The Hermit of the Falls by Lydia Huntley Sigourney

sigourney hermit
Hut on Goat Island Used By Francis Abbott. the Hermit of Niagara, from 1829-1831. Sketch by C. Breckinridge Porter

It was the leafy month of June,
And joyous Nature, all in tune,
‡‡With wreathing buds was drest,
As toward Niagaras fearful side
‡‡A youthful stranger prest;
His ruddy cheek was blanched with awe
And scarce he seemed his breath to draw,
‡‡While bending oer its brim,
He marked its strong, unfathomed tide,
‡‡And heard its thunder-hymn.

His measured week too quickly fled,
Another, and another sped,
And soon the summer rose decayed,
The moon of autumn sank in shade;
Years filled their circle, brief and fair,
Yet still the enthusiast lingered there,
‡‡Till winter hurled its dart:
For deeper round his soul was wove
A mystic chain of quenchless love,
That would not let him part. Continue reading “The Hermit of the Falls by Lydia Huntley Sigourney”

To a Flower by Alexander Wellington Crawford

(Found Some Years Ago at the Foot of Goat Island, Niagara)
To a Flower
Horseshoe Fall and Goat Island Seen from Table Rock by James Hope-Wallace. Courtesy Niagara Falls Public Library

I turned aside to pluck thee, sweetest flower,
From thy low bed, where, almost hid from sight,
Thou lay’st besieged by rocks, whose giant power
Was broken ere they reached thee with their might.

Thou grewest there, so tiny and alone,
Among the rocks that formed thy hardened bed;
And yet thou seem’st no sadness to have known,
For heaven’s blue had crowned thy tender head.

Thou wast the only flower that I could see —
The place around was ruinously bare;
And yet thou grewest there contentedly,
Although thou livedst on but rocky fare.

Thou only heardst the cataract’s fierce roar —
The torrents never reached thy rocky bed;
So thou wast safe, though near where fierce floods pour;
The spray but dashed upon thy bending head.

I found thee with thy sweetness hid away,
Far from my path upon the rocks beneath;
I clambered down to claim without delay
Thy slender beauty and thy fragrant breath.

Thou hast for me the tenderest memory,
For him, who was my comrade in those days;
Scarce can I meet until eternity,
When God brings him from India’s burning rays.

I hold thee as a treasure to my heart —
Thy life was so much like my own poor life;
For I, like thee, alone must do my part,
And stand unaided amidst rocks of strife.

And, like thee, may I pass my feeble day,
And never know the torrent’s deadly force;
But may just feel the invigorating spray,
And bless some traveller in his earthly course.

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

Originally published in Crawford’s Poems of Yesterday  Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1924

The Cataract Isle by Christopher Pearse Cranch

The Emerald Isle by Christopher Pearse Cranch
Christopher Pearse Cranch

I wandered through the ancient wood
That crowns the cataract isle.
I heard the roaring of the flood
And saw its wild, fierce smile.

Through tall tree-tops the sunshine flecked
The huge trunks and the ground;
And the pomp of fullest summer decked
The island all around.

And winding paths led all along
Where friends and lovers strayed;
And voices rose with laugh and song
From sheltered nooks of shade.

Through opening forest vistas whirled
The rapids’ foamy flash,
As they boiled along and plunged and swirled,
And neared the last long dash.

I crept to the island’s outer verge,
Where the grand, broad river fell —
Fell sheer down mid foam and surge,
In a white and blinding hell!

The steady rainbow gayly shone
Above the precipice;
And a deep, low tone of a thunder-groan
Rolled up from the drear abyss.

And all the day sprang up the spray,
Where the broad, white sheets were poured,
And fell around in showery play,
Or upward curled and soared.

And all the night those sheets of white
Gleamed through the spectral mist,
When o’er the isle the broad moonlight
The wintry foam-flakes kissed.

Mirrored within thy dreamy thought,
I see it, feel it all, —
That island with sweet visions fraught,
That awful waterfall.

With sunflecked trees, and birds, and flowers,
The Isle of Life is fair:
But one deep voice thrills through its hours,
One spectral form is there, —

A power no mortal can resist,
Rolling forever on, —
A floating cloud, a shadowy mist,
Eternal undertone!

And through the sunny vistas gleam
The fate, the solemn smile;
Life is Niagara’s rushing stream;
Its dreams — that peaceful isle!

September, 1853

Source: Christopher Pearse Cranch. The Bird and the Bell, with Other Poems. Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1875

Also published in Myron T. Pritchard, comp. Poetry of Niagara. Boston: Lothrop Publishing Co., 1901.

Also published in R. L. Johnson. Niagara: Its History, Incidents and Poetry Washington: W. Neale, 1898

Goat Island – Thomas Gold Appleton

Portrait of Thomas Gold Appleton from Harvard University Art Museums’ Collection


Peace and perpetual quiet are around,
Upon the erect and dusky file of stems,
Sustaining yon far roof, expelling sound,
Through which the sky sparkles (a rain of gems
Lost in the forest’s depth of shade), the sun
At times doth shoot an arrow of pure gold,
Flecking majestic trunks with hues of dun,
Veining their barks with silver, and betraying
Secret initials tied in true love knots;
Of hearts no longer through green alleys straying,
But stifled in the world’s distasteful grots.
The silence in monastic, save in spots
Where heaves a glimmer of uncertain light,
And rich wild tones enchant the woodland night.

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

Also published in  Johnson, Richard L. (ed).  Niagara: Its History, Incidents and Poetry. Washington: Walter Neale General Book Publisher, 1898.