Niagara Falls by George Summerss

Canadian Falls, March 1911, from Goat Island
Image courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

Impressions and fancies on viewing for the

first time, and from the American side, on Sept.
15th, 1906:

The famous cataract whose ancient birth
Dates from the glacial epoch of the earth,
I held in contemplation for the day,
With its environ that in prospect lay.
Through ages past, long ere the steps of man
Its shores betray’d, enquiring Fancy ran;
When the cyclopean mammoth left his spoor,
Without incurring peril of arm’d pursuer:
And from the scenes inductive Fancy drew
Events of time predestined to ensue;
Time will complete the gulch and Erie’s shore
Will curb an inland ocean’s wrath no more!
Long sunken wrecks will strew a new-made ground,
And human skulls with grinning teeth lay round!
In these events, man has no role to play;
His hand might haste, but not suspend a day.
Till water ceases in the mists to rise,
And loaded cloud restore it from the skies,
Will these events draw nearer day by day,
However distant in the future they.
But franchise holders, be ye not concern’d!
Ere these events, your names will be inurn’d;
Your marble tombs will have dissolved to earth,
And fame forgotten your ogygian birth.
Now present scenes arise in mental view
That are not entered on the day’s menu:
First comes professor of hydrodynamics
(Important branch of present-day mechanics)
And calculates the equine power needed
To tow it off to Uncle Sam—thus he did;
Then comes along a specialist on ‘quakes,
And tells how many San Francisco shakes
It represents per annum; then comes next
The company promoter and his text
Is syndicates and shares and dividends
Of one per cent, per hour for all his friends;
Last comes the man who dotes on olden things,
And grappling hooks and tarry tackle brings
To raise the Caroline—but Sam says “No!
Nurse not sad memories in a five-cent show;
Let our inglorious incidents of war
Pass to oblivion—not a cheap bazaar;
And curse the poet who in deathless song
These adverse memories would through time prolong.”
The virtuoso laid his tackle by,
And called up all to drink, and all were dry.
His calling now the gorge-route agent plies,
Exhorting travellers to patronize
The foresaid route—a twenty-minute spell
Hung by a hair above the gulf of Hell;
Where raven locks may justly fear a blight;
If danger imminent can blanch them white.
That no calamity has marr’d the past
Avails not those to whom it comes at last:
And come it will, such horror as the “Tay ”
Will be remembered from some fateful day.
But to the “Falls”—unable to compute
Such vast hydraulic power, I substitute
A simile poetic of its power,
To be repeated sixty times per hour:
A thousand tons of over-pending rock,
Detach’d by earthquake or electric shock,
From some high summit, towering mountain peak,
And downward plunging leaves its path a streak
Of smoke and debris as it cleaves its way
Through copes and thicket with terrific sway,
And sinks half buried in the plain below:
The foot-hills shudder when it strikes the blow.

This poem was intended to be grave throughout, but falling in with a group of humorous fancies, I was lured for a spell from the path that most becomes a man of seventy-three years.
G. S.

Source: George Summerss. Bird of the Bush: A Collection of Poems. Toronto: The Hunter-Rose Company, 1908