Niagara Falls by Rev. Roswell Park

Written in remembrance of a visit to Niagara, and Queenstown ; April 20, 1827.

Niagara Falls With a Rainbow, 1819 by Ralph Gore. Colour tint by Erne Jahnke.
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Niagara rolls on. The faithless wave,
That tore the Indian from his gentle cove,
Is smooth and bright as silver. Nothing speaks
Of last night’s rain : and now the rainbow smiles,
And the white gull flaps through its orange light ;
And the eternal roaring of the Falls
Goes on the same. Wild Indian, farewell !
Thou wert a brother, and thy dying bed
Was the white lashing spray ;— thy only knell
The Rapid’s thunder ;—and the deep, deep gulf
Thy sunless sepulchre !”
— J. R. ORTON.

THE sun shone brightly o’er me as I stood
And gazed upon Niagara’s swelling flood ;—
Whose waters, springing from a distant source,
Through ages past have sped their solemn course ;
Then rushing downward, o’er the lofty rock,
Have made the mountains tremble with their shock ;
Till flowing on majestical and free,
They join’d afar the bosom of the sea.
Between rich plains, extending far around,
And gentle hills with verdant foliage crown’d,
Whose sloping sides grow dim in distant blue,
Niagara river steals upon the view.
Then winding slow the current glides along
Its fertile isles and sunny banks among,
Till soon it meets a rough and rocky bed,
And o’er the rapids dashes on with speed ;—
Sinks in the hollows, swells and sinks again,
And rolls its billows like the raging main :—
Now the huge breakers raise it to the skies,
Whirlpools revolve, and foaming mountains rise.
New floods behind, the waves before them urge,
Approaching nearer to the giddy verge ;
Till a fair isle the mighty current braves,
And with its front divides the yielding waves.
On either side the mighty waters roll,
And ceaseless hurry to the frightful goal ;
Then from the lofty rocks with awful sound
Fall headlong downward to the vast profound,—
Speed to the bottom, swell the deeps below,—
Rise to the surface, boiling as they flow ;—
In eddying circles vent their angry force ;—
Then join the current and pursue their course.
Here on the brow the sea-green flood rolls by,
Reflecting all the brightness of the sky,
While piles of foam, the cataract beneath,
Hang o’er the rocks and round the billows wreathe.
There, as the falling torrent meets the air,
White foaming fleeces down the chasm appear ;
And the bright rainbow through the misty spray,
Shines in the sun and gilds the face of day.
And far below, from adamantine beds,
The rocky banks erect their hoary heads ;—
While lofty trees, like dwarfs, above them seen,
Clothe the high cliffs with robes of brightest green ;
Like uptorn Ossa, from its centre riven,
When the fierce giants fought the pow’rs of heav’n.
‡‡I thought when gazing on this glorious view,
How once the Indian, in his bark canoe,
While fishing far away upon the wave,
Was swiftly buried in a wat’ry grave.
As moor’d at anchor on the treacherous flood,
He throws his net and line in sportive mood,
How great his horror when at first he hears
The cataract swelling louder on his ears ;
When first, beneath the evening’s dusky hue,
The mighty rapid breaks upon his view ;
And unsuspected, with the currents’ glide,
His little boat is carried by the tide,—
While the dim figures seen upon the strand
Move with the stream which bears him from the land !
Then is his angle rod in haste thrown by,
While resolution flashes from his eye ;
Then his strong arm, unceasing bends the oar,
His course directing to the nearest shore ;
At every stroke he dashes through the foam,
And anxiously seems drawing toward his home.
Row ! Indian, row ! avoid the fearful steep !
Bend the light bark, and o’er the waters sweep !
Too late, alas ! the vigorous arm is strung ;
The rapid current hurries him along !
In vain he sees his cabin gleam afar,
Beneath the twinkling of the evening star;—
The shore recedes, the hut eludes his sight,
Then fades in distance mid the gloom of night !
And now the breakers swell with lofty waves,
And now his bark their foaming summit cleaves ;
Despair now seizes on his wearied breast,
His oars neglected lie upon their rest ;
His dog, unheeded, fawns upon his side,
Then leaps, unconscious, in the fatal tide.
One pray’r is utter’d by his wilder’d mind ;
Then sits the Indian, silent and resign’d,
And in his light canoe with patience waits
The speedy issue of his awful fates.
Now roar the waters, terrible and loud,
As heaviest thunder from the blackest cloud ;
And now the chasm its awful depth reveals,
And now the bark upon its summit reels ;
Then down the vast abyss is viewless borne,
To depths of darkness, never to return !
The setting sun beheld him far from shore,
Whom rising morn shall ne’er awaken more ;
But on the beach his bones unburied lie,
And whiten under many a summer’s sky ;
And oft, the Indians say, his spirit roves,
Where once he hunted in his native groves ;
And ever as he flies before the wind,
His faithful dog still follows close behind ;
And oft in loneliness the maiden weeps,
Beside the waters where her hero sleeps ;
And oft the stranger listens to his tale,
And hears the warriors raise his funeral wail ;
While fervent prayers to the Great Spirit rise,
To bless their brother-hunter in the skies.

West Point, Oct., 1828.

Source: Rev. Roswell Park. Selections of Juvenile and Miscellaneous Poems.  Philadelphia: DeSilver, Thomas & Co, 1836

Read about Rev. Roswell Park

One poem leads to another….. (hair albums)

Many of the pre-1921 poems published on the Niagara Falls Poetry Project website are found with the assistance of Charles Dow’s Anthology and Bibliography of Niagara Falls, published in 1921. Chapter 8 of this two-volume set deals with the music, poetry, and fiction published about Niagara Falls in chronological order, starting in 1604. Many entries are purely bibliographic; that is they list the author, title, and source of a poem. Others contain summaries or editorial comments by Dow about the poem, the full text of some of the shorter poems, and excerpts from some of the longer poems.  Dow does have the habit of changing words and punctuation, and sometimes skipping sections without giving indication that he is doing so, so whenever possible, I go to the original source. Dow’s work is monumental, and I am in awe of what he accomplished. If I find a pre-1921 poem that is not in Dow, I feel a sense of accomplishment, and, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit, of smugness that I managed to find something that he hadn’t. 

Case in point: in the entry for 1867, Dow cites a poem by M.F. Bigney – Visit of the Sunbeams to the Falls of Niagara in Bigney’s book The Forest Pilgrims and Other Stories. I searched for the book and found a full-text copy online through the Hathi Trust. After adding this poem to the site, I then looked at the rest of his poems, and discovered one called Lines Written for a Lady’s Hair Album, at Niagarawhich I proceeded to add to the site. I admit that I had never heard of hair albums, so I conducted a search for them. My wife, Louise, had known about hair braidings that people (including her grandmother) had framed and hung to commemorate the passing of a loved one, but not albums. The search led to an interesting article Hairy Memories: Hair albums used braided hair to create memories by James Rada, Jr., and to a Brock University Archives online exhibition called Stories Told Through ScrapbookingOne of the scrapbooks in the exhibition is the Bradt Family Hair Album, with locks of hair from the Bradt family (United Empire Loyalists who settled in Niagara) from 1843 to 1976.  David Sharron, Head of Archives & Special Collections at Brock University, tells me that “We love the Bradt hair album here.  It is always a showstopper on tours.”

hair albums

Lock of Susannah (Price) Dunn’s hair
Image courtesy of Brock University Archives


On the exhibition page, a poem from page 11 of the album had been transcribed. Titled Resignation to the Approaching Period of Decline and Decay it had originally been written in 1812, just after the outbreak of the War of 1812, by James Melloy, and dedicated to “The Misses Price.” One of them, Susannah (Price) Dunn, had been born in 1808 and died in 1887.  A lock of her hair had been included in the album.

So today feels like a real win for me. I’ve managed to add three 19th century poems to the website (only one of which had been indexed by Dow), learned about a death rite that I had previously never known about, and added a new dimension to my upcoming presentation, The Niagara Way of Death, to the 2023 Popular Culture Conference in San Antonio, Texas. 





Resignation to the Approaching Period of Decline and Decay by James Melloy

The page from The Album of Bradt Family Hair with this poem pasted on it 
Courtesy of Brock University Archives & Special Collections

Days of my youth, ye have glided away ;
Hairs of my youth, ye are frosted and gray ;
Eyes of my youth, your keen sight is no more ;
Cheeks of my youth, ye are furrowed all o’er ;
Strength of my youth, all your vigor is gone ;
Thoughts of my youth, your gay visions are flown.

Days of my youth, I wish not your recall ;
Hairs of my youth, I’m content ye should fall ;
Eyes of my youth, ye much evil have seen ;
Cheeks of my youth, bathed in tears have ye been ;
Thoughts of my youth, ye have led me astray ;
Strength of my youth, why lament your decay ?

Days of my age, ye will shortly be past ;
Pains of my age, yet a while can ye last ;
Joys of my age, in true wisdom delight ;
Eyes of my age, be religion your light ;
Thoughts of my age, dread ye not the cold sod ;
Hopes of my age, be ye fixed on your God.

This poem is from a newspaper clipping dated December 8, 1893, pasted into The Bradt Family Hair Album in the Brock University Archives. The Bradt family were United Empire Loyalists who settled in Niagara-on-the-Lake and the St. Catharines area. 

Above the poem is written:

“A Relic of 1812

The following beautiful lines were among the relics left by Mrs. Susan Dunn, (wife of William Dunn, J.P., late of the township of Wainfleet, and county of Welland, Ont.) and second eldest daughter of the late David Price, who for many years held the position of secretary of the government stores at Fort George, Niagara.”

Beneath the poem is written:

“James Melloy,
Conductor of King’s Stores, &c., &c., &c.

This is for the amiable the Misses Price to learn by heart, which will give great pleasure and joy to their devoted and very humble servant,

James Melloy,
Fort George, at Head Quarters, Oct. 29th, 1812” 

Another poem that might be of interest is Lines Written for a Lady’s Hair Album, at Niagara by M.F. Bigney. Bigney’s poem is not in the Bradt album.

Read the article Hairy Memories: Hair albums used braided hair to create memories by James Rada, Jr.



Lines Written for a Lady’s Hair Album, at Niagara by M.F. Bigney

A Page from The Album of Bradt Family Hair 
Courtesy of Brock University Archives & Special Collections


 braided locks ! which tell 
‡‡‡‡‡Of the distant, the departed, 
As the songs of ocean murmur in the shell ; 
‡‡‡‡‡And which whisper—”All is well !” 
‡‡‡‡‡When we might be lonely hearted 
And with voiceless music mystically swell.

‡‡‡‡‡Locks fair, and dark, and gray,
‡‡‡‡‡Erst to kindred ringlets mated ;
Severed from the crowns of loved ones now away. 
‡‡‡‡‡Some in spirit-gardens stray,
‡‡‡‡‡Warmed by suns all uncreated,
And some still linger with us in the clay.

‡‡‡‡‡To other times ye pass,
‡‡‡‡‡Bright aids to recollection, 
Mirroring the storied past as in a glass,
‡‡‡‡‡And shall we cry, alas !
‡‡‡‡‡In our spirit’s deep dejection, 
For those cut down and withered as the grass ?

‡‡‡‡‡No : they shall reappear
‡‡‡‡‡In a land of light unending, 
Where no eye shall e er be dimmed by a tear—
‡‡‡‡‡In that higher, purer sphere
‡‡‡‡‡Where celestial glories blending, 
Shall form a crown for those who triumph here.

Source: M.F. Bigney. The Forest Pilgrims, and Other Poems. New Orleans: James A. Gresham, 1867

Bigney was the editor of The New Orleans Daily

From the Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Louisiana, vol 2:  

“J.W. Overall and M.F. Bigney were liberal and enlightened patrons of literature in New Orleans. Both were poets, and Mr. Bigney published, in 1867, a volume called The Forest Pilgrims, and Other Poems, among which the “Wreck of the Nautilus” has often been quoted.

Read the article Hairy Memories: Hair albums used braided hair to create memories by James Rada, Jr.

See The Bradt Family Hair Album in the Brock University Archives. The Bradt family were United Empire Loyalists who settled in Niagara-on-the-Lake and the St. Catharines area. This poem by Bigney was not written in the Bradt album, although the poem Resignation to the Approaching Period of Decline and Decay by James Melloy was.

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.