Niagara River 1965 by Julie A. Dickson

Unknown group having a picnic in Queen Victoria Park, Niagara Falls, July, 1927 From the Niagara Parks Commission Collection, Niagara Falls Public Library

Forceful rush of water, loud
flowing toward the precipice,
I stood alongside the grassy edge
of the Niagara River, shoes kicked off,
toes independently investigating
blades of grass and dandelions.

Standing away from a blanket
spread with our wicker picnic
basket, cloth napkins and cooler,
my mother’s eyes were shadowed
behind dark glasses, but I knew
they were on me and the wild
river behind, the smell of
a steel plant, an acrid invasion
to mingle odors with moisture filled air.

So close to the water, she shook her head
when I begged to wade, not knowing
the demon force would sweep
a child away like so many memories.

We picnicked with a game
of brightly colored rings, tossed
to my father and to my brother
who leapt up to catch the red one.
My mother sedentary  in contrast to
the activity of family games
beside the raging river.

Julie A. Dickson
Niagara River 1965 written 2018, previously unpublished.

Julie A. Dickson is originally from Buffalo, NY. Her father’s family was from Guelph and Vineland Station, Ontario, Canada in the late 1800’s, they founded the Culverhouse Canning Factory there. Dickson lived near Lake Erie and Niagara Falls until her early teens, when her family relocated to Massachusetts. Always the lakes-girls, her poems often reflect in memories of Lakes Ontario and Erie, and visiting the falls. Her poems appears in many journals including Ekphrastic ReviewMisfitOpen Door and others; full length works on Amazon. Dickson has been a guest editor, past poetry board member, is an advocate for captive elephants and shares her home with two rescued cats.

Julie A. Dickson was the guest editor of the Ekphrastic Review challenge to write a poem inspired by Frederic Edwin Church’s painting Niagara, 1857. See a page about ekphrastic poetry, including the poems from the Ekphrastic Review

The River of Stars: A Legend of Niagara by Alfred Noyes

The lights of a hundred cities are fed
    by its midnight power.
Their wheels are moved by its thunder.
    But they, too, have their hour.
The tale of the Indian lovers, a cry
    from the years that are flown,
        While the river of stars is rolling,
            Rolling away to the darkness,
Abides with the power in the midnight,
    where love may find its own.

She watched from the Huron tents, till
    the first star shook in the air.
The sweet pine scented her fawn-skins,
    and breathed from her braided hair.
Her crown was of milk-white blood-
    root, because of the tryst she would
        Beyond the river of beauty
            That drifted away in the
Drawing the sunset thro' lilies, with
    eyes like stars, to the deep.

He watched, like a tall young wood-
    god, from the red pine that she
But not for the peril behind him, where
    the eyes of the Mohawks flamed.
Eagle-plumed he stood.   But his heart
    was hunting afar,
        Where the river of longing whis-
              .  .  .  And one swift shaft from
                the darkness
Felled him, her name in his death-cry,
    his eyes on the sunset star.

She stole from the river and listened.
    The moon on her wet skin shone.
As a silver birch in the pine-wood, her
    beauty flashed and was gone.
There was no wave in the forest.    The
    dark arms closed her round.
        But the river of life went
            Flowing away to the darkness,
For her breast grew red with his
    heart's blood, in a night where the
    stars are drowned.

“Teach me, O my lover, as you taught
    me of love in a day,
Teach me of death, and for ever, and
    set my feet on the way
To the land of the happy shadows, the
    land where you are flown.”
         And the river of death went
            Weeping away to the dark-
“Is the hunting good, my lover, so good
    that you hunt alone?”

She rose to her feet like a shadow.
    She sent a cry thro' the night,—
“Sa-sa-kuon,”  the death-whoop, that
    tells of triumph in fight.
It broke from the bell of her mouth
    like the cry of a wounded bird,
        But the river of agony swelled it
            And swept it along to the
And the Mohawks, couched in the
    darkness, leapt to their feet as they

Close as the ring of the clouds that
    menace the moon with death,
At once they circled her round. Her
    bright breast panted for breath.
With only her own wild glory keeping
    the wolves at bay,
        While the river of parting whis-
            Whispered away to the dark-
She looked in their eyes for a moment,
    and strove for a word to say.

“Teach me, O my lover!"—She set her
    foot on the dead.
She laughed on the painted faces with
    their rings of yellow and red,—
“I thank you, wolves of the Mohawk,
    for a woman's hands might fail.
        —And the river of vengeance
            Chuckled away to the dark-
“But ye have killed where I hunted. I
    have come to the end of my trail.

“I thank you, braves of the Mohawk,
    who laid this thief at my feet.
He tore my heart out living, and tossed
    it his dogs to eat.
Ye have taught him of death in a
    moment, as he taught me of love in
    a day.”
        —And the river of passion
            Deepened and rushed to the
“And yet may a woman requite you,
    and set your feet on the way.

“For the woman that spits in my face,
    and the shaven heads that gibe,
This night shall a woman show you the
    tents of the Huron tribe.
They are lodged in a deep valley.
    With all things good it abounds.
        Where the red-eyed, green-
                mooned river
            Glides like a snake to the dark-
I will show you a valley, Mohawks, like
    the Happy Hunting Grounds.

“Follow!” They chuckled, and followed
    like wolves to the glittering stream.
Shadows obeying a shadow, they
    launched their canoes in a dream.
Alone, in the first, with the blood on
    her breast, and her milk-white crown,
        She stood. She smiled at them,
            Then urged her canoe to the
And, silently flashing their paddles, the
    Mohawks followed her down.

And now—as they slid thro' the pine-
    woods with their peaks of midnight
She heard, in the broadening distance,
    the deep sound that she knew,
A mutter of steady thunder that grew
    as they glanced along;
          But ever she glanced before them
              And glanced away to the dark-
And or ever they heard it rightly, she
    raised her voice in a song:—

“The wind from the Isles of the Blessèd,
    it blows across the foam.
It sings in the flowing maples of the
    land that was my home.
Where the moose is a morning's hunt,
    and the buffalo feeds from the
        And the river of mockery
            Broadened and rolled to the
“And the green maize lifts its feathers,
    and laughs the snow from the land.”

The river broadened and quickened.
    There was nought but river and sky.
The shores were lost in the darkness.
    She laughed and lifted a cry ;
“Follow me! Sa-sa-kuon!"  Swifter
    and swifter they swirled—
        And the flood of their doom
                went flying,
            Flying away to the darkness,
“Follow me, follow me, Mohawks, ye
are shooting the edge of the world.”

They struggled like snakes to return.
    Like straws they were whirled on
    her track.
For the whole flood swooped to that
    edge where the unplumbed night
    dropt black,
The whole flood dropt to a thunder in
    an unplumbed hell beneath,
         And over the gulf of the thunder
             A mountain of spray from the
Rose and stood in the heavens, like a     
    shrouded image of death.

She rushed like a star before them.
    The moon on her glorying shone.
“Teach me, O my lover!”—her cry
    flashed out and was gone.
A moment they battled behind her.
    They lashed with their paddles and
        Then the Mohawks, turning
                their faces
            Like a blood-stained cloud to
                the darkness,
Over the edge of Niagara swept together
    and plunged.

And the lights of a hundred cities are
    fed by the ancient power;
But a cry returns with the midnight;
    for they, too, have their hour.
Teach me, O my lover, as you taught
    me of love in a day,
        —While the river of stars is rolling,
                Rolling away to the darkness,
Teach me of death, and for ever, and
    set my feet on the way!

Source: Noyes, Alfred (poem); Bawden, Clarence K. (music)The River of Stars: A Legend of Niagara. New York: G. Schirmer, 1917. [sheet music excerpt]

From Poetry Atlas:

Alfred Noyes was born in England and studied at Exeter College, Oxford (though he did not complete his degree). He spent long periods of his life in America, including the years of World War II. From 1914 to 1923 he was Professor of Modern English Literature at Princeton University in New Jersey. After the death of his first wife in 1926, he converted to Roman Catholicism. He later remarried and lived in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. He is buried on the Isle of Wight, at Frewshwater.


The Niagara Way of Death Presentation

Niagara way
Tonight (May 18) at 7pm I’ll be doing the online presentation “The Niagara Way of Death: Depictions of Death & Near Death in the Poetry of Niagara Falls” at the Niagara Poetry Guild meeting. Please join us through the link at Meetup 

Death is a pervasive topic in the poetry written about Niagara Falls. In the poetry of the 19th century, the Falls themselves were seen as a metaphor for death – the approach to death, the brink between life & death, the fall into purgatory, the ascension to heaven & the covenant between the human and the divine. See how the poetry of previous times as well as today reflect those metaphors, and how the 18 categories of death at Niagara Falls is treated in the poetry of the last 250 years.

Originally presented at the Lundy’s Lane Historical Society, Andrew Porteus will be sharing with us “The Niagara Way of Death: Depictions of Death and Near-Death Experiences at Niagara Falls” a 45 minute slide presentation.

Under the Locust Boughs by Tom Lloyd Finlayson

To “J.” — written under the locust trees along the banks of the Niagara


Ussher’s Creek at the Niagara River Parkway
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

In a realm of song and shine,
Where God’s sweetest wild flowers twine,
By Niagara’s singing stream,
Last night in a golden dream,
Wandered I, while at my side
Was a laughing maid, blue-eyed.
Spun from the silk of the corn
Were her tresses, waist length worn;
Fragile, as small pinkest shells
Her wee ears; like jingling bells
Tinkling in the soul of me
Her pure laugh of ecstacy.
Underneath the blossoming boughs
Of the locust, tender vows
Once again our young hearts made;
While the violins that played
Of the breeze, through blooms above,
Thrilled our souls with God’s first love

Source: Tom Lloyd Finlayson. Songs of Niagara Frontier and Other Poems; Autographed by the Author. St. Thomas, Sutherland Press, Limited. n.d.

Judging from the locations mentioned in the poems in this pamphlet it seems that Finlayson spent his childhood in Fort Erie, Ontario.

Rivers of Light by Wayne Ritchie



A Canopy of Trees
Photo supplied by Wayne Ritchie

I often look up and into the sky.
I’m guessing, Heaven only knows the reason why.
WhenI get lonesome as I usually do.
I contemplate about the time spent with you. 
My youthful years went by far too quick.
Looking up into heaven for my uncle Nick.
Being my Cub Scout leader teaching me well.
Learned a lot more, it’s amazing to tell.
Laying on my back, I see rivers of light.
I can see water flowing. It’s a wonderful sight.
He taught the boys to row a canoe.
Down through the rapids here’s what you do.
With a paddle you could make water flow.
Making your vessel travel where you wanted to go.
Tops of the trees have plenty of leaves. 
Rivers of light flowing thanks to the breeze.
One Summer we circumnavigated around the Great lakes.
We learned from his talking, by our mistakes.
I remember a river that became Niagara Falls.
The swift mighty river that became river stalls.
Rivers of my youth flowed like blood in my veins.
Learned to build fires when no one complains. 
He loved to joke, here’s one of his best.
His laughter made tears, let’s get some rest.
Folks should know you can’t drink Canada Dry.
The answer is easy, just ask yourself why.
The answer is as comfortable as nightly dreams.
Canada has too many lakes, rivers, and streams.
Nighttime fell upon my campsite under the trees.
The rivers went dark, went to my knees.
Giving thanks to the Lord for the view.
So very thankful that I can tell you.
Open your eyes to the great sights we see.
There all around us, take it from me.

Source: Wayne Ritchie, 2023

At the time of submitting this poem, Wayne Ritchie was 73 years old and had been writing poetry and short stories for 60 years.