chippawa creek
Chippawa Creek, c.1900. Copy from an unknown source by Donna Campbell, 1975. Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

As the Chippawa Creek crept along by its banks,
Or, as poets would say, “was a-flowing,”
Though a fish that had spent his whole life in its stream
Could scarce tell you which way it was going,

And this fine gold-laced frog leaped lively about,
Quite gay in his gaudy green coat,
Or the large one in brown made the echoes resound
With the sound of his harsh-croaking throat:

In some places it widened and spread into swamps;
Near the shore it was green, tinged with yellow,
And the mud-turtles crawled, or were perched on old logs,
And the ater-snake basked in the shallow;

And slowly it wended by many a bend,
Till it reached the Niagara’s shore,
And ventured, though shy, its fortune to try,
To join in the river’s rude roar.

Then onward it sped to the loud-sounding fall,
For vain was its puny resistance;
Nay, it seemed to be pleased, as it felt itself eased
Of its former dull sluggish existence.

And it wimpled and danced in many a swirl,
As it ran to the cataract’s roar;
Yet it seemed much to doubt, nor ventured far out,
But kept close to the Canada shore.

Now it neared the rude rock where the traveler oft stands,
At the end of long-nursed Ideality,
And sees with surprise to his wondering eyes
That description has beggared reality.

Still it clung to the shore, and seemed much to dread
That it would soon become a nonentity,
And strove to the last, though hurrying fast
To where it must lose its identity.

And onward it came to the horrible leap,
Yet still midst the rush and confusion,
Its stream you could mark by the matter so dark
That it carried and held in solution.

So a silly young mouse sometimes strays from the nest,
Or perhaps a young frolicsome rat,
And play, till at last they find themselves fast
In the claws of a merciless cat;

Or perhaps a young man leaves his peaceful abode,
And trusts to some frolicsome friend;
And, though first in vice shy, he gets bold bye and bye,
And at last makes a sorrowful end.

He repines and looks back with remorse on the past,
And full fain would resume his condition;
But in vice so far he continues to sin,
Till he sinks in disgrace to perdition.

Source: McCabe, Kevin, ed. The Poetry of Old Niagara. St. Catharines, Ont. : Blarney Stone Books, 1999.

Originally published in The St. Catharines Journal, Dec. 3, 1846. At the end of the poem there appears to be “I.   4.    Alnwick” The spacing, combination of italics and regular font, and the fact that other signed items on the page more resemble a signature line make it unclear if this is an author attribution.


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