The Song of Niagara by Garet Noel

Horseshoe Falls from New Falls View Upper Suspension Bridge
Artistic recreation from a stereograph by Rob J. Kirley, 1976
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

With a giant sweep from the height I leap,
Like a god I wield my thunder,
And the quivering rock beneath the shock
Trembles and shrinks in wonder ;
I gather the waves in a mad embrace
As gaily they leap in their onward race,
And laugh, as I hurl them down to die,
To hear the shriek of their agony ;

On, ever on,
Like a miniature world to confusion hurl’d
Edyying, splashing, frantically dashing
Down, ever down.
In a hollow beneath, I have hidden death ;
He waits for the prey I bring him,
With a last faint gasp from my watery clasp
His human spoil I fling him.

There are rocks down there, cruel, sharp and bare,
Like murderers laid in ambush,
And a whirlpool that sucks the waves in flocks
That shuddering down the chasm rush.
There silence is crown’d in the depths profound
By the dead with their sunken faces ;
But my secrets I keep, a mystery deep,
On my brow ye read no traces.

Ere impotent man his race began,
When his pride was a thing unknown,
At Creation’s word my song was heard,
Through Chaos my path was hewn ;
My steps ye may trace on the granite face
As backward my course I planted,
But for ages alone on my forest throne
I poured forth my songs enchanted ;

And solitude stood in the vastness rude,
And silence took up the strain
Till the echoes leaped from the rocks where they slept
Shouting it back again.
And the centuries passed with their shadowy feet,
But I mocked at them hast’ning to be forgot,
And the young years paus’d for a friendly greet,
But none could whisper when I was not ;

And empires whose dread o’er the earth was spread,
In their grandeur have come and gone,
All things that vain man in his glory wrought
Pass’d by like an idle and changing thought.
But I still thundered on ;
And the earth has been red ‘neath the victor’s tread
As he pass’d on his course death-strewn,
But he shrank in his pride, and forgotten died,
While I still thundered on.

And springtime and summer, I love each comer,
Crowning my ancient brow,
While King Frost with a frown would bind me down
With his manacles wrought of snow ;
But he shivered aghast, as he looked his last,
On the chains he would bind me under,
For he saw me but throw the foam from my brow
And laugh as I shook them asunder.

Ye have come, ye have come,
Oh ! man, in your conscious pride,
For your brow is fraught with immortal thought,
And the heights and depths to your gaze lay bare,
A shadow of mystery gather’d there,
Ye are lords of your kingdom wide ;

But ye have no command that shall bid me stand,
Or turn at your sovereign will,
As I roll’d ere the earth had given you birth,
I roll, unabated, still ;

I gather ye up as a frail flower cup,
Ye shriek, but I laugh like thunder,
Oh ! where are your power and your wisdom’s dower,
Ye are mute in my caverns under ;
For the shadow of death is upon your breath,
Your step like a dream is ended ;
But the ages rejoice while I lift my voice,
And my song with Time’s is blended.

Source: Noel Garet.  The Song of Niagara. Toronto: Copp, Clark Co., 1896

N.B. The name Noel Garet in enclosed in quotation marks on both the pre-title and title pages, indicating that a pseudonym may have been used.

Emily Helena Crummer Lodge by Anonymous

Emily Helena Crummer Lodge, 1828-1864.
Image courtesy of Michelle Ann Kratts

Her grave with spreading briar is grown,
And most the name o’er wends,
Upon the shattered fallen stone,
That tells of home and friends;

Are British hearts, so hard and cold,
And dead to Love’s bequest,
That Valor’s child forgotten sleeps,
In Stangers’ Rest?

O roll, Niagara’s mighty wave,
Sing to her in her dreams,
With tears of spray bedew her grave,
And sunlight flood with beams,

O birds at morn sing sweetly there,
Beside your happy rest,
And stars of night look kindly down,
In Strangers’ Rest.

Source:  Kratts, Michelle Ann. The Missed: Tales of Spirit & Tragic End at Niagara Falls.  2013.  Originally published in the Niagara Falls Gazette, August 1891.

The inscription states that Lodge “died many years ago at the Cataract House” hotel. Records indicate that she died in October 1864. For information about Lodge see chapter 2 of the Death Sketches section of The Missed by Michelle Ann Kratts

Lodge is buried in the Strangers’ Rest (also known as Travelers’ Rest) section of the Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, NY. See the grave record of Emily Helena Crummer Lodge

Niagara by Kathy Gilbert

Deer in the Winter
Image courtesy of PxHere

The river carries me here
As a babe on its island’s shores I play
Palms and fingers squish soft sand, feet kick,
On my back, sun warmed laps of waves.

Currents change with the seasons
Moody green, then blue; milky, then grey
Factory polluted in a haphazard way.
In autumn steam rises after first frost

Buckhorn’s creek freezes over in white
Our skates’ steel cuts crust to granules of light
We hear the creak of the sheet unable
to bear our weight; it cracks, we lie on the ice

crawl to shore; imagine the classmate trapped
head under the lip of ice, face turned blue
frozen in his boots, red cap and jacket;
first of our generation to pay the price

like deer seeking to drink fresh water
stranded on ice floe; eyes wide in fear
headed for the Rapids, then the Falls.
Sooner or later the current carries us all.

Source: Kathy Gilbert, 2021

Award winning poet Kathy Gilbert grew up in Niagara Falls, NY, attending St John de La Salle, Prince of Peace, and 66th Street schools before moving to Grand Island.  She currently resides  in Northern California where she received an MFA in poetry from San Francisco State University. In 2020, she published a poetry collection, Aprils Three. Other poems have appeared in Transfer, Anomalous, Swampwriting, The Steel Toe Review, The Community of Writers, and,Vistas & Byways. She is currently working on a book about Niagara Falls.

Niagara Daredevil, 37, Buried Near the Falls by Gwendolyn MacEwen

My apologies to Gwendolyn MacEwen’s family for initially publishing this poem on the Niagara Falls Poetry Project website without waiting for proper copyright permission.  It has been removed at the family’s request.

The poem, about daredevil Karel Soucek, was published  in Poetry Canada Review, vol. 8, no. 4,  1987

Read about Gwendolyn MacEwen

Epiphanies on the First Cold Day by Robert Billings

The cover of Before the Heart Went Down by Robert Billings

I thought there was nothing in the fields of light
that was not there in darkness

After breakfast in a quiet house
surrounded by pastures of new frost
my heart crouches believing
the next sound will be
something it can sing

This is my persistent nightmare

I jump into a shallow river
Hy feet sink in mud
to mid-calf, the top
of my head
just breaks the surface

It’s November:
too soon for ice
to preserve me

At noon I warm my hands at the apples
ripening on a window sill

The smell of cold through an open window

On the corner of my desk
is a print of a mother-goddess
in a black plastic frame:

Third century B.C.

The guide-book defines
means living together

Sometimes a glancing blow
is the back of my wife’s hand
slowly down my thigh

And so it comes back to this

In Munich 1974
a man in a bar
said a cormorant
dropping from a cliff
is the soul of
whatever flung this
earth on the sea

Midnight on the highway through Perth County
wearing sunglasses against the headlights
I bite through the cold skin of an apple

Source: Waves vol 11, no 2 & 3, Winter 1983

Robert Billings, born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and raised Fort Erie, became well known in Canadian literary circles as a poet, critic, teacher,  and editor of Poetry Canada Review and Poetry Toronto.  In 1983 he penned the poem “Epiphanies of the First Cold Day.” Epiphany 2 foreshadowed his eventual fate. In 1986 after his marriage broke down and bouts of depression hit him, he threw himself into the Niagara River. His body was not recovered until six months later.

Fellow poet and editor Herb Barrett paid tribute to Billings in his poem For Robert Billings

Watch the video At the Brink: A Personal Look at Suicides Over Niagara Falls by Michael Clarkson. Clarkson was a long-time friend of Robert Billings, who is one of the people discussed in the video.