Niagara’s Rainbow: The Legend of the White Canoe by Willard Parker

‡‡‡‡‡‡Old Ya-Gao-Tah’s Tale white canoe

white canoe
Illustration from Parker’s Niagara’s Rainbow, by Mary Muse Fletcher


Yon Rainbow, circling great Niagara’s brow,
Tells, children, of a chieftain’s awful vow;
Hark to its tale of sadness and of love,
All other legends of our race above:
The story of Wenona’s White Canoe,
The grand devotion of her lover true,
The fate that swept their youthful lives away,
Marked by Niagara’s Rainbow to this day.


For know, my children, in the days of yore,
Or ever white man’s foot had pressed this shore,
In forest deep and dark our fathers dwelt,
Before the Manitou devoted knelt,
Craved His protection and His mighty aid
Against the foe and famine — to Him prayed
When pestilence up-raised its baleful head,
Swelling the gruesome ranks of warrior dead.


But comes a day when prayer and offering fail,
When medicines of wise men naught avail,
When through the tribe, with footsteps grim and gaunt,
Stalk the twin spectres, Pestilence and Want.
In terror then, around the council fire
Gather the chiefs, their head Wenonah’s sire;
“What can we offer Thee, Oh! Manitou?”
Speaks the Great Spirit then: “The White Canoe!”


Full well they know the precious sacrifice
Demanded, but, though terrible the price,
To save the few still left it must be paid —
Niagara’s Water-god the fairest maid
Of all the tribe as offering must claim —
Her sacrifice to cleanse the tribe of blame.
Who shall it be?    Alas! there is but one
On whom the lot can fall!     The deed is done!


Like arrow to the mark each glance now turns
Toward fair Wenonah, and her sire’s heart yearns
At thought that she – his dear – his only child,
Must seek her fate beneath the waters wild.
Stately he rises in his place: “Nay! nay!”
He cries, “If naught but that our doom can stay,
We’ll brave the famine’s pestilential breath,
Till all the tribe lies stark and cold in death!”


Up springs Wenonah:  “Father! hear me speak!
Though but a woman, think me not so weak
That I would shrink, a coward, from flood or fire,
To save my tribe! My blood is thine, my sire!
Lead on, Oh! warriors, to Niagara’s Fall
Its might shall not my woman’s heart appal!
Farewell, my sire! Uncas, my love, farewell!
Great Water-god! sound thou Wenonah’s knell!”


And now, through leagues of forest have they tracked
Their mournful way toward the Cataract.
Before that band of dusky warriors grim
Stalks, stern and silent, the gaunt form of him
Who, savage chieftain of a savage race,
Yet, sorrow pictured in his warrior face,
Now, torn with anguish, offers up his child,
A sacrifice unto the waters wild.


Amid the circle of her dusky maids,
Wenonah treads the darksome forest glades,
The fairest of her tribe — her Nation’s pride —
While Uncas walks dejected by her side.
And though her own brave eyes are filled with tears,
She strives with cheerful word to calm his fears,
But nought can give his troubled spirit rest,
Or loose those savage lips, with grief compressed.


Now, as she hears Niagara’s deep boom,
A premonition of her dreadful doom,
Reverberating through the forest aisles,
Up in her lover’s face she faintly smiles,
And whispers of that land beyond the grave,
That bourne of maiden pure and warrior brave,
Where she, though now torn weeping from his side,
In the Great Spirit’s home may be his bride.


The White Canoe receives its precious freight
Of flowers and fruit, and clad in mimic state,
Reclines amid the bloom, Wenonah fair —
Most luscious fruit, and fairest blossom there.
The warriors grim, smile on such beauteous bribe,
To lure the spirits’ blessing on their tribe,
And all save Uncas gaze with eager eye,
As bark and burden down the current fly.


But not alone must poor Wenonah brave
That dreadful vortex, for, though nought can save,
A love there is, death even cannot part,
And such the love that fills brave Uncas’ heart;
A single stroke and they are side by side,
Alone — together — ‘mid the boiling tide!
Hand clasped in hand as plunging o’er the brink —
Heart throbs with heart as in the flood they sink.


The striken warriors turn in mute dismay,
Then silent — saddened — take their homeward way,
And on their heads, from out the cloudless blue,
The spray-drops fall, tinted with rainbow’s hue
“The Spirit weeps,” they cry, “for Uncas brave —
The Spirit’s bow lies upon Uncas’ Grave!”
And still the mists from her vexed bosom rise,
Niagara’s tears for Love’s great sacrifice,
And still o’er Uncas’ grave the spirit’s rainbow lies.

Source: Willard Parker. Niagara’s Rainbow: The Legend of the White Canoe. Conshohocken, PA:  Willard Parker Publishing Co., 1922.

Niagara by George Houghton

  houghton niagara   

houghton niagara
A Distant View of the Falls of Niagara. 1835, by Thomas Cole.  Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library.

Formed when the oceans were fashioned, when all the world
‡‡was a workshop;
Loud roared the furnace fires, and tall leapt the smoke
‡‡from volcanoes,
Scooped were round bowls for lakes, and grooves for the
‡‡sliding of rivers,
Whilst, with a cunning hand, the mountains were linked

Then through the daw-dawn, lurid with cloud, and rent
‡‡by forked lightning,
Striken by earthquake beneath, above by the rattle of
Sudden the clamour was pierced by a voice, deep-lunged
‡‡and portentous —
Thine, O Niagara, crying: “Now is created completed!”


Millions of cup-like blossoms, brimming with dew and with
Mingle their tributes together to form one slow-trickling
Thousands of brooklets and rills, leaping down from their
‡‡home in the uplands,
Grow to a smooth, blue river, serene and flowing in

Hundreds of smooth, blue rivers, flashing afar o’er the
Darkening ‘neath forests of pine, deep drowning the reeds
‡‡in the marshes,
Cleaving with noiseless sledge the rocks red-crusted with
Circle at last to one common goal, the Mighty Sea-Water.

Lo! to the northward outlying, wide glimmers the stretch
‡‡of the Great Lake,
White-capped and sprinkled with foam, that tumbles its
‡‡bellowing breakers
Landward on beaches of sand, and in hiding-holes hollow
‡‡with thunder,
Landward where plovers frequent, with the wolf and the
‡‡westering bison.    Continue reading “Niagara by George Houghton”

Niagara Falls by Phillip W.Weiss

Phillip W. Weis
Phillip W. Weis

Niagara Falls
majestic curtains
of surging water
cascading, never-ending,
onto the jagged rocks below.

Creating a roar,
like rolling thunder,
a tidal wave of sound
reverberating off the cliffs,
both powerful and soothing,
it can even lull a baby
    to sleep.

And of course the mist,
floating high into the sky,
like plumes of gossamer silk,
meeting the rays of the sun,
forming radiant rainbows,
each a crescent of dazzling colors,
like a tiara of diamonds
adorning the royal head of
    a noble queen.

For Niagara Falls
is nature’s gift to humanity:
her splendor unmatched,
her beauty sublime,
to be admired and treasured,
    like a priceless gem,
for all times.

Copyright (c)2004 Phillip W. Weiss

Source: The author, 2004.

See his other poem on this site, Surging Water

Phillip W. Weiss’ literary website
Phillip W Weiss’ photographic website

Niagara Falls at Night by Larry Pace

Niagara Falls at Night  by Andrew Porteus
Photo by Andrew Porteus

Each night
the colored lights
dance in the water’s spray.
The rainbows and Niagara’s mists
make love.

Source: The author, 2001.

©2001 Larry Pace

Wonders of the West; or, A Day at the Falls of Niagara in 1825: a poem by a Canadian by James Lynne Alexander


    Who has not had a wish t'inspect
Niagara's famed cataract ?
And all the wonders to explore
From Erie to Ontario's shore ?
The battles, lately fought between ;
Give lively interest to the scene ;
And lead the curious stranger round,
To scrutinize each battle ground.
But sentiments more noble far,
Than thoughts of that unnatural war,
The scenery around inspires,
And every feeling bosom fires.


    The Boat had stemm'd Ontario's tide,
And anchor'd on the southern side ;
A noble river with its waves,
Two rival nations' confines laves ;
That Giant stream, which through the lakes
Of Canada, its circuit makes,
And issuing from Ontario
About two hundred miles below,
(After so long a pilgrimage,
Less holy name were sacrilege)
Assumes St. Lawrence, name of awe
But here 'tis called Niagara.


    Upon this river's eastern side,
A Fortress stands in warlike pride ;
Ontario's surges lash its base,
And gradually its walls deface ;
And, from its topmost tower display'd,
A flag, with stripes and stars portray'd ;
Upon the west an ancient mound,
The Union Jack and - British ground :
Nor distant far another stands,
Which the whole river's mouth commands.
Between the two lay Newark village,
Which yet they let its neighbours pillage ;
Nor only so, but burn it down ;
And from its ashes now has grown,
Another, but more lovely far,
Since the conclusion of the war
Which they have nam'd Niagara. Continue reading "Wonders of the West; or, A Day at the Falls of Niagara in 1825: a poem by a Canadian by  James Lynne Alexander"