Before Explorers and Pioneers by Betty Beam

explorers
Niagara Falls, 1874
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Before explorers and pioneers came,
Indians gave Niagara its name.
For, sound and sight displayed
Left each viewer dismayed—
Now power and beauty parent world fame.


Source: Laroque, Corey. Here’s What the Poets are Saying. Niagara Falls, Ont.: Niagara Falls Review, November 21, 2009

This limerick was entered into the So You Think You Can Rhyme (2009) Limerick Contest to find Niagara Falls’ Poet Laureate

Go to the Limericks page

Niagara Falls: A Poem by Jim Daniels

 

daniels
Clifton Hill, 1977
Photo by Ron Mottola
Ripley’s Museum on the left
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library


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

Read about Jim Daniels

A Country Sleigh Ride by Melvin Byron Misener (A Fragment)

sleigh
George Ellis, Wife and Girl at Dufferin Islands, Niagara Falls, 1890
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

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.

Read more about Misener

Niagara: A Poem by Anonymous

 

anonymous
Queenston Heights, ca. 1880.
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

QUEENSTON, while on thy far-famed heights I rest,
What
 glowing thoughts, invade my thrilling breast !
And shall I pass thy scenes, and yon lone tomb,
Where all earth claims of Brock, receives its doom,
Nor strive, ere other themes, engross my lay,
A grateful tribute, to thy fame to pay ?
Sweet is the view, thy lofty brow commands ;
The spacious plain,—the shores of rival lands ;
Between whose bounds, the placid river flows,
Smiling serene, as conscious of repose :
Nor idly flows ; for as its waters sweep,
Their devious course, towards the distant deep,
They on their bosom, bear the rich produce,
Of fertile fields around, for foreign use.
Wandering in joy, the chainless Zephyrs play,
And kiss its glassy cheek, as on they stray,
To where its waters, like a mirror spread,
Translucently above, Ontario’s bed ;
In which, Angelic Hosts, might stoop to view,
Heaven’s arch reflected, of celestial blue!
‡‡Beneath yon mound—but wherefore should I tell,
Since History’s page relates, what there befel ?
Although our Meteor flag, in triumph waved,
Ths conqueror fell upon the soil he saved.
Yonder the column stands, by Briton’s reared,
To thee immortal Brock ! whom all revered !
“Bright names will hallow song,” and verse like mine,
Illustrious Hero ! stands in need of thine ;
For of the brave, who fought to guard our land,
From the incursions of an hostile band ;
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 ;—
A soul, with every patriot virtue fired ;
Ardent and generous,—prompt at glory’s call ;
The victors wept,—the vanquished mourned thy fall !
I said by all revered : by one young land
Thou wert adored ; thy life’s blood dyed her strand.
Whatever Titles others may confer,
She feels thou wert, a Martyr unto her !
Exultingly, she watch’d thy brief career,
And when fate stretched thee, on an early bier,
Upon her brow, dark clouds of sadness hung ;
And lamentations dwelt upon her tongue !
With deepest woe, her dauntless heart was rife,
E’en victory cheered not, purchased with thy life !
Thy deathless name, her annals, shall adorn,
And be extoll’d through ages yet unborn ;
With deep-felt awe, her sons will view the grave,
Of him who died, their Father’s hearths to save ;
And while her native pines, retain their hue,
With grateful hearts, will pay the tribute due !
Yes ! long as thy proud Monument remains,
Or the blood flows within a Briton’s veins,
Thy hallow’d fame, shall be her boast and pride,
And the spot sacred, where in crimson tide,
Thy precious life, gushed from thy wounded side.
‡‡Queenston, adieu ! I quit thy heights to trace,
The chasm worn by the wild torrents race ;
To mark what form, its rugged shores pervade,
As they approach Niagara’s Cascade.
‡‡
Near where Brock led the brave in stern array,
And ever foremost, perished in the affray ;
The Cataract, ’tis said, first rushed sublime :
Was it coeval with the birth of time ?
Or did some dire convulsion shake this ball,
And raise the steppe, from whence its waters fall ?
Determine ye, whom Geologic lore,
Shall hither lead, the strata to explore ;
Enough, if I, in numbers can convey,
The scenes and thoughts, which strike me, as I stray
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,
The frowning rocks,  gaze on the waves below ;
Which undermine their strength, ’till each proud head
Falls crush’d, and broken, on a wave-worn bed !
Such is the scene, to where the raging flood,
Forms a vast whirlpool midst the shelt’ring wood.
Fierce daughter of the torrent ! thou dost sweep
In fearful eddies, round thy verdant steep ;
And many a Monarch of the forest, rides,
Barkless and branchless, on thy whirling tides !
Navell’d amid the woods, thy sudden bend,
Looks like the goal, where the huge torrents end ;
But pass the point, lo ! with impetuous gush,
The raging rapids, onward reckless rush !
Foam crested, bounding billows! ye are pass’d,
And on the TABLE ROCK, I stand at last.
‡‡
Sublimest wonder of Almighty might,
That evercharm’d with dread the human sight,
From humbler themes to thee ! with awe I turn
Thou matchless king of floods,—thou desert born !
Niagara Hail ! oh, how shall I impart
With words, the feelings, which invade my heart ?
I rest on rocks, which overhang the abyss,
Where thy dire “Hell of waters, howl and hiss !”
On that worn ledge, from whence with awful bound,
The foaming waters plunge with stunning sound !
I gaze, and turn away—then gaze again ;
Dread, fear, and joy, perplex my reeling brain ;
Mixed undefinable sensations, rush
Across my mind ; wild as thy torrents gush !
Imagination, baffled ; strives in vain :
The wildest dreams that even poets feign,
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, my ears astound,
An awe inspiring roar ! such as would rise,
From hopeless millions, to unpitying skies !
BehoId ! upshooting, from the Cauldron’s breast,
The boiling torrent, tortured into yeast ;
Rising in billowy piles, as if to gain,
The heights which they can never more attain :
Like sheeted ghosts, striving from thy dread deep,
To gain a place of rest, they upward leap !
Whirling, like waltzing fiends, thy eddies play,
And sport and gambol, midst the dire affray ;
The heaving surges too, each other chase,
And burst in foam, against thy rocky base ;
Then on, like foaming steeds, with fearful force ;
The billows, gallop down, thy rapid’s course.
Serenely floating o’er thy wild cascade ;
Spanning the ragged rent, its stream hath made ;
An Iris glows in its celestial hues,
And with a magic charm, the scene imbues.
The wild sea-mews, careering in the spray,
Amidst its heaven-born dyes ; delighted, play :
And Lo! as down the gulph my restless eyes,
Pursue thy course, to where the rocks arise,
Like an embattled wall, curtain’d with foam ;
Another rainbow seeks, its stormy home !
How beautiful its tints ! Divinely calm !
Over the mingling strife, it sheds a balm,
Likehope on death beds,” ere saints sink to rest ;
Or “beauty sleeping,” uponhorrors breast !”
A floating shroud, o’er all thy grandeur dwells,
Form’d by the spray, thy angry flood repels ;
And the blue heavens, like a celestial pall,
Form one wide canopy, and cover all !
Great God ! How wonderful thy works, when Thou,
Sports’t with thy elements, as Thou dost now!
How mean,— how insignificant are all,
Man’s mightiest works, that decorate this Ball ;
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.
The new world was their own,its boundless woods,
Its wide Savannas, and gigantic Floods :
Till thou Columbus, steer’d o’er unknown seas,
Where sail had never flutter’d in the breeze.
Thy daring keel, the first that ever press’d,
The azure billows, of their virgin breast !
Onward, like hope, thy streaming pennon played,
Until their shores, thy longing eyes surveyed.
Soon flew the tidings, and the white man came,
And dispossess’d, the hunter, and his game :
Long have the Redmen ceased to throng thy brink,
Their songs are hushed, their council fires extinct,
The warriors mound will soon alone be all,
That will remembrance, of their race, recall.
‡‡Ye children of the forest ! It was not
In
 open war, that men from Europe, sought
Your fertile shores : they came with heartless wile
And you rejoiced; suspecting not their guile.
Missouri and La Plata ! Rio Grand
And all ye floods that lave their outraged land !
Bear witness ye,for often hath your wave
Dyed with his blood, afforded him a grave,
Bear witness how, the Whiteman hath repaid,
The Indian’s kindness ! how he oft hath laid
His dwelling desolate ; and made his name,
A by-word and a scoff : and Oh ! eternal shame !
Oppress’d and plunder’d him ! The murder’d hosts
If call’d to life, would throng your spacious coasts.
Niagara, the remnant of that race,
Which call’d thy verdant shores, their dwelling place,
Are now protected, and Securely toil,
Where ever Britain sways the Indian soil.
But where the “Patriot’s banner,” long hath waved,
And sable millions still remain enslav’d ;
The ill-fated Indian, on his own domain,
Asks but to live in peace, but asks in vain.
‡‡
Is there no place on earth man calls his own,
Where guilt and outrage, hath remain’d unknown ? 
Is there no spot, his restless foot hath trod,
Where blood, hath never stain’d, the guilty sod ?
Long,—long ago, as Indian legends tell,
On yonder Isle, victims to vengeance fell.
Wild on the blast, all sustenance denied,
Their shrieks arose, above thy roaring tide :
Tis said their spirits, doomed to know no rest,
Amidst the warring floods still dwell unbless’d,
And fancy’s ear, can catch their mournful groans,
Now rising high,— now sunk to sullen moans ;
‘Twas but of late, invaders sought our land
And fought and fled, defeated, from thy strand,
Thou, too, hast heard, the White man’s shouts arise,
The din of war—the death struck wretches cries !
Seen blood profusely flow, when hand to hand.
The crimson’d steel, clash’d, mids’t the hostile band ;
And mimic light’nings flash, the live-long night.
While the loud cheer, proclaim’d the lengthen’d fight ;
And heard the thunders of the cannon’s roar,
“Vex the dull ear of night,” along thy shore.
‡‡Insulted Genius of the spot, expand
Each narrow mind—avert each daring hand,
That would denude thy shrine, and Oh ! defeat,
Man’s innovations, on thy dread retreat !
Could he not count his pence, and leave between
Thee, and his plodding deeds, a leafy screen ?
Could not, a margin of the wild, be spared ?
No, where thy shore is clothed ’twill soon be bared,
And Taverns, Mills, and Groceries will rear
Their shingled roofs, o’er thy sublime career !
Oh, had I power, how soon would I restore,
The forest he hath stripped from thy dread shore ;
And force, the staring structures of his hand,
A proper distance from thy outrag’d strand.
Shall gain alone, the soul of man infest—
Leadwrens” to prey, where ‘eagles’, dare not rest ?
Rise in thy wrath, thou mighty flood, and sweep
The intruders works from thy colossal steep !
‡‡
Man! stay thy hand,here let thy mind dilate,
And strive to grasp, what thou dost contemplate.
Nature is eloquentthe torrents flow,
Can teach a lesson it is well to know ;
And thou Niagara, if rightly read,
Speaks’t to the heart, like requiems o’er the dead.
Here all is change. Mark how the constant shock
Of falling torrents, frets the solid rock.
Time like thy flood, incessant onward rolls,
And with its billows agitates our souls.
Years, countless years, have heard thy solemn roar ;
It will be heard, when all shall be no more,
Whose hearts now throb ! When not a trace is left,
And even our graves shall be of us bereft.
Thou art not wrinkled by the hand of time ;
The lapse of ages, leaves thee in thy prime !
Alas ! how different, with the crowds that flock
From distant lands, to throng thy Table Rock !
A few short years, and Lo ! the spark .expires,
Which gives them life—they moulder, with their sires :
But when their tombs are tenantless, thy voice
Will make the hearts, of other crowds rejoice ;
They too shall pass away—yet still thy song
Will hoarsely rise, these wave-worn rocks among.
Alas ! my soul is dark,—dark as the abyss,
That yawns beneath ! Hope, whispers, future bliss :
But even her vivid eye, will oft grow dim :
Doubts, like thy mists, before its visions swim,
And fiend-like, whisper to the heart, and say,
Its hopes shall perish, like thy rising spray !
Oh ! Man, thoupendulum” ‘twixt “smile and tear,”
Now buoyed by hope, and now depress’d by fear,
Now doubting all things, then believing all,
That priestcraft hath invented, since thy fall !
What is thy lot ? disease, and death and strife.
And what thy hope ? bliss, in a future life.
Shalt thou, like yonder rainbow, pass away,
And with thy spirit, share a bed of clay ?
Shall all the elements of this dull earth,
Retain the power, God gave them at their birth ;
And thou, and thy, all-grasping, restless mind
Become extinct ! a grave eternal find,—
In the dark earths embrace ? Oh ! FAITH impart, 
Thy confidence to every doubting heart ;
As the cool water, from the fountain brought,
To the parched lips, thou art to the thought.
On every soul, oh ! let thy full light stream,
And gild each wayward thought, with thy bright beam.
And should times, adverse storms still ruthless sweep
My shatter’d skiff, across lifes’ dreary deep,
Soul soothing Angel Faith, do thou remain,
To still the tempest, or, my bark sustain !
And when the dreary voyage, of life, is o’er,
And its worn fragments, strew death’s sable shore ;
Let my freed soul, in thy embraces ride,
Into Eternity’s, “unebbing tide” :
Where sorrows blight comes not, nor thou despair,
And find a stormless, tranquil haven, there !
Yes ! when Niagara, thy voice no more,
Shall in the ears, of awe-struck listeners, roar ;
When wasted are thy floods, and thy wild waves,
Have perish ‘d with the shores, thy torrent laves ;
Then shall the immortal soul, on wings sublime,
Soar—daring soar, above the wrecks of time !
O’er this crush‘d world, its song of triumph sing,
“Oh ! grave where is thy victory ! Oh ! death, where is thy sting !”
‡‡
On Queenston heights, I stray’d in lonely guise,
This morn, and saw, yon setting sun, arise.
Long, ere I stood, where now entranced I gaze.
Meridian skies, were glowing with his rays,
He will arise, to cheer the land, and main,
And scatter gladness, o’er those scenes again :
But thousands gaze, on his last lingering ray,
On whom, the “precincts of the cheerful day”
Shall dawn no more : Time’s, ceaseless noiseless wing,
No change of night, or day, to them shall bring.
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,
Your sights astonish, and your roar appals !
Night, from her ebon wings, the darkness throws,
And brooding o’er your scenes, demands repose ;
The skies frown heavily—, the stars are hid,
Or gleam, as pass, some cloudy pyramid.
Hush’d, are the zephyrs, which I sung of yore,
And hollow, moaning blasts, invade the shore !
Niagara ! thy darkling floods appear,
To rush with greater force, as if in fear.
Methinks I hear, strange voices join thy song,
And sounds unearthly float, thy shores along.
Huge shadowy forms, on falling torrents ride,
Sport over thy abyss, and down thy rapids glide.
Visions, from worlds beyond the grave intrude ;
Awful,appalling, as its solitude.
All gloomy things are met, with dread oppressed,
Wild trains of thought, invade my troubled breast—
Thoughts, of those youthful hopes, of earthly bliss,
Which long have vanish’d ; lost in time’s abyss :
Of Death—the GraveEternityof all,
That can exalt, or can the soul enthrall !
My task is done ! Here will I end my lays,
And of thy Great Creator, muse the praise.


 

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

Untitled by Capting Ralph Stackpole

table
The title page of the Table Rock Album

 

‘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.


*Salt River

Signed Capting Ralph Stackpole of Salt River.

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