My memories begin with the cascade
of tears at Niagara Falls as I screamed
NO when my father led us to board
the boat he said would be sailing
“under the Falls.” Under the Falls,
he said. Distinctly Under the Falls.
Not near, not close to, but under.
What three-year-old would not weep
uncontrollably, unstoppingly, until
assured there would be no boat ride
that day or the next. Seventy years
later, right after marrying his husband
at Niagara Falls City Hall, the old boy
kissed his mate on The Maid of the Mist
as it carried them crying and laughing
quite safely not quite under the Falls.
“Long before the solitudes of western New York were disturbed by the advent of the white man, it was the custom of the Indian tribes to assemble occasionally at Niagara, and offer sacrifice to the Spirit of the Falls.
This sacrifice consisted of a white birch-bark canoe, which was sent over the terrible cliff, filled with ripe fruits and blooming flowers, and bearing the fairest girl in the tribe who had just attained the age of womanhood.”
MID the rush of mighty waters, in the thundering cataract’s roar,
Where Niagara’s streaming rapids down in headlong torrent pour ;
Where the serried waves like chargers madly leaping to the fray,
Fling aloft their snowy crests and toss their manes of flying spray,
Rearing, plunging, onward urging — Nature’s glorious cavalry !
Where th’ eternal sweep of waters like the unending surge of time,
Pulsing, throbs in rhythmic measure to a wondrous strain sublime :
Dwells, so ancient legends say, the mighty Spirit of the Falls,
Who from out the tumult, hoarsely, for unbounded homage calls.
Here the children of the forest, spellbound by that deafening roar,
Stopped to gaze with listening wonder, in the simpler days of yore ;
Awe-struck, gazed in silent worship, well beseeming Nature’s child,
As in chase they roamed the plain, or tracked in war the pathless wild :
And as often as they listened, on the voices of the flood
Deep were borne the Spirit’s mutterings, calling fierce for human blood ;
Ay, and sacrifice more cruel in that cry they understood :
Gift of Nature’s choicest treasure, peerless budding womanhood ! Continue reading “The Legend of the White Canoe by William Trumbull”→
Bill Cattey has been employed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for 17 years as a software engineer after getting his degree in Computer Engineering from there. Bill is quite sure of himself as an engineer, but is a little uncomfortable calling himself a poet. He knows he started early with a haiku he wrote in elementary school, but after that he can find only one additional poem written before entering MIT.
He attributes that second poem’s being published in his high school literary magazine to be an artifact of them being hungry for copy rather than any literary value to the work.
Bill, with the aid of a collaborator, has set two of his poems to music. He hopes to publish his work through more conventional literary channels in the future. Bill currently publishes all his poetry, including many works in progress, on a personal web site: http://web.mit.edu/wdc/www/poetry