Niagara, Powerful Splendour by Honey Novick


Rainbow at the Brink of Niagara Falls
Photo by Jason Ng on Unsplash


Mine eyes have seen the glory that lies beyond the horizon.
It is called Niagara, the pot of gold lying
At the end of the highway ribbon named for Queen Mother Elizabeth.

Oftentimes, there is a rainbow gracing the skies of Niagara
Like a tiara crowning the head of a precious daughter.
There, at Niagara, my demeanour changes —
Going from that of being wound up, taut,
To one of aaaaahhhhh…….., relaxed, a sense of well-being, one with the nature.

With closed eyes I can feel the thunderous roar permeating my being.
I experience the wet mist on my skin; the powerful surging water
Keeping a rhythm in time with my heart.
Sharp rocks, seagulls, white foaming suds,
The changing blue hues of the river become
An oasis rising from the landscape of southern Ontario, northern New York

Aboriginal people traversed the land freely
In days before geographic boundaries
When there were no borders.
It is borderless to me.

At Niagara, I am transported from one world to another world.
This new world of universality becomes my Mists of Avalon.
This universality is the essence of my being.
This is Niagara.

Niagara, your name is powerful splendour.
Niagara, you are spirit materialized.
Niagara, you are essence realized.
Niagara. You. Are.

Source: Honey Novick, 2023

Honey Novick is a singer/songwriter/voice teacher/poet.  A full member of the League of
Canadian Poets, Poetry In Voice (educational branch of the Griffin Foundation), the Writer’s
Union of Canada and SOCAN. She is an original member of General Idea performance art
group. Honey performed at Carnegie Recital, Seibu Lion’s Stadium in Japan and has sung
tribute concerts for Irving Layton, Leonard Cohen (5 times, 2x at the Toronto Reference
Library with Canada’s Parliamentary Poet, George Elliott Clarke), Austin Clark, Phil Ochs,
Robbie Burns

She has 10 collections of poems including the forthcoming Bob Dylan, My Rabbi; and I’m
Mad — I Matter, Making A Difference, a project of the Friendly Spike Theatre Band;
Undefeated Relevance, published by Flowertopia Studio; LyricalMyrical’s Ruminations of a Fractured Diamond; Cancyp’s Monday Nights at the Butler’s Pantry; Sanguine Encounters With Greatness and others.

She has recorded 8 CDs including Rising Toward The Seraphim; Solid; New Songs for Peace (a product of the UNESCO millenium endeavours); Milton Acorn and The Free Speech Movement; Sal Mineo, My Friend; Elvis Monday Nights; Fat Albert’s Coffeehouse Artists.

Honey Novick is a four-time awardee of the Dr. Reva Gerstein Legacy Fund and the 2020 Awardee of the Mentor Award of CSARN – Canadian Senior Artists Resource Network. She is a 2019 and 2023 awardee of the Canada 150 Outstanding Neighbours for Literarti and has produced Womanvoice for 29 years.

Honey Novick is a 2020 nominee for an Acker Award – peer-based performance arts contributor

She is working on a recording of Mbrace with bill bissett.

She is artist resource with the Friendly Spike Theatre Band, teaches “Voice Yoga” at the Secret Handshake Gallery, and is part of the Inkwell Writers and High Park Poets.  

Visit Honey Novick’s website

Honey Novick’s Facebook page

A Legend of the Whirlpool by James Fenimore Cooper

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡PART I.

The Whirlpool, Niagara River, 1804 by George Heriot. Colour tinting by Jane Merryweather.
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library


“Ih wakchohenry hah nakahneshthean habthohy ehean hancteayouth wench heahnahreawachereahheank.”  Tuscarora’s idiom of the Iroquois.

The same in English from the book of David Cusic, a Tuscaroran  Indian, published in 1827.

“I found the history mixed with fables.


In truth thou art a fearful place,
‡‡‡‡Who shall thy depths explore ?
Who’ll pass upon thy fluctuant waves,
‡‡‡‡For mines of golden ore ;
From far above impetuously,
‡‡‡‡The raging waters sweep, 
They come in their sublimity,
‡‡‡‡Descending, leap o’er leap.


In wrath and foam they rush along,
‡‡‡‡Through caverned rocks they flow,
And high towards the mirrored skies,
‡‡‡‡The feathery mist they throw.
Their noise is the wild tempest’s voice,
‡‡‡‡When whirlwinds sweep the shore,
And far abroad the sound is heard,
‡‡‡‡Like ocean’s hollow roar.


Trembling, the neighb’ring hills vibrate,
‡‡‡‡And the impending rocks,
Shake in their holds, as from the jars
‡‡‡‡Of far off earthquake shocks.
And when less loud Niagara’s Fall
‡‡‡‡Its distant echoes bound,
Then wide, the thund’ring roll is spread
‡‡‡‡The Whirlpool’s ceaseless sound.


Through earth’s domain a scene more grand,
‡‡‡‡Is no where to be found.
For in one narrow compass rush,
‡‡‡‡Waters that empire’s bound.
A thousand lakes and rivers deep,
‡‡‡‡Unite their powerful force,
Concentrate through the gorge they plunge,
‡‡‡‡Their headlong, downward course.


Though the Maelstrom’s dread abyss
‡‡‡‡No mariner will near ;
Though Plegethon roared fierce and loud,
‡‡‡‡Their terrors all are here.
Not mightier is the Cataract,
‡‡‡‡With rainbow, mist and cloud,
Whose snowy sheets hang in the air,
‡‡‡‡And massive rocks enshroud.


To him that views this wond’rous gulf,
‡‡‡‡What glowing thoughts will spring !
Awe struck, the reverential heart
‡‡‡‡Will warm devotion bring.
O’er chasms wide the frowning rocks
‡‡‡‡On either side arise,
Waves here advancing, there recoil,
‡‡‡‡Break spangling to the skies.


Imagination o’er the view
‡‡‡‡Casts round her ardent gaze,
For far beyond romance’s scene,
‡‡‡‡Nature herself displays.
Who’ll venture in that deluge stream,
‡‡‡‡Who’ll float upon the wave ?
There is no one with reason given
‡‡‡‡Would in those waters lave.


For death in many frightful forms,
‡‡‡‡His victims waits to win ;
And all his dread machin’ry moves,
‡‡‡‡Loud in the furious din.
There drive and strike a hundred wrecks
‡‡‡‡That one another crush,
Now sucked below, now bounding up,
‡‡‡‡Commingling round they rush.


In olden days that long have fled,
‡‡‡‡When the wild forest glen
Was yet in Nature’s myst’ry hid,
‡‡‡‡And sheltered savage men ; 
Then the bold Indian armed for war
‡‡‡‡With battle axe and bow,
Ranged fearless o’er his hunting grounds,
‡‡‡‡Or watched his wily foe.


The Iroquois of all the tribes
‡‡‡‡Extensive conquest sought, 
And many a bloody battle field
‡‡‡‡Was with the Hurons fought ;
Between them raged perpetual war,
‡‡‡‡In desert, wood, and plain,
Nor did they sheath the slaught’ ring knife
‡‡‡‡Till ev’ry foe was slain.


When o’er the earth the flowers bloomed,
‡‡‡‡And all the trees were green,
And brightly shone the summer’s sun,
‡‡‡‡And lit the smiling scene ;
The merry birds melodiously
‡‡‡‡With music filled the vales,
And the wild blossoms’ sweetness came,
‡‡‡‡Borne on the scented gales.


Around the gorgeous landscape lay,
‡‡‡‡In green, and sun, and shade ;
The tenants of the wood repose
‡‡‡‡Upon the mossy glade. 
‘Twas then a daring Iroquois 
‡‡‡‡Strayed, with his forest love,
Through many a vale, and green clad copse,
‡‡‡‡And many a hidden grove.


Their way was near Niagara’s flood
‡‡‡‡Where circling eddies run,
And many a tale he told of war,
‡‡‡‡Of battles he had won ;
What sleeping foes he had surprised,
‡‡‡‡How swift had flown his dart ;
And love and vengeance mingled,
‡‡‡‡Were to win the maiden’s heart.


Right seemly moved the savage pair,
‡‡‡‡As on their course they went,
And still upon the billowy stream, 
‡‡‡‡Admiring eyes they bent.
They saw the trees of distant woods,
‡‡‡‡Dismembered torn and peel’d
Ride o’er the waves in ceaseless war,
‡‡‡‡And ever on they reel’d.


And there the gushing torrent springs,
‡‡‡‡Away with deaf’ning sound,
And ridged waves high vaulting rise,
‡‡‡‡And o’er the rocks rebound.
Convulsive billows towering fled,
‡‡‡‡Fast on their wild career,
And hollow circles widely spread,
‡‡‡‡And op’ning gulfs appear.


There brilliant dance the white capped waves,
‡‡‡‡Their plumaged crests display ;
As broken diamonds sparkling shine,
‡‡‡‡The drops of snowy spray.
Beyond, is beauty’s mantle spread ;
‡‡‡‡Here grandeur’s scene unfolds.
There, vast sublimity in might,
‡‡‡‡Her court in glory holds.


Pleased with the view the lovers stood,
‡‡‡‡No thoughts of danger rose,
For distant then the Hurons dwelt ;
‡‡‡‡Their only living foes ;
But then, as now, though safely fenced,
‡‡‡‡And far off ev’ry fear,
Man oft reposing, little thinks
‡‡‡‡What strange events are near.


By them unseen, by foliage hid,
‡‡‡‡Sits on the other side,
An angler who with demon scorn,
‡‡‡‡These happy ones had eyed.
That Huron chief, for such he was,
‡‡‡‡Rose slowly from the brake,
First rent the air with his shrill cry,
‡‡‡‡Then, taunting, thus he spake :


“Base dog of Iroquois give ear,
‡‡‡‡Thou mean and palt’ring slave, 
I dare thee mongrel meet me there,
‡‡‡‡On yon revolving wave.
When Huron meets with Iroquois,
‡‡‡‡In field, or flood, or fire,
He or his hated foe must die,
‡‡‡‡Or feed the funeral pyre.


Come on, thou minion’s dotard, come,
‡‡‡‡Come where the whirlpool’s rage—
Or, recreant, bear thyself away,
‡‡‡‡Nor warrior more engage.”
“Braggart !” the Iroquois replied ;
‡‡‡‡Well can’st thou banter here,
If thou were not beyond my reach,
‡‡‡‡Thou’d die with very fear.


Show, boaster, if thou even dare,
‡‡‡‡Thy wary feet to steep,
In this commingling flood of foam,
‡‡‡‡I’ll follow on the deep ;
I’ll follow thee from rock to rock,
‡‡‡‡And through the stormy wave ;
And in some low and loathsome pit,
‡‡‡‡Will lay thee in thy grave.”


The Chieftain heard, he bounded in,
‡‡‡‡And through the tossing stream,
Like a fierce serpent in his rage
‡‡‡‡His fiery eye balls gleam.
The whirlpool’s fitful voice ascends—
‡‡‡‡The waters bound away—
And fleecy clouds are wafted round,
‡‡‡‡Formed from the rising spray.


“I come ! I come !”  he loudly cried ;
 if you meet me not,
I’ll seize you where you trembling stand,
‡‡‡‡And rend you on the spot.”
Quick, echo bears the challenge on,
‡‡‡‡From shore to shore it flies.
And through the airy height it rings,
‡‡‡‡And in the distance dies.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡PART II.

Kahne heanwahkayean heanyeannat kahakehah hah kahneahweah hetho hah yohrakanethe hane hah  keanwahkneah nakha wean. Tuscaroras, &c.

Who will secure the woman from the terror of the great water.— David Cune


The Iroquois cast on the maid, 
‡‡‡‡Sadly, a farewell smile,
Then hurried turned, and in he plunged,
‡‡‡‡Where th’ troubled waters boil ;
And she upon that lonely strand
‡‡‡‡Amazed and shuddering stood,
A witness of that battle scene,
‡‡‡‡On that rebounding flood. 


The warriors toiling through the deep,
‡‡‡‡Their onward progress urge,
And nobly dash o’er whitened waves,
‡‡‡‡Or ride the rolling surge
Now a strong current sweeps them down,
‡‡‡‡Then on the rising swell 
They buoyant mount, and wave their hands,
‡‡‡‡And peel the Indian yell.


Again, into somc vortex hurled,
‡‡‡‡Powerless they whirl around
Till gathering all their strength,
‡‡‡‡They spring and clear the deep profound. 
Their course is to the centre bent,
‡‡‡‡Where the curving waters run ;
And face to face and eyes to eyes,
‡‡‡‡Their way is onward, on !


And when unto the outward disk,
‡‡‡‡The combattants arrive,
They whooping loud with furious rage
‡‡‡‡At one another drive. 
They miss their aim, and round are thrown,
‡‡‡‡Round, round the Whirlpool goes ;
Yet near, and nearer they approach,
‡‡‡‡And fast the circles close.


They spread their arms, they reach their hands,
‡‡‡‡Resistlessly they go,
Till grasping in the vortex’ mouth,
‡‡‡‡They strug’ling sink below.
Down far beneath the gurgling waves,
‡‡‡‡In fierce and bloody strife
Foe presses foe, and hard they tug,
‡‡‡‡For vengeance more than life.


To noisome vaults, whose horrid sights
‡‡‡‡No living eye can see
Where monsters dwell, and ever hold
‡‡‡‡Their venomed revelry ;
Through sunken woods that bristle up,
‡‡‡‡And broken timbers stand,
Mangled, their bodies press along,
‡‡‡‡Disabled and unman’d.


In many a mazy depth they wind,
‡‡‡‡Till ‘gainst a jutting crag
Their bodies strike, their holds relax
‡‡‡‡Apart, they onward drag.
The heaving eddies cast them up,
‡‡‡‡Enfeebled they arise,
And sunder’d on the surface, each,
‡‡‡‡Almost exhausted lies.


Awhile they panting rest their powers,
‡‡‡‡Awhile look wildly round ;
Then on each other rush again,
‡‡‡‡And grasp, and tear, and wound.
Their gory fingers deeply press,
‡‡‡‡The quiv’ ring flesh they rend,
And the warm crimsoned flood of life
‡‡‡‡With the cold waters blend.


The Huron’s rage without control,
‡‡‡‡Exerts its utmost might ;
His enemy reserves his powers,
‡‡‡‡Yet doubtful is the fight.
The nymph to the great spirit raised
‡‡‡‡Her fervent prayer, to give,
Nerve to the arm of her beloved
‡‡‡‡To conquer and to live.


On the vexed waters still they strive,
‡‡‡‡And still around are driven,
sometimes submerged below the waves,
‡‡‡‡And sometimes raised towards Heaven. 
And as the sweeping eddies turn,
‡‡‡‡And as the torrent flows,
Amid the din and tempest roar,
‡‡‡‡Their savage yells uprose.


At length with more than human strength,
‡‡‡‡The Huron’s deadly foe,
Seized on his throat and held him down,
‡‡‡‡To suffocate below.
Hard was the struggle, and the waves
‡‡‡‡Contending claim their prey,
And o’er the dying Huron dance ;
‡‡‡‡Then bear his corpse away. 


All helpless floats the Iroquois,
‡‡‡‡And oft around is roll’d.
Till on a frail and broken wreck,
e faintly makes his hold.
No power had he to tempt the deep, 
‡‡‡‡His wonted strength was gone,
And ev’ry passing wave that rose, 
‡‡‡‡Frowned on him as its own.


Life wanders through his shiv’ring frame,
‡‡‡‡Just ready to depart,
t trembles on his quiv’ring lips, 
‡‡‡‡And flut’ring beats his heart ;
But ’twas not his its parting throbs,
‡‡‡‡To wait with humbled will,
And die in ling’ring agony, 
‡‡‡‡As death’s slow drops distil.


The Heav’ns in anger frowned, 
‡‡‡‡Thick clouds a shadowy gloom spread o’er, 
And gath’ring films obscured his eyes,
‡‡‡‡And hid the distant shore.
The changing waters suck below, 
‡‡‡‡While some upheaving rose,
And hideous noises whistle round, 
‡‡‡‡As when the storm wind blows.


The forest maid away had fled,
‡‡‡‡And up the bank had hied
Soon she returns—a light canoe
‡‡‡‡Was to her shoulders tied.
‘Tis quickly launched upon the stream,
‡‡‡‡That deep and treach’rous flow’d,
And swiftly o’er tho crested waves,
‡‡‡‡Light as a swan it rode.


Ye Spirits of the watery caves,
‡‡‡‡From her your dangers stay,
Grant her the object of her hopes,
‡‡‡‡And safely speed her way.
She nears the dark and fainting brave,
‡‡‡‡And ‘mid the Whirlpool’s roar
She lifts him in her fragile boat,
‡‡‡‡And turns her course to shore.


Now if that little bark shall pass
‡‡‡‡Yon disk of lucent green,
The course is safe unto the land, 
‡‡‡‡No dangers intervene. 
But once more down it sweeps away,
‡‡‡‡Still further on it wheels
The raging torrent draws it in—
‡‡‡‡Away ! Away ! it reels. 


No longer lonely is the shore,
‡‡‡‡For on the wood crowned height,
A numerous band of Iroquois
‡‡‡‡Are ushered to the sight.
It was their native village friends,
‡‡‡‡That lined the towering steep,
Who saw them in their peril drive,
‡‡‡‡Careering o’er the deep.


Loud shouts burst from the excited band ;
‡‡‡‡Trophies of war they wear—
And pennons formed from human scalps,
‡‡‡‡High flutter in the air.
With eager steps, and straining eyes,
‡‡‡‡They line the rocky cliff,
And sight, and thought, are centred all,
‡‡‡‡Upon that whirling skiff. 


A cry ! from off the water comes,
‡‡‡‡No more the oar is plied !
But all erect the maiden sits,
‡‡‡‡Her warrior by her side.
They raise their eyes towards the sky,
‡‡‡‡Then on the fearful surge
Fondly embrace, then all resigned,
‡‡‡‡They sing the funeral dirge.


The bark is on a mountain wave,
‡‡‡‡A moment there it rides,
Then downward shootsthe scene is closed,
‡‡‡‡The wreck the water hides.
And from the Indian band there rose,
‡‡‡‡Sad sounds of sore dismay ;
A frightful scream of woe burst forth.
‡‡‡‡Then turned they on their way.


The cauldron deep boils from beneath,
‡‡‡‡The foaming surface shakes 
A mighty billow rolls along— 
‡‡‡‡In misty clouds it breaks :
Again recoils the flowing mass
‡‡‡‡And turns its whelming force
Still back and forward, round and on,
‡‡‡‡Such is its destined course.


Forever shall the waves revolve,
‡‡‡‡And high the billows swell ;
And fancy oft amid the roar.
‡‡‡‡Yet hears the Indian yell.
There lonely on the hurrying stream,
‡‡‡‡And on the rising hill,
Are yet observed the forest’s sons,
‡‡‡‡To sit and linger still.

Source: Cooper, James Fenimore [attributed to]. A Legend of the Whirlpool. Buffalo: Thomas & Co., 1840.

The text also contains notes that Cooper wrote about the Whirlpool before the poem; and some explanatory notes about the poem at the end. See the full text at Hathi Trust


Note on the first page: A part of this Legend was published in the United States Magazine [and Democratic Review], October 1839. It is authored by  “S. de V.,” and has the epigram: “This grand and beautiful scene is three miles from the Falls of Niagara, and four miles from the Village of Lewiston.” It can be viewed at the Hathi Trust.


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

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.

A Legend of Niagara by Florio

Upper Niagara River and Goat Island. Photograph by Andrew Porteus, 2004

An Indian, in the days of yore —
Of “fish and fur’s” abounding store —
Would cross Niagara’s stream —
Just where the river, smooth and wide,
Pours toward the gulf its treacherous tide,
Like some deceitful dream.

Near by, a bear was crossing, too :
Whose head no sooner rose to view,
Than straight the “Brave” urged his canoe
To grasp an easy prey ;
But Bruin fled not — glad to greet
A resting-place for weary feet,
He turned and swam his foe to meet,
Upon the watery way.

They met — the paddle’s blow was dealt ;
With paw received, or scarcely felt
By fur-protected bear.
Who, reaching up as for a bough,
Climbed gracefully into the prow
And sat serenely there.
The astonished “Brave” sought in his turn
The “ultima thule” of the stern,
And then sat down to stare.

And thus in armed neutrality
They sat in thoughtful “vis-à-vis,”
While the bark drifted silently
To meet the breakers white ;

But when the Indian seized an oar,
To stay his course, or seek the shore,
Admonished by an ominous roar,
He dropped it in affright :

For in those cavernous jaws he sees
Molars, incisors, cuspidés —
Enough a hero’s heart to freeze
Or dentist to delight.

More dreadful still, the angry Fall,
Like some huge monster seemed to call,
Impatient for its prey ;
And shows its breakers’ flashing teeth,
To welcome him to depths beneath ; —
And breathes its breath of spray.

Visions of fire and frying pan
Encompassed that bewildered man
(Tho’ watery fears oppressed)
And Shakspeare’s thought his bosom fills
“Better to bear our present ills
Than fly” — you know the rest.

Whether the Brave proved dainty fare,
And then the Fall devoured the bear,
Though unto them the “loss was sair”
To us is less ado :
But still, arrayed in fancy’s gleam,
Have floated down Tradition’s stream
The twain in that canoe —
And furnished to the faces pale,
The matter to “adorn a tale,”
And “point a moral,” too.

We float upon life’s lapsing tide
While toward some gulf the waters glide
With unremitting might ;
And some black bear holds us in awe,
Like the “black Care” which Horace saw
Behind the Roman knight.

We fain would seize an oar to reach
Some sylvan shore, some silvery beach ;
But still the moment miss —
For Pride, or Ease, or Care, or Fear,
Sits with o’erwhelming presence near ;
The saving hand we dare not lift,
And gently thus we drift, drift, drift,
Into the dread abyss.

Our land, which boasts that it prepares
Its morel and material wares,
Should make its legends, too :
And mixing one of native clay,
Let’s drop “a lion’s in the way,”
And in its stead hereafter say —
A bear’s in the canoe.”

Source: The Crayon, vol. 8, no. 7, July 1861.

Florio is possibly a pseudonym used by Clement Clarke Moore.  Two poems published in the New York Evening Post under the name of Florio later appeared in Moore’s 1844 book Poems, as outlined in the blog post Two Poems by Clement C. Moore, as First Published in the New York Evening Post