Morning at the Falls by G. W. Cutter


View of Niagara Falls from the American Side, 1850
by A.M. Fraser. Colour tint by Jane Merryweather
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Tis morning, and the vapors white
Towering on high, reflect the light
Back in a flood of glittering gems,
….As if the genii of the air
Their baldricks and their diadems
….In hecatombs were offering there ;
‘Tis morning, and the foliage green,
O’er that gulf is deck’d with silver sheen ; 
A pearly shower as softly lies,
….As bright, as sweetly there reposes,
As ever fell from summer skies
….Upon an orient vale of roses.

The cedar twining o’er the rock
As iftwere conscious of the shock ;
The earthquake of that ocean tide,
….That, pouring, rushing evermore,
Like rolling avalanches glide
….And foam along the shore,
Bears on the emerald crown it wears,
….Gems brighter than have ever lain
Upon the young and tender leaves
….Where softly fell the gentle rain ;
When Flora’s lovely censers fling
Their incense o’er the shrine of spring.

It is indeed a fearful thing,
….A moment we shall ne’er forget,
To stand where e’en the eagle’s wing
….Has never dared to venture yet ;
To mark the volumed vapor white
….Roll up as from a mighty altar,
And feel upon that dizzy hight
….The eternal rock beneath us falter, 
While thousand rainbows fade and flash 
….O’er the crash’d waters as they flow,
And from our very footsteps crash
….In mist and thunder far below,
To know that till the Almighty hand
….Shallroll together as a scroll”
The utmost verge of sea and land,
….That mighty stream shall foam and fall ;
That when our puny frames forgot 
….In death shall sleep full many a year, 
Then other eyes shall hail this spot
….And gaze as we are gazing here.

Source: G.W. Cutter. Poems and Fugitive Pieces. Cincinnati: Moore, Wilstach, Keys & Co., 1857

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Niagara by G.W. Cutter


G.W. Cutter
Image from his Poems and Fugitive Pieces

 westward, where the sunlight gleams 
O’er rocky dell and rolling streams ;
O’er forests boundless to the eye,
And mountains blending with the sky :
O’er lakes, whose more than ocean blue
Fade in the heavens’ receding hue ;
Or kindled with the summer’s ray,
Flash with the bright excess of day ;
Or rippling on their snowy shore,
A flood of sparkling diamonds pour ;
Or lash’d beneath the tempest’s wing,
Skyward their foaming billows fling ;
Or round the shelving granite curl’d,
As if they battled with the world,
With deaf’ning roar all madly sweep
The earthquake thunders of the deep ;
But ever as their warring waves
The demon of the storm enslaves,
Sink back and smile in slumber’s chain
As if they ne’er could wake again ;
So calm, the sigh would break their rest
That heaves the sleeping infant’s breast ;
Or forth their devious journey take,
To mingle with some sister lake :
And bursting from their bounds for ever,
Majestic flow a giant river ;
Then soft their curving shores steal by,
As twilight fades from summer sky,
As zephyrs o’er the vernal lea,
As moonlight o’er the tranquil sea—
Twining on thro’ endless ranks
Of trees that shade their sloping banks ;
Or drooping in the crystal wave,
Their green and sunny foliage lave ;
While many an isle of fairy hue
With soft enchantment blends the view.
Thus flow they on from west to east 
Their strength renew’d, their store increased ; 
Till link by link stupendous curl’d,
Their chain embraces half the world ;
And thus from many a distant shore
A thousand floods to Erie pour ;
Where mingling seas together fled,
In more than ocean grandeur spread :
To fair Ontario’s bosom blue,
Combined their onward course pursue ;
With strength the powers of earth to brave—
Niagara’s eternal wave—
calm and broad meanderings stray,
Till mountain ramparts bar their way ;
Then wildly wakes their slumbering might, 
Then upwards dash their billows white, 
Then waves on waves redoubling pour,
And rush along the granite shore ;
Till man must tremble to behold
Their strength sublime together roll’d,
And from the mountain’s awful crown
In one vast ocean thundering down ;
The earth aghast, the mountains riven,
The mist shrouds wreaking up to heaven, 
While thousand startling echoes swell
The mutter’d thunders where they fell.
It is as if from heaven was hurl’d
The ponderous ruins of a world,
And jarring with their mighty force
A flood of planets from their course,
And all in one vast current high
Rush’d darkling down the breathless sky.
own, down the dark green water flows,
Till boiling eddies o’er them close ;
While o’er their foam that rolls below,
Gleams forth the many – colored bow,
And rivals with its beauteous dyes
That prism glory of the skies.
While shiver’d rocks that nod around,
With plumes of pine and cedar crown’d,
Frown neath their shades of living green 
A solemn grandeur o’er the scene.
But hold ! the muse’s starward flight
Falls to the dust in pale affright ;
Drops from her hand the golden lyre ;
All chilly grow her robes of fire,
The mist in clouds above her meet,
The earth is trembling ‘ neath her feet,
Forgets her high immortal powers,
In silence trembles and adores .

Source: G.W. Cutter. Poems and Fugitive Pieces. Cincinnati: Moore, Wilstach, Keys & Co., 1857

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Death of an Immigrant by Bobbie Kalman


The author with her Mother and Father, Imre Kalman
Photo courtesy of Bobbie Kalman

My father cheated death a number of times.
People called him a hero.
In Hungary, he was my hero.
But our Revolution failed,
and our dreams were denied.

On Dad’s 35th birthday,
we fled our country
in the middle of the night.
“You’re so lucky you got out,”
those left behind cried.
But my father was never the same.
Although his body was safe,
his spirit had died.

We became immigrants in a country far away.
For my father, that was the saddest day.
Although his life was still ahead,
he fled backwards in his mind
to happier times in the place we left behind.
His life became conversations with the past.
Mythical, magical stories filled his head
Stories that took place long before we were born
Stories we learned to dread.
Being kids, we preferred the present instead.

Our new home was a shrine to what used to be,
but it was a place we never felt free.
The rest of us forged ahead with our new lives,
but we felt too guilty to look in his eyes.
Eyes that were empty—showing no spirit inside.
Dad thought he cheated death,
but he just didn’t die.

The doctors called him a “medical miracle.”
They took out organs, cut off his leg,
and started his stalled heart three or four times.
Then, one day, his heart just broke.
His body finally died.
If only he could have realized…

People die for the myths they create.
And then, suddenly, they find out—too late
that love exists only in the present.

I hope you’re in the place of your dreams, Dad.
I hope there is nothing there that
makes you feel sad.
If only you could have read my book!
I went back to the past to have a good look,
at our lives in Hungary,
where you were my hero.

Source: Bobbie Kalman, 2023

Read about Bobbie Kalman

Niagara, an Allegory by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft


A New Map for Travelers Through the United States of America, 1846, by John Calvin Smith.
Image courtesy of The Library of Congress

An old grey man on a mountain lived,
He had daughters four and one,
And a tall bright lodge of the betula bark
That glittered in the sun.

He lived on the very highest top,
For he was a hunter free,
Where he could spy on the clearest day,
Gleams of the distant sea.

Come out—come out ! cried the youngest one,
Let us off to look at the sea,
And out they ran in their gayest robes,
And skipped and ran with glee.

Come Su, come Mi, come Hu, come Sa,
Cried laughing little Er,
Let us go to yonder broad blue deep,
Where the breakers foam and roar.

And on they scampered by valley and wood,
By earth and air and sky,
Till they came to a steep where the bare rocks stood,
In a precipice mountain high.

Inya ! cried Er, here’s a dreadful leap,
But we are gone so far,
That if we flinch and return in fear,
Nos , he will cry ha ! ha !

Now each was clad in a vesture light,
That floated far behind,
With sandals of frozen water drops,
And wings of painted wind.

And down they plunged with a merry skip 
Like birds that skim the plain ;
And hey ! they cried, let us up and try
And down the steep again.

And up and down the daughters skipped,
Like girls on a holiday,
And laughed outright, at the sport and foam
They called Niagara.

If ye would see a sight so rare,
Where nature’s in her glee,
Go, view the spot in the wide wild west,
The land of the brave and free.

But mark—their shapes are only seen
In fancy’s deepest play,
But she plainly shews their wings and feet
In the dancing sunny spray.

Source: Henry Rowe Schoolcraft.The Indian in His Wigwam, or, Characteristics of the Red Race. Buffalo: Derby & Hewson, 1848.

Also published in his The American Indians, Their History, Condition and Prospects. Buffalo: George H. Derby & Co., 1851

Also published in his Western Scenes and Reminiscences, Auburn: Derby & Miller 1853 

Read about Henry Rowe Schoolcraft

A Sabbath at Niagara by Abraham Coles

abraham coles
Horseshoe Falls from Goat Island With Man Standing on Terrapin Point Boardwalk, c.1885
Photo by George Barker.
Image courtesy of The Library of Congress


 from thee, Niagara !
Religious Cataract ! Most Holy Fane ! 
A service and a symphony go up 
Into the ear of God. ‘Tis Sabbath morn. 
My soul, refreshed and full of comfort, hears 
Thy welcome call to worship. All night long 
A murmur, like the memory of a sound, 
Has filled my sleep and made my dreams devout. 
It was the deep unintermittent roll
Of thy eternal anthem, pealing still
Upon the slumbering and muffled sense, 
Thence echoing in the soul’s mysterious depths 
With soft reverberations. How the earth 
Trembles with hallelujahs, loud as break 
From banded Seraphim and Cherubim 
Singing before the Throne, while God vouchsafes 
Vision and audience to prostrate Heaven ! 
My soul, that else were mute, transported finds 
In you, O inarticulate Harmonies !
Expression for unutterable thoughts,
Surpassing the impertinence of words.
For that the petty artifice of speech
Cannot pronounce th’ Unpronounceable,
Nor meet the infinite demands of praise
Before descending Godhead, lo ! she makes
Of this immense significance of sound,
Sublime appropriation, chanting it anew,
As her Te Deum,” and sweet Hymn of Laud.

O God ! I thank Thee, I can do no less,
‡‡Since by Thy grace it is, and not by merit,
‡‡That Nature’s glorious fullness I inherit ;
That I, with all embracing arms, may press
‡‡The perfect Beauty, present in Thy works,
‡‡Present in all, in all profoundly lurks ;
May take the matchless Venus to my side,
As mine elect, my well beloved, immortal Bride ;
With a legitimate and holy rapture, kiss
Her unaverted face, and taste a boundless bliss.
‡‡O what am I. that I should so aspire,
‡‡Thus with the Daughter of th’ Eternal Sire,
‡‡Refulgent with His likeness, aye to wed !
‡‡To place the crown of glory on my head,
‡‡By virtue of these high espousals, heir
‡‡Of Thine eternal kingdom which is everywhere.
‡‡‡‡‡‡I now but know in part,
‡‡‡‡‡‡The sum of what Thou art ;
‡‡‡‡‡‡Tis little that I see
‡‡‡‡‡‡Of her infinity,
But little of those charms, whose perfect whole 
Shall ravish the transfigured and exalted soul.
‡‡‡‡‡‡Immortal gratitude,
‡‡‡‡‡‡For that sweet earnest of beatitude, 
Found in those glimpses which to me are given, 
Of her whose proper residence is heaven ! 
When comes a radiance streaming from the sky, 
I, by that token, know that she is nigh : 
When Earth puts on her robe of purest green,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And flowers fair
‡‡‡‡‡‡Spring everywhere,
Her presence perfumes and endears the scene ; 
‡‡‡When Ocean rises in his majesty, 
‡‡‡I’ve seen her walking on the troubled Sea,
‡‡‡‡‡‡An angel form
‡‡‡‡‡‡Amid the storm,
But never, never, until now,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Till in this place,
‡‡‡‡‡‡So seen her face to face,
Celestial glories beaming on her brow,
‡‡‡By each indubitable sign
‡‡‡Proved an apocalypse of the divine.

‡‡‡‡‡All hail, Niagara ! immortal Wonder, hail !
‡‡‡Rapt as a prophet, I have stood
And nothing spoke, for what could words avail ?
, said unconscious, It is good,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Good to be here,
‡‡‡‡‡‡With God so near,
Here will I stay, nor evermore depart !
‡‡‡What time my soul astonished, from her swoon
‡‡‡Awoke, her powers recovered soon.
Meanwhile, I felt th’ eternal mystery,
‡‡‡Like lightning through my being dart,
Then as I entered that o’ershadowing Cloud,
That dread Shekinah, Shrine of Deity,
And fell upon my face, and heard One speak aloud,
‡‡‡But not in mortal dialect, or speech ;
‡‡‡The sacred import, to my soul’s high reach
‡‡‡In that deep trance, intelligible alone,
‡‡‡That mystery of words, that thunder tone.
I heard, and felt—or, was it but a dream ?
‡‡‡The adamantine chain of sin 
Fall off, as riven by the lightning’s beam, 
‡‡‡And a new birth and being thence begin. 
‡‡‡O, can it be,
‡‡‡‡‡‡This broken chain
‡‡‡‡‡‡Shall close again,
‡‡‡And I shall lose my new found liberty ?

‡‡‡‡‡‡Is God not here ?
‡‡‡The thunder utters, Yes !
‡‡‡‡‡‡The trembling rocks in fear
‡‡‡The truth confess ;
‡‡‡The assenting mountains nod,
‡‡‡‡‡‡And all things round
‡‡‡‡‡‡Echo one sound,
‡‡‡All testify of God.
‡‡‡‡‡‡O, let my soul exult,
‡‡‡‡‡‡That here she may consult,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡The Oracle Divine !
‡‡‡‡‡‡That at Jerusalem, no more,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Is fixed as heretofore
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Jehovah’s Shrine !
‡‡‡‡‡‡That ancient ritual is past,
‡‡‡‡‡‡That Temple to the ground is cast,
Those symbols and those semblances sublime,
‡‡‡Endured but for a time.
Their everlasting prototypes, I ween,
Their patterns on the Mount by Moses seen,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Were these, are here !
‡‡‡‡‡‡This much, at least is clear ;
If, in th’ immensity of space,
God makes one spot His special dwelling-place,
‡‡‡That sacred spot is this.
‡‡‡‡‡‡I find the witness and the sign,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Authentic, marvelous, divine,
Here in th’ ebullient, luminous abyss,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Where thousand suns once bright,
So seems, now back exhausted pour
‡‡‡Their full collected light,
In ceaseless flood for evermore.

‡‡‡‡‡I tread the vestibule, I press,
‡‡‡I, who am dust and nothingness,
‡‡‡Within the Veil, into the Holiest Place,
‡‡‡Even to the Mercy seat, and Throne of Grace.
‡‡‡‡‡‡I look around, I kneel,
‡‡‡‡‡‡The Deity I feel ;
‡‡‡‡‡‡Too bright for visual sense
‡‡‡‡‡‡Is His magnificence,
But there, methinks, on the horizon’s rim 
I see the hovering wings of Cherubim.
‡‡‡‡‡‡Open, ye crystal gates !
‡‡‡‡‡‡The King of Glory waits ;
‡‡‡‡‡‡Ye rainbows, spring your arch
‡‡‡‡‡‡For His triumphal march !
‡‡‡Who is the King of Glory ? He
‡‡‡Whose presence fills immensity ;
‡‡‡Th’ Omnific Word, who spoke,
‡‡‡And day on darkness broke.
‡‡‡Who is the King of Glory ? Who ?
‡‡‡The Faithful and the True,
‡‡‡The Lord, omnipotent to save,
‡‡‡Who triumphed o’er the grave ;
‡‡‡Who rising from the dead
‡‡‡Captivity captive led ;
‡‡‡Who spoiled Infernal Powers,
‡‡‡And made the victory ours.
‡‡‡He, wonderful to tell,
‡‡‡Still deigns with men to dwell ;
‡‡‡Has built Him here a home,
‡‡‡Gates, pillars, architrave, and dome 
‡‡‡Of molten emeralds, and precious gems,
‡‡‡Richer than grace imperial diadems :
‡‡‡Here reared His throne, here fixed His seat,
‡‡‡Where everlasting thunders beat.
‡‡‡‡‡‡Open, ye pearly gates !
‡‡‡‡‡‡The King of Glory waits.
‡‡‡Ye sapphire doors, wide open swing,
‡‡‡Admit the pomp of the Celestial King !
‡‡‡‡‡‡Ye censers, smoke ! waft high,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Your clouds of incense filling all the sky !
‡‡‡In this high service can I bear no part?
‡‡‡‡‡‡One sacrifice
‡‡‡‡‡‡He’ll not despise,
A broken spirit and a contrite heart.

‡‡‡By this rapt converse, lifted high
‡‡‡Upon the wings of ecstasy,
‡‡‡My soul, grown buoyant, bold and rash,
‡‡‡Goes forth to meet the Cataract’s dash.
‡‡‡I climb the fearful precipice,
‡‡‡And look and lean there o’er the abyss ;
‡‡‡Ascend the loftiest pinnacle,
‡‡‡‡‡‡Of this rock-built and mighty fane—
‡‡‡A thought, I instantly repel,
‡‡‡‡‡‡A horrid thought, shoots through my brain,
‡‡‡As standing on the perilous steep,
he Enemy tempts me down to leap.

‡‡‡‡As through the lone and wooded isle, 
‡‡‡I pensive walk and muse the while, 
‡‡‡The scales fall suddenly from my eyes : 
‡‡‡With a new transport of surprise,
‡‡‡I see all common things intense
‡‡‡With mighty pomp of evidence ;
‡‡‡Each insect, flower, and shrub, and tree 
‡‡‡Blazing with proofs of Deity :
‡‡‡Where’er I look, where’er I turn,
‡‡‡His glowing footprints I discern ;
‡‡‡In small and great, alike, I find
‡‡‡Sweet intimations left behind
‡‡‡Of wisdom, goodness, power, and grace—
‡‡‡The glory of a hidden face :
‡‡‡In every sound, in accents clear,
‡‡‡His name is whispered in my ear : 
‡‡‡My quickened sense, now as I pass, 
‡‡‡Hears holy anthems from the grass. 
‡‡‡Meek insect choristers ! not in vain, 
‡‡‡You feebly pipe your humble strain, 
‡‡‡Not less significant, when understood, 
‡‡‡Than thunder sounding through the wood.

Source: Abraham Coles. The Microcosm and Other Poems. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1881

Read about Dr. Abraham Coles