To Frederic Edwin Church Regarding Niagara Falls by Portly Bard

 

Niagara, 1857 by Frederic Edwin Church
Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art

So much like ours, your river’s course
becomes the path of nature’s force
embracing ever lower plane
and carving ever deeper main
 
except where soil is bared to rock
or rise becomes a stubborn block
that, barring flood, will be its bound
or island it will flow around
 
as ending tributaries merge
and hasten more the mounting surge
to roar of sudden, fated falls,
the splendor eye so well recalls
 
by glimmer of prismatic twist
in fountain of its risen mist.


©2023 by Portly Bard. Reproduced on the Niagara Falls Poetry Project website with the permission of Portly Bard.

This poem, inspired by Frederic Edwin Church’s 1857 painting Niagara, was first published in The Ekphrastic ReviewOctober 20, 2023 in their Ekphrastic Challenges series. Read about ekphrastic poetry in Niagara.

 

Portly Bard.
Old man.  Ekphrastic fan.
Prefers to craft with sole intent…
of verse becoming complement…
…and by such homage being lent…
ideally also compliment.
 
Ekphrastic joy comes not from praise
for words but from returning gaze
far more aware of fortune art
becomes to eyes that fathom heart.

The Ice Crack’d, 1912 by Debbie Walker-Lass

Niagara, 1857 by Frederic Edwin Church
Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art

Let’s go back to a time forgotten—
Time when all stood still at this reckoning
When the stars spewed light like a string of shiny pearls
Gleaming, coyly placed, half-hidden in a breast
To enkindle the earth with heavenly illumination
And begin Niagara’s immaculate creation
Falling, tumbling river dodging over rock formations
Over and over: an international maritime border
Canada’s pride
America’s daughter

Danger lies in beauty wild and unforgiving
Many years Niagara made a sparkling temptation 
When Honeymooners and brazen lads took the chance
To walk upon the icy bridge made of water
It seemed a game, not risking life in great parlance
The tall, strapping boys built a warm beverage station
Canadian citizens welcomed
Americans as close relations

The menacing sun appeared as a propitious omen,
Settling over that imagined, glassy isthmus
Until a fatal crack shuddered out a warning:
Jagged flaws in the ice were quickly forming
Honeymooners from New York were taking in the sights
The young Quebecians downing cups of hot chocolate 
All looked to one another, faces full of fright
 
Far too late to make preparations
 
Crossing an international border without immigration 
Was a delightful idea with just the right amount of mystery
Until the couple, sharing one last kiss
Before rushing waters pulled them apart, taking their breath
Were noted in the annals of Niagara’s history
By boys turned into men by cheating death.


walker-lass
Debbie Walker-Lass

This poem, inspired by Frederic Edwin Church’s 1857 painting Niagara, was first published in The Ekphrastic ReviewOctober 20, 2023 in their Ekphrastic Challenges series. Read about ekphrastic poetry in Niagara.

Debbie Walker-Lass is a collage artist, poet, and writer living in Decatur, Georgia. Her work has appeared in journals and magazines including Punk Monk, Haiku Poetry, The Light Ekphrastic, The Ekphrastic Journal, Three-Line Poetry, and Natural Awakenings, Atlanta, among others. She was recently nominated to appear in “The Best Short Fiction, 2024” anthology by the editor of  The Ekphrastic Journal, Lorette Luzajic. 

Read about the ice bridge tragedy of 1912

Niagara November 1978 by Daniel Brown

Niagara, 1857 by Frederic Edwin Church.Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art
Niagara, 1857 by Frederic Edwin Church
Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art

After Thanksgiving dinner in North Tonawanda
We drove to Niagara through chilly evening fog,
parked and walked carefully toward the falls.
The sidewalks and grounds were frosted lace,
along the path branches of flash frozen trees 
had spent blossoms suspended like icicle earrings.
Although we remembered 4th grade science
and the hydraulic water cycle
we forgot to realize that when they melt
the radiant ice diamonds 
will mingle with human breath
mist their way to heaven
before returning to earth 
in never ending rotation
to churn and crash over the falls
as they had for Frederic Edwin Church in 1857
when his breath and artistic vision 
captured and contributed to the movement 
of the eternal roar.


daniel brown
Daniel Brown

This poem, inspired by Frederic Edwin Church’s 1857 painting Niagara, was first published in The Ekphrastic ReviewOctober 20, 2023 in their Ekphrastic Challenges series. Read about ekphrastic poetry in Niagara.

Daniel Brown has recently published at age 72 his first collection Family Portraits in Verse and Other Illustrated Poems through Epigraph Books, Rhinebeck, NY. He has most recently been published in Jerry Jazz Musician and Chronogram Magazine and was included in Arts Mid-Hudson 2023 gallery presentation Poets Respond To Art in Poughkeepsie, NY.

Niagara Falls by Mary J. Wines

wines
Niagara Falls, NY, c1875.
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress


Great
 God ! within Thy glorious temple, mute with awe
We stand and listen to the pealing hymn 
Of thine Omnipotence. In all this wide, wide world 
Where can earth’s children go to learn a grander lesson 
Of Thy Majesty ? What human tongues with burning 
Words of power can tell Thy glories and Thine awful might, 
Or stir the doubting heart of man, as this sublime 
Creation of Thy mind Divine ?   Here, fashioned by 
Thy mighty hand, Nature’s gigantic organ stands, 
And ceaselessly rolls forth terrific notes of praise. 
Here Thine established choir forever thunder forth. 
In grandly thrilling tones, a mystic song of 
Thine unfathomable, infinite power. Here Thou hast 
Placed Thy solid altar on the shores of Time, and from 
Thy very lips the overpowering strains of holy eloquence 
Burst forth.

Who can withstand the heavenly music of Thy voice ; 
Who can, with heart unstirred, behold the amazing 
Splendor of Thine earthly court ; who can gaze on this 
Matchless structure by Thy fingers wrought, and calmly say, 
There is no living God ?

…………………………….Here let the boasting and the 
Lofty come and feel their nothingness ; here let the 
Sophist bring his treacherous creed, and obtain from 
Jehovah’s book logic invincible.  Here let the stolid 
And unthinking come and start their sleeping 
Senses from the sluggish trance. Here let the yearning 
Spirit and aspiring come, and, climbing Nature’s ladder, 
Grasp the reaching hand of God.

………………………………………Here the weary-hearted 
May sweet comfort find when resting on the shining 
Banks ; life-giving draughts from beauty’s fountain 
They may quaff, and from the appalling depths and 
Awful rush of waters wild look up, where, ever arching 
O’er the temple’s misty veil, the radiant bow of promise 
Sheds its cheering rays. So shall the glorious emblem 
Of Thy mercy teach the sorrowing heart, that o’er each

Dread abyss of human woe, each fearful path, where 
Life’s fierce tempests beat, the golden promise of 
Thy love and pity hangs. Here let the heart be 
Humbled to the dust, and no vain thought of 
Mortal consequence intrude.

…………………………………Oh, if these forest sentinels 
That ages long have watched the glories of this sacred 
Shrine, still with emotion shake, and join their trembling 
Voices in the tremendous hymn, shall not weak 
Mortals lowly bend, and in the footsteps of their 
Father, God, a loving tribute cast  not with a craven 
Thought of human fear  at the overwhelming power of 
His arm, but holiest love and adoration give, 
Ever rejoicing with ecstatic joy that they are off-springs 
Of so glorious a sire.


Source: Mary J. Wines. Infant Harper and Other Poems. Cambridge, Mass.: Hurd & Houghton, 1874, p. 193-195

The Falls of Niagara by Roswell Rice

rice
Roswell Rice
from the frontispiece of his book Orations and Poetry


As
 I behold Lake Erie’s waters, 
….While passing down Niagara’s stream, 
I tremble at her awful thunders,
….Like waking from some nightly dream. 

Here nature’s God speaks to the stranger, 
….And terrifies his soul with fear ; 
And shows to him his awful danger, 
….If o’er this chasm he should steer.

His mortal barque would dash in sunder, 
….And break amid the raging stream ; 
The rocks and billows without number, 
….Would soon destroy hope’s faintest gleam.

The Indian warrior down was driven,
….Was threaten’d with the waves of death ; 
He o’er the cataract was riven,
….And to his fate resigned his breath.

Before he plunged the raging waters, 
….Which did his boon of life destroy, 
He to the Spirit prayed for quarters, 
….In the eternal world of joy.

He took his martial bow and armor, 
….And laid them gently by his side ; 
And heard the dismal waters murmur, 
….As he sailed on the rapid tide.

In steady gaze was fast descending,
….To plunge his deep and dreary grave ; 
At length he o’er the verge was bending, 
….And sunk beneath the foaming wave. 

Such is the emblem of the sinner, 
….Whose danger God has long foretold ; 
Yet he will spurn his only Savior, 
….And sell his life for love of gold.


Source: Roswell Rice. Orations and Poetry, On Moral and Religious Subjects.  Albany: C. Van Bentruysen, 1849

Also published in his Rice’s Orations and Poems, Springfield, Mass., Springfield Printing Co., 1883