Niagara Falls is a long poem of 700 lines where three stories, growing up Catholic in the industrial North, a honeymoon to Niagara Falls and a pilgrimage to Assissi, Italy, are interwoven in a master work of fractured narration. The language is relaxed and upbeat where metaphysical concerns meet, head on.
Excerpt from Niagara Falls (p. 8-9):
25 years ago, here,
on a rainy camping trip
my father splurged on
Ripley’s Believe It
Or Not Museum where I stared
at the shrunken head.
I bought a postcard: The Hair continues to grow. I still have it: long beaded threads
hang from the nose like a rosary.
Source: Jim Daniels. Niagara Falls. Easthampton, MA: Adastra Press, 1994
Last Thursday night with the weather mild,
A party proposed a sleigh-ride wild,
So they all piled into a two-horse sleigh
And sped to the country miles away.
To say where they went I think’s no harm,
For they landed at the Robertson farm ;
We think their number was forty-five.
Were they noisy ? Well, they were much alive.
Now they took Dr. Wallis, he’s quite a nob,
And always on hand for a tying job.
He went just to help the youngsters through—
A helper good where there’s work to do.
The telephone’s handy, bet your life,
So Wallis telephones to his wife :
“We got here safe, twenty minutes to stay,
And then we take our homeward way.”
It was not so, for the whole bunch
Say we don’t leave till we have our lunch.
So coffee, cake and a sandwich too,
Were passed around among the few.
On Fluvius now you can’t depend,
When you want it dry, the rain he’ll send ;
So, to make them mind their homeward trip,
The rain came down with a drip, drip, drip.
[page is cut off at this point]
Source: Probably from The Welland Tribune. Found in the Misener folder of the Mayholme Foundation
Melvin Byron Misener of Crowland (May 18, 1847 – May 28, 1936), was known by many readers of the Welland Tribune as “the Crowland Poet”. His personal writings span the period from 1869 to 1935. Among the daily accounts of social events, weather conditions and farm chores in his diaries there are numerous obituaries for friends, family and others living in Welland County, particularly Crowland, Thorold and Port Robinson.
QUEENSTON, while on thy far-famed heights I rest,
Whatglowingthoughts,invademythrillingbreast ! AndshallIpassthyscenes,andyonlonetomb, WhereallearthclaimsofBrock,receivesitsdoom, Norstrive,ereotherthemes,engrossmylay, Agratefultribute,to thyfametopay? Sweetistheview,thyloftybrowcommands; Thespaciousplain,—theshoresofrivallands;— Betweenwhosebounds,theplacidriverflows, Smilingserene,asconsciousofrepose: Noridlyflows;forasitswaterssweep, Theirdeviouscourse,towardsthedistantdeep, Theyontheirbosom,beartherichproduce, Offertilefieldsaround,forforeignuse. Wanderinginjoy,thechainlessZephyrsplay, Andkissitsglassycheek,asontheystray, Towhereitswaters,likeamirrorspread, Translucentlyabove,Ontario’sbed; Inwhich,AngelicHosts,mightstooptoview, Heaven’sarchreflected,ofcelestialblue! ‡‡Beneathyonmound—butwhereforeshouldItell, SinceHistory’spagerelates,whattherebefel ? AlthoughourMeteorflag,intriumphwaved, Thsconquerorfelluponthesoilhesaved. Yonderthecolumnstands,byBriton’sreared, TotheeimmortalBrock!whomallrevered! “Brightnameswillhallowsong,”andverselikemine, IllustriousHero!standsinneedofthine; Forofthebrave,whofoughttoguardourland, Fromtheincursionsofanhostileband;
Who can select, from the proud throng, a name ;
As bright as thine,—of such enduring fame ?
Bravest, where all were brave ;—in zeal, untired ;— Asoul,witheverypatriotvirtuefired; Ardentandgenerous,—promptatglory’scall; Thevictorswept,—thevanquishedmournedthyfall! Isaidbyallrevered:byoneyoung land Thouwertadored ;thylife’sblooddyedherstrand. WhateverTitlesothersmayconfer, Shefeelsthouwert,aMartyruntoher ! Exultingly,shewatch’dthybriefcareer, Andwhenfatestretchedthee,onanearlybier, Uponherbrow,darkcloudsofsadnesshung; Andlamentationsdweltuponhertongue! Withdeepestwoe,herdauntlessheartwasrife, E’envictorycheerednot,purchasedwiththy life ! Thydeathlessname,herannals,shalladorn, Andbeextoll’dthroughagesyetunborn; Withdeep-feltawe,her sonswillviewthegrave, Ofhimwhodied,theirFather’shearthstosave; Andwhilehernativepines,retaintheirhue, Withgratefulhearts,willpaythetributedue! Yes!longasthyproudMonumentremains, OrthebloodflowswithinaBriton’sveins, Thyhallow’dfame,shallbeherboastandpride, Andthespotsacred,whereincrimsontide, Thyprecious life,gushedfromthywoundedside. ‡‡Queenston,adieu!Iquitthyheightstotrace, Thechasmwornbythewildtorrentsrace; Tomarkwhatform,itsruggedshorespervade, AstheyapproachNiagara’sCascade. ‡‡NearwhereBrockledthebraveinsternarray, Andeverforemost,perishedintheaffray ; TheCataract,’tissaid,firstrushedsublime: Wasitcoevalwiththebirthoftime? Ordidsomedireconvulsionshakethisball, Andraisethesteppe,fromwhenceitswatersfall ? Determineye,whomGeologiclore, Shall hither lead, the strata to explore ; Enough, if I, in numberscanconvey, Thescenesandthoughts,whichstrikeme, asIstray Along the shore, the ledge o’er hangs the stream, And far beneath, the flashing billows gleam
Like angry Titans, o’er a prostrate foe, Thefrowningrocks, gazeonthewavesbelow; Which undermine their strength,’tilleachproudhead Fallscrush’d,andbroken,onawave-wornbed! Suchisthescene,towheretheraging flood, Formsavastwhirlpoolmidsttheshelt’ringwood. Fiercedaughterofthetorrent!thoudostsweep Infearfuleddies,roundthyverdantsteep; AndmanyaMonarchoftheforest,rides, Barklessandbranchless,onthywhirlingtides! Navell’damidthewoods,thysuddenbend, Lookslikethegoal,wherethehugetorrentsend; Butpassthepoint,lo!withimpetuousgush, Theraging rapids,onwardrecklessrush! Foamcrested,boundingbillows!yearepass’d, AndontheTABLEROCK,Istandatlast. ‡‡SublimestwonderofAlmightymight, Thatevercharm’dwithdreadthehumansight, Fromhumblerthemes to thee !withaweIturn Thoumatchlessking offloods,—thoudesertborn! NiagaraHail!oh,howshallIimpart Withwords,thefeelings,whichinvademyheart ? Irestonrocks,whichoverhangtheabyss, Wherethydire “Hellofwaters,howlandhiss!” Onthatwornledge,fromwhencewithawfulbound, Thefoamingwatersplungewithstunningsound! Igaze,andturnaway—thengazeagain; Dread,fear,andjoy,perplexmyreelingbrain; Mixedundefinable sensations,rush Acrossmymind;wildasthytorrentsgush! Imagination,baffled;strivesinvain: Thewildestdreamsthatevenpoetsfeign, Thou dost transcend ! There is no power in song,
To paint the wonders that around me throng !
The world abounds with sights and scenes sublime,
Seas—Rivers—Lakes—are found in every Clime ;
Cities and Castles, Palaces and Fanes,
Abound, where roll the Tiber and the Thames,
The Seine—the Rhine—the Severn, and the Po,
Alike through realms of cultur’d beauty flow ;
Scene like to scene, we meet in every zone,
But there is nought like thee !—Thou art alone ! ‡‡Mysterious spirit of this awful place ;
Withraw the veil of waters, from thy face !
Who shall attempt to sing thee, unless thou,
Unveil the hidden terrors of thy brow ?
Fain would I grow familiar with the form,
That rules these wonders, and directs the storm,
Of winds and waters, which beneath me rage,
And with these rocks, a war eternal, wage !
Flood of the wild ! through lands unknown to song,
And forests drear, thou roll’st thy course along ;
Through wood clad verdant vales, and sunny glades ;
Through dark and humid swamps, of deepest shades.
Each tributary stream, its homage shows,
And swells thy gathering power, as on it flows ;
Till concentrated here, thy waters all,
Rush thundering down thy huge gigantic fall !
Here white as untrod snow,—there green as grass,
In its first verdure, falls the aqueous mass :
Conflicting-sweeping onward in its course,
With an eternity’s resistless force !
The firm earth shakes, as if with fear, around ;
And the rocks tremble, with its dread rebound.
Beneath is thy abyss ; Oh, what a scene !
The rising mists, float o’er, as if to screen,
The dreadful conflict ! See the waters meet ;
And how in hostile rage, they fierce compete !
Flood, wars with flood,—the kindred drops rebel,
And like the roused ocean of a Hell,
Thy turbid bosom heaves, the rising sound Like meanings of the damned,myearsastound, Anaweinspiringroar!suchaswouldrise, Fromhopelessmillions,tounpityingskies! BehoId!upshooting,fromtheCauldron’sbreast, Theboilingtorrent,torturedintoyeast; Risinginbillowypiles,asiftogain, Theheightswhichtheycannevermoreattain: Likesheetedghosts,strivingfromthydreaddeep, Togainaplaceofrest,theyupwardleap! Whirling,likewaltzingfiends,thyeddiesplay, Andsportandgambol,midstthedireaffray; Theheavingsurgestoo,eachotherchase, Andburstinfoam,againstthyrockybase; Thenon,likefoamingsteeds,withfearfulforce; Thebillows,gallopdown,thyrapid’scourse. Serenelyfloatingo’erthywildcascade; Spanningtheraggedrent,itsstreamhathmade ; AnIrisglowsinitscelestialhues, Andwithamagiccharm,thesceneimbues. Thewildsea-mews,careeringinthespray, Amidstits heaven-born dyes ;delighted,play : AndLo!asdownthegulphmyrestlesseyes, Pursuethycourse,towheretherocksarise, Likeanembattledwall,curtain’dwithfoam ; Anotherrainbowseeks,itsstormyhome ! Howbeautifulitstints !Divinelycalm ! Overtheminglingstrife,itshedsabalm, Like “hopeondeathbeds,”eresaintssinktorest ; Or“beautysleeping,”upon “horrorsbreast !” Afloatingshroud,o’erallthygrandeurdwells, Form’dbythespray,thyangryfloodrepels ; Andtheblueheavens,likeacelestialpall, Formonewidecanopy,andcoverall ! GreatGod !Howwonderfulthyworks,whenThou, Sports’twiththyelements,asThoudostnow! Howmean,—howinsignificantareall, Man’smightiestworks,thatdecoratethisBall ; They fade, and pass away, but Thine remain,
Emblems of Thy power,—eternal as Thy reign !
Prostrate before Thy mightiest display,
I worship Thee ;—Thy temple is the day !
Niagara, Thy Altar ! Its loud roar,
Sounds Thy Omnipotence, fron shore to shore !
On Thee, great author, and first cause of all,
Eternal source of light and life I call !
Teach me, whene’er Thy awful steps I trace
‘Mid scenes, which Thou hast made my dwelling place,
Or from Earth’s surface, lift my wond’ring eyes,
To view Thy glory, in the star-lit skies ;
To feel that awe which erring man should feel,
When he attempts thy greatness to reveal. ‡‡Impetuous Cataract ! sublimely grand !
Thou seem’st to have burst the fetters of His hand,
Who holds the Ocean in His hollow palm ;
Who bids thee rage, and can, thy raging calm :
And a deep awe, o’erpowers the astonish’d mind,
As though His laws, eternal ; did not bind
Thee to the Channel, which His finger’s trace,
Mark’d as a passage, for thy billowy race !
Restrain’d by Him, thou sends’t with steady flow,
Thy harmless torrents to the depths below ;
Where thy proud billows all opposing sweep,
Each idle vestige from thy troubled deep.
Ye rushing Tides ! ages, on ages, pass’d
Ere aught, but your loud roar, disturb’d the blast ;
Except the wild beast’s howl, or warlike cry
Of Red men, broke the silence of the sky ;
Or the loud crash, when with o’erwhleming force,
The frozen masses, falling, choked your course.
But where are they, whom scenes like thine, first taught,
That the Great Spirit reigned ? Who on this spot,
In humble worship bowed and felt o’er-awed :
Who, “Looked through nature, up to natures’ God ?”
Fierce as the beasts they sought,—to warfare bred,
Along thy shores, their vagrant tribes they led ;
Wild as thy flood,—impetuous as its speed,
Their legends tell, of many, a bloody deed. Thenewworldwastheirown,—itsboundlesswoods, ItswideSavannas,andgiganticFloods : TillthouColumbus,steer’do’erunknownseas, Wheresailhadneverflutter’dinthebreeze. Thydaringkeel,thefirstthateverpress’d, Theazurebillows,oftheirvirginbreast ! Onward,likehope,thystreamingpennonplayed, Untiltheirshores,thylongingeyessurveyed. Soonflewthetidings,andthewhitemancame, And dispossess’d,thehunter,andhisgame : LonghavetheRedmenceasedtothrongthybrink, Theirsongsarehushed,theircouncilfiresextinct, Thewarriorsmoundwillsoonalonebeall, Thatwillremembrance,oftheirrace,recall. ‡‡Yechildrenoftheforest!Itwas not
Inopenwar,thatmenfromEurope,sought Yourfertileshores :theycamewithheartlesswile Andyourejoiced;suspectingnottheirguile. MissouriandLaPlata !RioGrand And all yefloodsthatlavetheiroutragedland ! Bearwitnessye,—foroftenhathyourwave Dyedwithhisblood,affordedhimagrave,— Bearwitnesshow,theWhitemanhathrepaid, TheIndian’skindness !howheofthathlaid Hisdwellingdesolate ;andmadehisname, Aby-wordandascoff :andOh !eternalshame ! Oppress’dandplunder’dhim !Themurder’dhosts Ifcall’dtolife,would throng your spaciouscoasts. Niagara,theremnantofthatrace, Whichcall’dthyverdantshores,theirdwellingplace, Arenowprotected,andSecurelytoil, WhereeverBritainswaystheIndiansoil. Butwherethe“Patriot’sbanner,”longhathwaved, Andsablemillionsstillremainenslav’d ; Theill-fatedIndian,onhisowndomain, Asksbuttoliveinpeace,butasksinvain. ‡‡Istherenoplaceonearthmancallshisown, Whereguiltandoutrage,hathremain’dunknown? Is therenospot,hisrestlessfoothathtrod, Whereblood,hathneverstain’d,theguiltysod? Long,—longago,asIndianlegendstell, OnyonderIsle,victimstovengeancefell. Wildontheblast,allsustenancedenied, Theirshrieksarose,abovethyroaringtide : Tissaidtheirspirits,doomedtoknownorest, Amidstthewarringfloodsstilldwellunbless’d, Andfancy’sear,cancatchtheirmournfulgroans, Nowrisinghigh,—now sunktosullenmoans ; ‘Twasbutoflate,invaderssoughtourland Andfoughtandfled,defeated,fromthystrand, Thou, too,hastheard,theWhiteman’sshoutsarise, Thedinofwar—thedeathstruckwretchescries ! Seenbloodprofuselyflow,whenhandtohand. Thecrimson’dsteel,clash’d,mids’tthehostileband ; Andmimiclight’ningsflash,thelive-longnight. Whiletheloudcheer,proclaim’dthelengthen’dfight ; Andheardthethundersofthecannon’sroar, “Vexthedullearofnight,”alongthyshore. ‡‡InsultedGeniusofthespot,expand Eachnarrowmind—averteachdaringhand, Thatwoulddenudethyshrine,andOh !defeat, Man’sinnovations,onthydreadretreat ! Couldhenotcounthispence,andleavebetween Thee,andhisploddingdeeds,aleafyscreen ? Couldnot,amarginofthewild,bespared ? No,wherethyshoreisclothed’twillsoonbebared, AndTaverns,Mills,andGrocerieswillrear Theirshingledroofs,o’erthysublimecareer ! Oh,hadIpower,howsoonwouldIrestore, Theforesthehathstrippedfromthydreadshore ; Andforce,thestaringstructuresofhishand, Aproperdistancefromthyoutrag’dstrand. Shallgainalone,thesoulofmaninfest— Lead “wrens”toprey,where‘eagles’,darenotrest ? Riseinthywrath,thoumightyflood,andsweep Theintrudersworksfromthycolossalsteep ! ‡‡Man!staythyhand,—hereletthyminddilate, Andstrivetograsp,whatthoudostcontemplate. Natureiseloquent—thetorrentsflow, Canteachalessonitiswelltoknow ; AndthouNiagara,ifrightlyread, Speaks’ttotheheart,likerequiemso’erthedead. Hereallischange.Markhowtheconstantshock Offallingtorrents,fretsthesolidrock. Timelikethyflood,incessantonwardrolls, Andwithitsbillowsagitatesoursouls. Years,countlessyears,haveheardthysolemnroar ; Itwillbeheard,whenallshallbenomore, Whoseheartsnowthrob!Whennotatraceisleft, Andevenourgravesshallbeofusbereft. Thouartnotwrinkledbythehandoftime ; Thelapseofages,leavestheeinthyprime! Alas!howdifferent,withthecrowdsthatflock Fromdistantlands,tothrongthyTableRock! Afewshortyears,andLo!thespark.expires, Whichgivesthemlife—theymoulder, withtheirsires : Butwhentheirtombsaretenantless,thyvoice Willmakethehearts,ofothercrowdsrejoice; Theytooshallpassaway—yetstillthysong Willhoarselyrise,thesewave-wornrocksamong. Alas!mysoulisdark,—darkastheabyss, Thatyawnsbeneath!Hope,whispers,futurebliss : Butevenhervivideye,willoftgrowdim: Doubts,likethymists,beforeitsvisionsswim, Andfiend-like,whispertotheheart,andsay, Itshopesshallperish,likethyrisingspray! Oh!Man,thou “pendulum”‘twixt“smileandtear,” Nowbuoyedbyhope,andnowdepress’dbyfear, Nowdoubtingallthings,thenbelievingall, Thatpriestcrafthathinvented,sincethyfall! Whatisthylot ?disease,anddeathandstrife. Andwhatthyhope?bliss,inafuturelife. Shaltthou,likeyonderrainbow,passaway, Andwiththyspirit,shareabedofclay? Shallalltheelementsofthisdullearth, Retainthepower,Godgavethemattheirbirth; Andthou,andthy,all-grasping,restlessmind Becomeextinct!agraveeternalfind,— Inthedarkearthsembrace?Oh!FAITHimpart, Thyconfidencetoeverydoubtingheart; Asthecoolwater,fromthefountainbrought, Totheparchedlips,thouarttothethought. Oneverysoul,oh!letthyfulllightstream, Andgildeachwaywardthought,withthybrightbeam. Andshouldtimes,adversestormsstillruthlesssweep Myshatter’dskiff,acrosslifes’drearydeep, SoulsoothingAngelFaith,dothouremain, Tostillthetempest,or,mybarksustain! Andwhenthedrearyvoyage,oflife,iso’er, Anditswornfragments,strewdeath’ssableshore ; Letmyfreedsoul,inthyembracesride, IntoEternity’s,“unebbingtide”: Wheresorrowsblightcomesnot,northoudespair, Andfindastormless,tranquilhaven,there! Yes!whenNiagara,thyvoicenomore, Shallintheears,ofawe-strucklisteners,roar; Whenwastedarethyfloods,andthywildwaves, Haveperish‘dwiththeshores,thytorrentlaves; Thenshalltheimmortalsoul,onwingssublime, Soar—daringsoar,abovethewrecksoftime! O’erthiscrush‘dworld,itssongoftriumphsing, “Oh!gravewhereisthyvictory!Oh!death,whereisthysting !” ‡‡OnQueenstonheights,I stray’dinlonelyguise, Thismorn,andsaw,yonsettingsun,arise. Long,ereIstood,wherenowentrancedIgaze. Meridianskies,wereglowingwithhisrays, Hewillarise,tocheertheland,andmain, Andscattergladness,o’erthosescenesagain: Butthousandsgaze,onhislastlingeringray, Onwhom,the“precinctsofthecheerfulday” Shalldawnnomore :Time’s,ceaselessnoiselesswing, Nochangeofnight,orday,tothemshallbring.
Thy floods are Ocean bound, but dark and drear,
Is the dread grave, we journey to in fear.
From the great deep, in vapours, they may rise,
And float in gorgeous forms ; ‘mid other skies ;
But man must sleep, until that final day,
When earth, and seas, and skies, shall pass away ;
Till the last Trump, shall call him to his doom,
And wake the slumbering, Tenants of the tomb.
Niagara, Farewell ! a long adieu ;
The deep’ning twilight hides thee from my view.
Oft ere I left, my loved paternal home,
E’en long before, I ever thought to roam ;
I’ve read, and talked of thee, and longed to gaze,
And stand before thee thus, in deep amaze.
And I did promise, that if e’er I stood,
Upon thy rocky ledge, to view thy flood ;
That I would task my feeble powers, and dare
To sing the wonders, I should witness there.
I have essayed to sing, but where art thou
My aged sire, to whom I made that vow ?
Huge Oceans roll between, and fate may doom,
In different hemispheres, to us a tomb.
Though dim thy eyes, they’ll gleams with joy to see,
I’ve not forgot my home, and vow to thee.
Though dull the words I’ve woven into rhyme,
Yet to thy ears, they will like music chime ;
And thy fond heart, a blessing will implore,
On the lone wanderer, of a different shore.
Ye skies, and hills, and voices, far away
By night of ye I dream, and muse by day :
Scenes of my youth ! when ye my thoughts employ,
I feel my pulse beat high, with hope and joy ;
My native land ! Oh ! soul inspiring sound,
How closely to my heart’s core art thou bound !
Yes, I do love thee, Ah! how vain for they,
Who never left their native land, to say
“I love my country !” Home ! thou art a theme
Which makes the exile’s life a fever’d dream. ‡‡But I have said farewell. Ye mighty Falls, Yoursightsastonish,andyourroarappals ! Night,fromherebonwings,thedarknessthrows, Andbroodingo’er your scenes,demandsrepose ; Theskiesfrownheavily—,thestarsarehid, Orgleam,aspass,somecloudypyramid. Hush’d,arethezephyrs,whichIsungofyore, Andhollow,moaningblasts,invadetheshore ! Niagara!thydarklingfloodsappear, Torushwithgreaterforce,asifinfear. MethinksIhear,strangevoicesjointhysong, Andsoundsunearthlyfloat,thyshoresalong. Hugeshadowyforms,onfallingtorrentsride, Sportoverthyabyss,anddownthyrapidsglide. Visions,fromworldsbeyondthegraveintrude ; Awful,—appalling,asitssolitude. Allgloomythingsaremet,withdreadoppressed, Wildtrainsofthought,invademytroubledbreast— Thoughts,ofthoseyouthfulhopes,ofearthlybliss, Whichlonghavevanish’d ;lostintime’sabyss : OfDeath—theGrave—Eternity—ofall, Thatcanexalt,orcanthesoulenthrall ! Mytaskisdone !HerewillIendmylays, AndofthyGreatCreator,musethepraise.
Source: Anonymous. Niagara: A Poem. [s.l. : s.n., 1850?]
Handwritten note at the top of the title page: The Diary[?] of the Hon. C. J. Robinson
‘Tis did—my braggin’ days is o’er,
I’ll brag of old SALT* now no more.
The look of pride which once I wore
Is gone, alas! my heart are tore ;
The proud, firm footstep, mine of yore
Are gone now, too, gone ; my eyes is sore,
And little scaldin’ tears does pour,
When I does think that old SALT’S roar,
Was made “considerable” lower,
Even at this very door.