weird and gray.
In time must the warning be given,
‡‡She must not, must not fail ;
Though rough is the path and toilsome,
‡‡Her courage must prevail.

“To arms ! to arms, FitzGibbon !”
‡‡Came a woman’s thrilling cry ;
“Lose not a precious moment —
‡‡The foe ! the foe is nigh !”
And a woman pale and weary
‡‡Burst on the startled sight
Out from the dark, awesome forest,
‡‡Out of the shadowy night.

“They come ! they come six hundred strong,
‡‡Stealing upon you here !
But I, a weak woman, tell you,
‡‡Prepare and have no fear.”
The handful of British heroes
‡‡Resolved the outpost to save,
With the aid of two hundred Indians,
‡‡Allies cunning and brave.

Still as death the line is waiting
‡‡The onset of the foe ;
And the summer winds make whisper
‡‡In the foliage soft and low.
“Ready !” and each heart beats faster ;
‡‡“Fire low, and without fear.”
And they fired a crashing volley,
‡‡And gave a defiant cheer.

Staggered by the deadly missiles,
‡‡That like a mighty blow
Fell swift on the line advancing,
‡‡Fell on the astonished foe.
And for two long, desperate hours
‡‡The furious fight raged there,
Till the foemen, foiled and beaten,
‡‡Surrendered in despair.

Well done, valiant FitzGibbon !
‡‡Thy name shall live in story ;
Thy daring feat of arms that day
‡‡Is wreathed with fadeless glory.
One other name my song would praise,
‡‡A patriot soul so brave,
That dared the forest’s lonely wilds
‡‡FitzGibbon’s post to save.

Noble woman ! heroic soul !
‡‡We would honor thee to-day ;
Thou canst not, shall not be forgot.
‡‡More lustrous is the ray
Time relects upon thy deed.
‡‡Thy talismanic name —
Canadians, sound it through the land,
‡‡Perpetuate her fadeless fame !

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

Click here to see other poems of the Battle of Beaverdams and the War of 1812

wilkinson laura

Niagara River Below the Falls by Emma Lazarus

lazarus river

lazarus river
Emma Lazarus, 1849-1887

Flow on forever, in thy tranquil sleep,
Thou stream, all wearied by thy giant leap;
Flow on in quiet and in peace fore’er,
No rocky steep, no precipice is there.

The rush, the roar, the agony are past;
The leap, the mighty fall, are o’er at last;
And now with drowsy ripplings dost thou flow,
All murmuring in whispers soft and low.

Oh tell us, slumb’ring, em’rald river, now,
With that torn veil of foam upon thy brow;
Now, while thou sleepest quietly below, —
What are thy dreams?    Spent river, let us know.

Again, in thought, dost dash o’er that dread steep,
By frenzy maddened to the fearful leap?
By passion’s mists all blinded, cold and white,
Dost plunge once more, now, from the dizzy height?

Or else, forgetful of the dangers past,
Art dreaming calm and peacefully, at last,
Of that fair nymph who pressed thy livid brow,
And gave thy past a glory vanished now?

The Rainbow, whom the royal Sun e’er wooes,
For whom, in tears, the mighty Storm-king sues;
Who left her cloud-built palace-home above,
To crown thy awful brow with light and love.

Yes, in thy tranquil sleep, O  wearied stream,
Still of the lovely Iris is thy dream;
The agony, the perils ne’er could last;
But with all these the rainbow, too, has past.

No life so wild and hopeless but some gleam
Doth lighten it, to make a future dream.
Thy course, O Stream, has been mid fears and woe,
But thou hast met the Rainbow in thy flow.

New York, November 3rd, 1865

Source:  Emma Lazarus. Poems and Translations.  New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1867

Niagara by Emma Lazarus

lazarus

lazarus
Clifton House Hotel, ca 1860. Photo courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

Thou art a giant altar, where the Earth
Must needs send up her thanks to Him above
Who did create her. Nature cometh here
To lay its offerings upon thy shrine.
The morning and the evening shower down
Bright jewels, — changeful opals, em’ralds fair.
The burning noon sends floods of molten gold,
The calm night crowns thee with her silver veil,
And o’er thee e’er is arched the rainbow’s span, —
The gorgeous marriage-ring of Earth and Heaven.
While ever from the holy altar grand
Ascends the incense of the mist and spray,
That mounts to God with thy wild roar of praise.

Clifton House, Niagara Falls, Canada, August 24th, 1865

Source:  Emma Lazarus. Poems and Translations.  New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1867