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

Niagara by Lydia Huntley Sigourney

sigourney niagara table

sigourney niagara table
The Horse-Shoe Falls by W.H. Bartlett. Image Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library.

Up to the Table-Rock, where the great flood
Reveals its fullest glory. To the verge
Of its appalling battlement draw near,
And gaze below.    Or if thy spirit fail,
Creep stealthily, and snatch a trembling glance
Into the dread abyss.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡What there thou seest
Shall dwell for ever in thy secret soul,
Finding no form of language.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡The vexed deep,
Which from the hour that Chaos heard the voice
Let there be light, hath known nor pause, nor rest,
Communeth through its misty cloud with Him
Who breaks it on the wheel of pitiless rock,
Yet heals it every moment.   Bending near,
Mid all the terror, as an angel-friend,
The rainbow walketh in its company
With perfect orb full-rounded.   Dost thou cling
Thus to its breast, a Comforter, to give
Strength in its agony, thou radiant form,
Born of the trembling tear-drop, and the smile
Of sun, or glimmering moon?   
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Yet from a scene
So awfully sublime, our senses shrink,
And fain would shield them at the solemn base
Of the tremendous precipice, and glean
Such hallowed thoughts as blossom in its shade.    Continue reading “Niagara by Lydia Huntley Sigourney”

Niagara by Lydia Huntley Sigourney

sigourney niagara flow

sigourney niagara flow
Lydia Huntley Sigourney

Flow on forever, in thy glorious robe
Of terror and of beauty.   Yea, flow on
Unfathomed and resistless.   God hath set
His rainbow on thy forehead; and the cloud
Mantled around thy feet.   And he doth give
Thy voice of thunder power to speak of Him
Eternally, — bidding the lip of man
Keep silence — and upon thy rocky altar pour
Incense of awe-struck praise.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Ah! who can dare
To lift the insect-trump of earthly hope,
Or love, or sorrow, mid the peal sublime
Of thy tremendous hymn? Even Ocean shrinks
Back from thy brotherhood, and all his waves
Retire abashed.   For he doth sometimes seem
To sleep like a spent labourer, and recall
His wearied billows from their vexing play,
And lull them to a cradle calm; but thou
With everlasting, undecaying tide,
Dost rest not, night or day.   The morning stars,
When first they sang oer young creations birth,
Heard thy deep anthem; and those wrecking fires,
That wait the archangels signal to dissolve
This solid earth, shall find Jehovahs name
Graven, as with a thousand diamond spears
On thine unending volume.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Every leaf,
That lifts itself within thy wide domain,
Doth gather greenness from thy living spray,
Yet tremble at the baptism.   Lo! — yon birds
Do boldly venture near, and bathe their wing
Amid thy mist and foam.   ‘Tis meet for them
To touch thy garments hem, and lightly stir
The snowy leaflets of thy vapour wreath,
For they may sport unharmed amid the cloud,
Or listen at the echoing gate of Heaven,
Without reproof.   But, as for us, it seems
Scarce lawful, with our broken tones, to speak
Familiarly of thee. Methinks, to tint
Thy glorious features with our pencils point,
Or woo thee to the tablet of a song,
Were profanation.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Thou dost make the soul
A wondering witness of thy majesty,
But as it presses with delirious joy
To pierce thy vestibule, dost chain its step,
And tame its rapture with the humbling view
Of its own nothingness, bidding it stand
In the dread presence of the Invisible,
As if to answer to its God through thee.

Source: Myron T. Pritchard, comp. Poetry of Niagara. Boston: Lothrup Publishing Co., 1901

Thoughts at Niagara by J. S. W.


Horseshoe Falls From a Stereograph by Charles Bierstadt, 1893. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

How sad, my God, to linger here,
‡‡‘Mid all these works of thine.
Alone, bereft of all I’ve loved,
‡‡And joys that once were mine!
Loud anthems cheer those crested waves,
‡‡And kiss the floods below;
Where hidden thunder smites the rocks,
‡‡And bursts in ceaseless praise,
Of HIM who fix’d the rainbow there,
‡‡To mark its brightest days!
Oh! where ‘mid all this radiant joy,
‡‡Can sorrow hope to live,
Deserted by those rays of Peace,
‡‡Which Thou alone can’st give? 

*                          *                   *                   *

Cold, cold, and blank, that once bright home,
‡‡Where now, in lonely hours,
Love hovers round the vacant chair,
‡‡And haunts the silent bowers;
And Hopes once cherish’d there, have chang’d,
‡‡To Tears in sorrow shed,
Reflecting back the scenes I lov’d,
‡‡Ere that sweet spirit fled!
Kindred scenes, my GOD are these,
‡‡Which now around me lie,
Ever whisp’ring ― “cease poor soul,
‡‡WE too have yet to die!”

September 21, 1871

Source: Ridgway, Robert (ed.) The Canadian Magazine vol. 1 – July to December 1871. Toronto: Irving, Flint & Co., 1871. p. 295

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”