Niagara Falls by William Allen

    Lo Niagara! down the depth profound
Plunges thy broad and mighty gleaming flood,
Fed by vast lakes, in symbol union bound.
On Table Rock, now fall'n, in youth I stood
Gazing on all the scene in rapt'rous mood.
There, at my level, the majestic stream
O'er long curv'd cliff, with ample plentitude,
Begins its stoop in reg'lar bending gleam;
Then falls till shape is lost in foam and misty steam.

    Perched on thin leaf of overhanging rock,
I venture to the edge and look below;
I see the eddying depth; and feel the shock,
The shore all trembling at the earthquake blow.
Ah, what if sudden dizziness should grow,
As, at Passaic cliff, in her who fell?
Or what if shock my foothold ledge o'erthrow,
And to abyss I sink with loosen'd shell?
The solitary fate no tongue could tell.

    But though no brother man with me did stand,
Yet God was there who scooped the basin wide
And poured the flood out from his hollow hand,
Yet God was there, whose voice on ev'ry side
Issued in thunders from the angry tide,
Yet God was there, the cloud-built arch to rear,
With mingled hues of beauteous brightness dyed,
Symbol once caused o'er wider flood t'appear,
Blest pledge of earth's escape from destiny severe.

    Stand here, mortal presumptuous! and say -
While ear is stunn'd with torrent's ceaseless roar,
And solid rocks do tremble with dismay -
Cannot God's hand the flood of vengeance pour,
To sweep the proud, where they will boast no more?
Let warring tribes this voice of thunder hear,
And hush their rage, lest whirlpool wrath devour!
Christian! the bow of promise shines forth clear,
And thou mayst smile secure, when earth shall quake with fear.

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

Falling with the Falls: Niagara Prose-Poem by Boris Glikman


I first came face to face with Him when I was five and skinny to the bone. Mum took me to meet Him as soon as we arrived at the seaport town, even though it was already night. From a distance I could hear His voice, the steady rhythm of His basso. Perhaps it was just as well that I could not see Him on our first meeting, for all my other senses were saturated with His presence. I stood there, absorbing His being through my body’s pores, yearning to sacrifice my child’s body to His power so that in swallowing me up I would become one with Him – He part of me and I part of Him. Mum was calling me to go back to the hotel, but I just stood there, not willing, indeed, not able to move a fibre of my body, a muscle of my limbs.

That was the day water, in its most magnificent and astonishing incarnation, came into my existence and a Love was born.

And now here at the Falls this love affair, after years of tiffs and misunderstandings, is being rekindled.

The flow of the river leading up to the Falls looks menacing and brooding. There is a belligerent arrogance in its bearing, like a bully gearing up for a fight, totally unlike other rivers which flow with sweet serenity and smiles on their faces.

There is water cascading all around me in a form I’ve never witnessed before – air-like and rising as clouds of smoke. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see earth turning into fire or air turning into earth here, fulfilling every alchemist’s deepest dream. Perhaps an error of alchemists was in believing that a philosopher’s stone is a thing rather than a location, for at this place all metamorphoses are possible: the four elements transmute into one another at will; incorrigibly jaded senses, which once saw only disappointment and disillusionment in the world, acquire child-like wonder and see anew the beauty of life.
Incongruously and paradoxically the only thing that has any stability, that survives unchanged and unscathed in this torrential maelstrom of air and water is that most insubstantial element of alllight. There are myriads of rainbows festooning the waterfall, blithely making their home in the very midst of the plunging hurricane. They shine forth gloriously, oblivious to the cataclysm that surrounds them.

For a moment, my rapture is tainted by doubt. Sure, this is spectacular and all, but what significance does it have to my life, to human existence as a whole? What is the meaning of this downpour, the meaning of me standing here, watching it at this particular point in time?

Is this Nature’s allegorical portrayal of the original Fall from Grace? Or is it a liquid metaphor for the final tumble we all eventually must take? For there is no way the fallen water can ever return to its previous plane of being, except as a misty ghost of its former self.

An inexorable flow of a solid wall of water.

How easy, how tempting it is to join the plunge, to become one with the deluge! The avalanche is calling out to me with all its might; it is so persuasive in its roar. The whole world is falling around me and I am the odd one out, stubbornly holding my ground and remaining ludicrously stationary. 

Perhaps only this colossal torrent is capable of wiping away all of my sins, cleansing my being from the layers of inner grime accumulated over the decades. I must position myself so I am standing directly under the deluge, right where the waterfall hits the ground.

And I emerge from beneath the Falls reborn – all shiny and pure again, like that five-year-old child.

Source: The Author, April 13, 2016

About Boris Glikman