Niagara by Edith Wyatt

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wyatt
Panoramic view of Niagara Falls from Canadian side of river showing both American and Horseshoe Falls, 1913. Photo by Francis King. Courtesy of Library of Congress

(a nature poem)

Cool the crystal mist is falling where my song is calling, calling
‡‡Over highland, over lowland, fog-blown bluff and bouldered shore:
Proud my snow-rapt currents leaping from Superior’s green keeping.
‡‡Down from Michigan’s gray sweeping toward the Rapid’s eddied floor.

Rain, hail, dew and storm-cloud swing me; from the heights the hollows wring me;
‡‡Filtered clay and field silt bring me silent through the dark-breathed loam,
Down the thousand-terraced highlands till the skyland lake-beds wing me —
‡‡Flying down and down in beauty through the chasm’s flocking foam.

Down from Huron, down from Erie, tho the wild duck’s wing grow weary,
‡‡Tribe and nation part and vanish like the spin-drift haze of morn,
Fresh my full-fold song is falling and my voice is calling, calling
‡‡Down from far-poured lake and highland as I sang when I was born.

South, North, East and West untiring speak my brother seas in splendor,
‡‡Tell their dominant, desiring, claimant over coast and main,
Mine the choiring of a woman’s chord immortal, of surrender —
‡‡Of the splendor of desiring, deep to give and give again.

Chord of star-fused loam and silver-surgent lake cloud’s generation,
‡‡Here I sing the earth’s still dreaming down my green-poured currents’ length,
Voice of river-rocking valleys, rich heart plains and heights’ creation,
‡‡Clear-veiled chord that locked in your mother’s life, your father’s strength.

Cool the fog-flocked mists are swinging. Soar, my dream; and silver winging,
‡‡Call my air-hung music ringing, toward the crystal-buoyed morn —
Full-fold music from the highlands, where my splendor’s voice is singing,
‡‡Fresh from flooded shores and skylands as I sang when I was born.

Source:  Literary Digest, September 27, 1913 p. 544

Originally published in Collier’s Weekly

Hymn of Niagara by Thomas Hill, D.D.

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hymn
The Falls of Niagara From the Canadian Side, 1868. Painted by B. Hess. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Here I stand ! here from the flood, raving unceasingly,
Hoarse, shrill murmurs arise; shrill as the wind, when it
‡‡‡‡Roars through the trees stripped of their foliage,
‡‡‡‡Singing its wild anthem of liberty.

With these come to the ear, ever at intervals,
Quick notes, rattling and sharp; like the artillery
‡‡‡‡Heard when a storm, driving up rapidly,
‡‡‡‡Crashes the oaks down with its thunderbolts.

Now rise, muffled in mist, rolling up heavily,
Deep tones, awfully grand, shaking the earth, as they
‡‡‡‡Swell like the low bass of the thunder-storm,
‡‡‡‡Heard by the strained ear of the listener.

Thus float over the mist ever in harmony
Three tones, joyous and free, forming Niagara’s
‡‡‡‡Anthem of praise, new every moment, yet
‡‡‡‡Changeless as time, old as eternity.

Source:  Putnam’s Magazine, May 1868, p.538

To the American Fall at Niagara by Douglas Brooke Wheelton Sladen

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Douglas Sladen. Courtesy of the State Library of Queensland

Niagara, national emblem !  Cataract
‡‡Born of the maddened rapids, sweeping down
‡‡Direct, resistless from the abyss’s crown
Into the deep, fierce pool with vast impact
Scarce broken by the giant boulders, stacked
‡‡To meet thine onslaught, threatening to drown
‡‡Each tillaged plain, each level-loving town
‘Twixt thee and ocean.   Lo ! the type exact !

America Niagarized the world.
‡‡Europe, a hundred years agone, beheld
An avalanche, like pent-up Erie, hurled
‡‡Through barriers, to which the rocks of eld
Seemed toy things— leaping into godlike space.
A sign and wonder to the human race.

October 18, 1889

Source: Douglas Sladen, ed. Younger American Poets, 1830 – 1890. London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden and Welsh, 1891

The Niagara Scow by Amanda Tulk

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scow
Scow Rescue in Niagara River – Gustav F Lofberg being pulled to safety by breeches buoy. Courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library. August 7, 1918

Now it sits a pile of unstable rust
Amongst the falls
And their murderous rush
Two men on a routine trip
A few hours later Red Hill screaming
Dont lose your grip
A split second decision
Could have ended their lives
Lucky to make it home to their wives
One man risked it all
He figured as long as he tried
There was no fault
The unstable scow
Hung by a tree
Attached by a weak buckle
Inching the rope to answer the mens pleas
With each breath taking stride
Praying not to end it all
With a wavy ride
One man hooked and back on shore
Clipped to the rope
He goes back for one more
To this day
The scow sits, where waves strive
Two men, forever grateful
To be able to enjoy their lives

Source: Tulk, Amanda.  Can You Hear It? : Poetry by Amanda Tulk.  Niagara Falls, Ont. : Grey Borders Books, 2013

Click here to see a newspaper article about the scow rescue

The Battle of Lundy’s Lane by Lieut.-Col. J. R. Wilkinson

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wilkinson lundy
The plaque marking the location of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane

Fought July 26, 1814, American forces 5,000; British and Canadian, 2800

The summer sun down the sky fell low,
And soft, cooling winds more gently did blow,
And the stream swept by with resistless flow
On that July eve of the long ago, —
A lovely landscape as ever was seen,
And nature’s serenity crowned the scene.
A gold light shimmered o’er hill and stream,
And the shadows lengthened softly between.
Thus o’er this beautiful Canadian land
Fell the hush of nature, soothing and bland.

But hark ! on the startled ear there comes
The blaring of trumpets and roll of drums,
And war’s dread panoply bursts on the scene,
With its rumbling roar and thunder between,
As the bannered foe draws proudly nigh,
And the outposts before them quickly fly.
But Drummond draws up on the famous plain,
On the undulations of Lundy’s Lane.
On a rise in the centre his guns he placed,
Deployed his infantry, and sternly faced
The menacing foe in battle-array,
As the shades crept out on the dying day.
Sixteen hundred dauntless, determined souls
The heroic Drummond proudly controls.

In contiguous lines the foe now comes,
To the blare of trumpet and beat of drums,
With supporting columns to reinforce
And cheer the lines on their onward course.
Drummond’s guns open with deafening roar,
Shaking the trembling river and shore ;
And hundreds go down in the deadly storm :
Torn are their ranks, but again they re-form,
Move forward once more with a rush and cry,
Confident that Drummond will turn and fly,
But he stands fast, and his battery flashes,
And his firm infantry volleys and crashes
On the brave advancing lines of the foe
Rushing up from the fire-swept slope below.
Brown’s infantry charged to the battery’s side,
But to capture the guns in vain they tried.
They were met with the steel by Drummond’s men
And hurled confused down the slope again.
They tried it again — rushed forward once more,
But broke like a wave on a rock-bound shore !

Brown’s supports were brought up, and his cannon roared,
All along the lines the infantry poured
A withering, ceaseless and consuming fire :
And the rage of battle grew wilder, higher.
The enemy charged and charged again
Till their life-blood crimsoned the shot-torn plain,
And the awful din and the carnage there
Filled wives’ and mothers’ hearts with despair.

At length the long twilight closed around
The smoking cannon and the death-strewn ground,
And the pitying night drew o’er the scene
Of horror a mournful and sable screen.
Still amid the darkness they fighting fell,
And the surging ranks bore a fire of hell !
Muzzle to muzzle the hot guns stormed,
Rending the ranks that again reformed,
And rushed to the charge again and again
Through the infantry’s fire and batteries’ flame.
The guns were won and retaken again
In the revel of death, at Lundy’s Lane.

Here Riall came up with twelve hundred more,
To the help of Drummond, bleeding and sore :
Twelve hundred Canadians and regulars to stand
To the death for this proud Canadian land.
The brave foe brought up reinforcements, too,
Determined Drummond’s lines to pierce through ;
And they close in a mad, mad rush again,
And the roar of the hot guns shake the plain.
Lurid red flashes illumine the night,
Revealing a moment the dreadful sight
Of the lines struggling there in the gloom,
Where hundreds go down to a gory doom.

But Drummond the foemen foiled everywhere,
And disheartened, on the verge of dispair,
At the midnight hour they fled from the field, —
Broken and beaten, they were forced to yield.
Throwing their baggage in the stream, in fright
They fled away in a desperate plight.

The moon had risen o’er the pitiful scene,
With her lovely face, all mild and serene,
Lighting up the horror of carnage there,
Revealing the ghastly and upward stare
Of pale, dead faces peering out of the gloom,
Just touched by the silvery midnight moon.
Lay them away on the hard-fought field
Where the musketry volleyed and cannon pealed !
War’s tumult shall rouse them again no more,
The heroic dead by the river’s shore.
Slumber on, brave hearts ! ye do battle no more
Near Niagara’s awesome, eternal roar !

Oh, dear land of the Maple Leaf so fair,
Breathe even to-day a fervent prayer
For those intrepid souls, who, fighting, fell
For home and country they loved so well.
Canadians ! tell it — repeat it again —
How our fathers stood there at Lundy’s Lane,
With the regulars fearlessly side by side —
Stood there as heroes, conquered and died.
To rescue this land from the invader’s tread
That field was piled with immortal dead.

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