The River of Stars: A Legend of Niagara by Alfred Noyes

The lights of a hundred cities are fed
    by its midnight power.
Their wheels are moved by its thunder.
    But they, too, have their hour.
The tale of the Indian lovers, a cry
    from the years that are flown,
        While the river of stars is rolling,
            Rolling away to the darkness,
Abides with the power in the midnight,
    where love may find its own.

She watched from the Huron tents, till
    the first star shook in the air.
The sweet pine scented her fawn-skins,
    and breathed from her braided hair.
Her crown was of milk-white blood-
    root, because of the tryst she would
        Beyond the river of beauty
            That drifted away in the
Drawing the sunset thro' lilies, with
    eyes like stars, to the deep.

He watched, like a tall young wood-
    god, from the red pine that she
But not for the peril behind him, where
    the eyes of the Mohawks flamed.
Eagle-plumed he stood.   But his heart
    was hunting afar,
        Where the river of longing whis-
              .  .  .  And one swift shaft from
                the darkness
Felled him, her name in his death-cry,
    his eyes on the sunset star.

She stole from the river and listened.
    The moon on her wet skin shone.
As a silver birch in the pine-wood, her
    beauty flashed and was gone.
There was no wave in the forest.    The
    dark arms closed her round.
        But the river of life went
            Flowing away to the darkness,
For her breast grew red with his
    heart's blood, in a night where the
    stars are drowned.

“Teach me, O my lover, as you taught
    me of love in a day,
Teach me of death, and for ever, and
    set my feet on the way
To the land of the happy shadows, the
    land where you are flown.”
         And the river of death went
            Weeping away to the dark-
“Is the hunting good, my lover, so good
    that you hunt alone?”

She rose to her feet like a shadow.
    She sent a cry thro' the night,—
“Sa-sa-kuon,”  the death-whoop, that
    tells of triumph in fight.
It broke from the bell of her mouth
    like the cry of a wounded bird,
        But the river of agony swelled it
            And swept it along to the
And the Mohawks, couched in the
    darkness, leapt to their feet as they

Close as the ring of the clouds that
    menace the moon with death,
At once they circled her round. Her
    bright breast panted for breath.
With only her own wild glory keeping
    the wolves at bay,
        While the river of parting whis-
            Whispered away to the dark-
She looked in their eyes for a moment,
    and strove for a word to say.

“Teach me, O my lover!"—She set her
    foot on the dead.
She laughed on the painted faces with
    their rings of yellow and red,—
“I thank you, wolves of the Mohawk,
    for a woman's hands might fail.
        —And the river of vengeance
            Chuckled away to the dark-
“But ye have killed where I hunted. I
    have come to the end of my trail.

“I thank you, braves of the Mohawk,
    who laid this thief at my feet.
He tore my heart out living, and tossed
    it his dogs to eat.
Ye have taught him of death in a
    moment, as he taught me of love in
    a day.”
        —And the river of passion
            Deepened and rushed to the
“And yet may a woman requite you,
    and set your feet on the way.

“For the woman that spits in my face,
    and the shaven heads that gibe,
This night shall a woman show you the
    tents of the Huron tribe.
They are lodged in a deep valley.
    With all things good it abounds.
        Where the red-eyed, green-
                mooned river
            Glides like a snake to the dark-
I will show you a valley, Mohawks, like
    the Happy Hunting Grounds.

“Follow!” They chuckled, and followed
    like wolves to the glittering stream.
Shadows obeying a shadow, they
    launched their canoes in a dream.
Alone, in the first, with the blood on
    her breast, and her milk-white crown,
        She stood. She smiled at them,
            Then urged her canoe to the
And, silently flashing their paddles, the
    Mohawks followed her down.

And now—as they slid thro' the pine-
    woods with their peaks of midnight
She heard, in the broadening distance,
    the deep sound that she knew,
A mutter of steady thunder that grew
    as they glanced along;
          But ever she glanced before them
              And glanced away to the dark-
And or ever they heard it rightly, she
    raised her voice in a song:—

“The wind from the Isles of the Blessèd,
    it blows across the foam.
It sings in the flowing maples of the
    land that was my home.
Where the moose is a morning's hunt,
    and the buffalo feeds from the
        And the river of mockery
            Broadened and rolled to the
“And the green maize lifts its feathers,
    and laughs the snow from the land.”

The river broadened and quickened.
    There was nought but river and sky.
The shores were lost in the darkness.
    She laughed and lifted a cry ;
“Follow me! Sa-sa-kuon!"  Swifter
    and swifter they swirled—
        And the flood of their doom
                went flying,
            Flying away to the darkness,
“Follow me, follow me, Mohawks, ye
are shooting the edge of the world.”

They struggled like snakes to return.
    Like straws they were whirled on
    her track.
For the whole flood swooped to that
    edge where the unplumbed night
    dropt black,
The whole flood dropt to a thunder in
    an unplumbed hell beneath,
         And over the gulf of the thunder
             A mountain of spray from the
Rose and stood in the heavens, like a     
    shrouded image of death.

She rushed like a star before them.
    The moon on her glorying shone.
“Teach me, O my lover!”—her cry
    flashed out and was gone.
A moment they battled behind her.
    They lashed with their paddles and
        Then the Mohawks, turning
                their faces
            Like a blood-stained cloud to
                the darkness,
Over the edge of Niagara swept together
    and plunged.

And the lights of a hundred cities are
    fed by the ancient power;
But a cry returns with the midnight;
    for they, too, have their hour.
Teach me, O my lover, as you taught
    me of love in a day,
        —While the river of stars is rolling,
                Rolling away to the darkness,
Teach me of death, and for ever, and
    set my feet on the way!

Source: Noyes, Alfred (poem); Bawden, Clarence K. (music)The River of Stars: A Legend of Niagara. New York: G. Schirmer, 1917. [sheet music excerpt]

From Poetry Atlas:

Alfred Noyes was born in England and studied at Exeter College, Oxford (though he did not complete his degree). He spent long periods of his life in America, including the years of World War II. From 1914 to 1923 he was Professor of Modern English Literature at Princeton University in New Jersey. After the death of his first wife in 1926, he converted to Roman Catholicism. He later remarried and lived in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. He is buried on the Isle of Wight, at Frewshwater.


Under the Falls by James Penha

James Penha and His Husband, Ferdy, Shortly After Their Wedding Ceremony, on the Maid of the Mist Boat in Front of the American Falls
Image courtesy of James Penha


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.

Source: The author, 2022

Expat New Yorker James Penha (he/him🌈) has lived for the past three decades in Indonesia. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his work is widely published in journals and anthologies. His newest chapbook of poems, American Daguerreotypes, is available for Kindle. His essays have appeared in The New York Daily News and The New York Times. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Twitter: @JamesPenha

To Avoid an Unpleasant Tryst by Christopher Ellis

Niagara Falls from the Maid of the Mist Boat, 2022
Photo by Andrew Porteus

A young girl who’d never been kissed
To avoid an unpleasant tryst
She paddled her skiff
O’er the watery cliff
Becoming the Maid of the Mist

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

Lena: A Legend of Niagara by Conway E. Cartwright

Table Rock, Niagara
by Edward Ruggles, 1867
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Cartwright wrote this long poem about Lena, The Maid of the Mist, based on settler narratives of the Native peoples of Niagara Falls

See this book at Hathi Trust

Originally published Dublin: William McGee, 1860

Conway Edward Cartwight (1837-1920) was a Canadian poet and cleric.

What Does it Mean to Fall: a Poem by Stephanie Froebel

What does it mean to fall?
To be swept away on a course
To be carried by an entity other than yourself?
To be in your heart still, while ever-changing?

To fall in love
To fall down
To fall apart
To fall inline

The dictionary says falling is a freely descent
but are our falls ever done
out of freedom? Freedom in the sense of choice?
Is the fall as Romantic literature sometimes describes
the process of demise
or the final realization that a character was or is not wise?
Does anyone truly choose to fall?
Whether out of love or despair—Oh,
whoever seems to care
when you yourself are falling.
Does water choose to forever fall?
To be labeled as the choiceless descent
called freely?

Are we falling through the sky or
pulled by another force? Why 
are we choosing any of it, but a perspective
in which we self identify?

Is Niagara falls truly falling
or by choice, jumping down?

Stephanie Froebel



Source: Stephanie Froebel. Niagara Falls Changed My Perception on Life. YouTube Video, 2021.

Froebel also wrote an essay entitled Humans’ Imposition of Hierarchy: How Humans are Destroying the Planet Through Language

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