I stood upon Niagara’s dizzy heights,
And gazed upon the fearful depths beneath;
I listened to the awful melody,
Forever echoing to the praise of God;
Fearfully behind the flowing drapery,
Entranced I stood, and heard terrific sounds.
A slippery path, a yawning gulf below,
And the huge precipices quivering,
Bade me beware. O God! I know thou art;
For here thy presence overwhelms my soul.
Source: Table Rock Album and Sketches of the Falls and Scenery Adjacent. Buffalo: Steam Press of Thomas and Lathrops, copyright by Jewett, Thomas & Co.,1856c.1848
This link takes you to the scanned version of the 1855 version of Table Rock Album from the Hathi Trust
The Niagara Falls Writers’ Festival is fast approaching – it’s on October 19. It’s spread over 3 library branches, the Victoria Avenue Branch, the Stamford Centre Branch, and the Community Centre Branch. Please go to nfwritersfestival.com for more information.
Listen to scholar, journalist, and award-winning author Kathy Dobson talk about her bestselling books, With a Closed Fist: Growing Up in Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood and Punching and Kicking: Leaving Canada’s Toughest Neighbourhood and about memoir writing
How long have people smiled concerning Spring And poets who make to her, an offering. . . .
As from the nascent mold, in thunder-riven
And water-tortured stone, a tree is given
So may my song be radiant — (for a season)
A shad-bush shining, its roots in earth’s old lesion,
Its bole, gray-brown, against the ice-blue sky,
Its fragrant festal torches swinging high. . .
So I ……………………………………. (if that I could, so I!)
And too, I’d give to you the water-song
Of surging streams that swiftly slip along
The silvered course, each rock a native gem,
But better, far, if that you visit them.
Oh, could I sketch, in fire, this ultimate
Outstanding loveliness, I’d hesitate
And with old reverence grow wisely mute
For Soul must see — there lives no substitute,
In words, for that first glossy green
Which garlands fairy twigs and springs between
Dark pads of moss, where even color smoulders
Like match-tip violets ‘mong ashen boulders
And here’s the flame of lingering snow, not wint’ry,
But evanescent crystals (gay and splint’ry
Encrustings) — vanishing in a rime of dew —
Those common beauties mind’s accustomed to.
Who claims we need more outer loveliness ?
We seek more poet-hearts, more consciousness
Of Inner Spring, till icy bonds must burst
And souls grow greatly with new hunger, thirst.
The early stars within their patterned fret,
The Dawn’s pastel from poplar minaret,
Have wrought, within, devout serenity
Yet stir me to a praying psalmody —
Where gray-cowled friar has chiseled deep
In rocks, the mystery of change and sleep
And death, one finds the sculptured esplanade
Brings near the warming sense of needed God.
And if it be the Day with jeweled light
Or that recurving dome of crystal night,
It seems not banal thus to pause to write
Of dusky folks who followed flowered trails
And ghostly paths where even twilight fails —
From legendary past they softly come
And pass to greet their own Elysium. But here is present heaven, here are we
Aware of Paradise, and Instancy ! Awakened, as by sight of one quick tree —
The future, vision-wise, unspells, unfolds,
As some closed bud must yield its pollen golds
At last — as meditative moments flower
In lifted torches — so Spring’s lighted hour
Is like Annunciation, a held flood,
Or new-veiled ecstacies within the bud.
The Virgin’s season, The Woman’s pregnant sign !
For wandering beams of beauty, fierce, divine,
Have stabbed earth vitally and she, the sheath
Of life’s triumphant sword, bears underneath
Her nuptial robes, so delicate and sheer,
The Living seed that justifies the year.
So now, the soul of Him seems even nearer
Than one’s own face within the curdled mirror
Of fretted water ; the lifted shad-flowers seem
To chord the melody of flame-blue stream
That chimes its silvery way among still rocks.
From fire-deep skies the migratory flocks
Of troubadors, those gay-winged messengers,
Now find cathedral lofts in oaks and firs,
And where June-berry censer sways and blows
They tell of Love in oratorios.
Delicate, wind-borne, is fragrance coming
To rhyme of wings, the hurrying and humming
Of insect life, in gossamer like elves,
Magicked from folded fronds on stony shelves.
And night, blue-velvet cloaked, and diamonded
But finds the clustered pearly shad-blooms hid
Against the moon’s serener, even pearl,
Or in an aureole of mist, a swirl
Of cloudy plumes that heavenly horsemen wear, Notes Boreal spears and hears the whispering prayer
Of Spring, the Maiden-Joan, (the youthful saint,
Who frees the ice-hard earth, without complaint,
Who buds and flowers while from a stricken pyre
Rekindles earth with that triumphant fire.)
Then as shad-flowers fall, and deep desire
Must fade in fruiting, so the poet dies
Shadowed by graces he’d apostrophize.
The poet rill would bubble small, swift rhymes
As shad flowers, dying, sway like silent chimes.
Better the quiet bloom among tall trees
Lyric with their own mute symphonies —
Better the fallow deer in solitude —
The dun hare and shadowy squirrel that elude
The note of man — better the fronds that push
‘Gainst sleeping roots of some sky-seeking bush, Than that I lift my tuneless voice to sing —
The world is right — to smile at songs of Spring.
Source: Evelyn M. Watson. Poems of the Niagara Frontier. New York: Dean & Company, 1929.