Under the Locust Boughs by Tom Lloyd Finlayson

To “J.” — written under the locust trees along the banks of the Niagara


Ussher’s Creek at the Niagara River Parkway
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

In a realm of song and shine,
Where God’s sweetest wild flowers twine,
By Niagara’s singing stream,
Last night in a golden dream,
Wandered I, while at my side
Was a laughing maid, blue-eyed.
Spun from the silk of the corn
Were her tresses, waist length worn;
Fragile, as small pinkest shells
Her wee ears; like jingling bells
Tinkling in the soul of me
Her pure laugh of ecstacy.
Underneath the blossoming boughs
Of the locust, tender vows
Once again our young hearts made;
While the violins that played
Of the breeze, through blooms above,
Thrilled our souls with God’s first love

Source: Tom Lloyd Finlayson. Songs of Niagara Frontier and Other Poems; Autographed by the Author. St. Thomas, Sutherland Press, Limited. n.d.

Judging from the locations mentioned in the poems in this pamphlet it seems that Finlayson spent his childhood in Fort Erie, Ontario.

Morning at the Falls by G. W. Cutter


View of Niagara Falls from the American Side, 1850
by A.M. Fraser. Colour tint by Jane Merryweather
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Tis morning, and the vapors white
Towering on high, reflect the light
Back in a flood of glittering gems,
….As if the genii of the air
Their baldricks and their diadems
….In hecatombs were offering there ;
‘Tis morning, and the foliage green,
O’er that gulf is deck’d with silver sheen ; 
A pearly shower as softly lies,
….As bright, as sweetly there reposes,
As ever fell from summer skies
….Upon an orient vale of roses.

The cedar twining o’er the rock
As iftwere conscious of the shock ;
The earthquake of that ocean tide,
….That, pouring, rushing evermore,
Like rolling avalanches glide
….And foam along the shore,
Bears on the emerald crown it wears,
….Gems brighter than have ever lain
Upon the young and tender leaves
….Where softly fell the gentle rain ;
When Flora’s lovely censers fling
Their incense o’er the shrine of spring.

It is indeed a fearful thing,
….A moment we shall ne’er forget,
To stand where e’en the eagle’s wing
….Has never dared to venture yet ;
To mark the volumed vapor white
….Roll up as from a mighty altar,
And feel upon that dizzy hight
….The eternal rock beneath us falter, 
While thousand rainbows fade and flash 
….O’er the crash’d waters as they flow,
And from our very footsteps crash
….In mist and thunder far below,
To know that till the Almighty hand
….Shallroll together as a scroll”
The utmost verge of sea and land,
….That mighty stream shall foam and fall ;
That when our puny frames forgot 
….In death shall sleep full many a year, 
Then other eyes shall hail this spot
….And gaze as we are gazing here.

Source: G.W. Cutter. Poems and Fugitive Pieces. Cincinnati: Moore, Wilstach, Keys & Co., 1857

Read about G.W. Cutter


Visit of the Sunbeams to the Falls of Niagara by M.F. Bigney

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

 orient realms, in depths of space afar, 
Young sunbeams travel in their golden car ; 
Lightly they glance along old Ocean’s breast, 
Enkindling  sea-gems on each wavelet’s crest ; 
O’er flow’ry plains and verdant fields they pass, 
Where dewy pearls adorn each blade of grass— 
Where fragrance rises from the tears of Night 
When smiled on by these messengers of light, 
These angel visitants of earth, whose ray 
Receives its lustre from the God of Day.

Away, away they speed—and many a grove 
Sends forth its tuneful melodies to rove 
Amid the brightness of their path, and sing 
A mournful anthem on exultant wing. 
Still on they pass—the cottage and the hall, 
The snow-crown’d mount, the ivied castle wall, 
The rich man’s mansion and the poor man’s home 
Are lighted by their presence as they roam.

Beside Niagara, entranced, I stood, 
Awed by the thunder of its falling flood, 
Stilled by the voice of its eternal roar, 
Passions were lull’d and fancy taught to soar.

‘Twas early morn, and as the Sunbeams came 
In golden grandeur from a world of flame, 
They reveled in their brightness, mid the trees, 
Whose fresh leaves fluttered in the whisp’ring breeze,
Then rested, old Niagara, on thee—
Sov’reign of streams and type of majesty !
Thy smiling courtiers, rising from thy feet,
Rise up on wings of amber-mist to greet
Sol’s bright ambassadors—they meetthey bring 
A rainbow-wreath to crown the Cascade King ! 
‘Twas brightly beautiful ! its changeful hues 
Were brilliant as the love-dreams of the muse ; 
While blending glories glittered in each gem 
Set in that fair supernal diadem.

On pass thy Sunbeams and the vapors bright 
In mystic dance of loveliness and light ; 
Wildly they wander through the fields of air, 
Or stoop to kiss sweet Flora’s children fair ; 
New charms expand in the bright, beauteous race, 
And fragrance welcomes still the fond embrace ; 
With ever-varying tint each petal glows,
The smiling lily hails the blushing rose—
Still on they go, through garden, field and grove, 
la ceaseless rounds of harmony and love !

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 Nautilas” has often been quoted.

Niagara by Richard Edwin Day

Niagara Falls From Goat Island
by J. Hill, 1888.
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

 that runnest with tempestuous note,
‡‡With rioting eddies and tumultuous tide 
And maelstroms struggling in the chasm’s throat, 
‡‡A thousand tempests in thine onset ride ; 
‡‡A thousand storms, whose thunders never died 
When o’er the misty meadows of the air
‡‡The volleying clouds were scattered far and wide, 
Charge in mad wheel, like furious horsemen where 
Their frothing squadrons plunge around the embattled square.

But as thy waters throng the sheer decline,
‡‡What image in the mind’s fantastic world  
Of mighty cavalry down some path malign,
‡‡Unseen, unguessed, with trampling turmoil whirled ;
‡‡Or of innumerable bison hurled
Before the hunters to a cañon’s deep,
‡‡And myriads on rushing myriads swirled 
Over the maddening and horrid steep  
But sinks before thy unimaginable sweep 

Far other is the vision of thy strength
‡‡Where the dire tumults fail in murmurs low : 
Like level-lying lawns is thy green length, 
‡‡And meadow-white the great foam-blossoms blow. 
‡‡Beside thy bank, which evergreens o’ergrow, 
Most like a flower-strewn Titan thou dost dream  
‡‡After some vast primeval labor’s throe 
And the far cataract’s snows glide and gleam 
Thicker than star-foam on the Milky Way’s dark stream.

Methinks, brave river, muttering in thy jar
‡‡Ponderous syllables of an age-old tongue,  
Heir of some boisterous sea once billowing far,
‡‡Strength of the old world’s loins when time was young,
‡‡I hear thee faintlier chant a pæan flung 
Along thy footpath, in Earth’s rugged prime,
‡‡When from a grander steep thy challenge rung, 
And vapors rose on pillars more sublime
‡‡To where thy rainbow’s unsubstantial arches climb.

Emblem of youth eternal, in whose course
‡‡A thousand years are as the vasty surge
That every moment crashes, loud and hoarse, 
‡‡Into the torment of the whelming gurge,
‡‡Why do thy floods such march impetuous urge ? 
No sovereign voice exhorts thy restless tide
‡‡In one impatient hour its life to merge, 
Lest some unconquered good may yet abide 
When thy spent waters in the solemn sea subside.

Thy lips do swallow up my tiny voice ;
‡‡My thoughts lie baffled in thy torrent’s spell. 
Yet in thy shock and riot I rejoice,
‡‡Type of humanity when life did well
‡‡Lavish and buoyant as thy chanting swell, 
When all its days to stormy music ran,
‡‡Unconscious of the sea-goal seaward fell ; 
When laughter like thy spray flew in its van ; 
And as thy chainless flow was the free heart of man.

Source: Richard Edwin Day. Poems. New York: Cassell & Co., 1888

At Niagara by Clark W. Bryan

The American Falls from Below
illustration for this poem from Good Housekeeping Magazine


GREAT waters gathered from far mountain streams,
From murmuring rivulets, rushing rivers,
And broadened lakes enchained with silvery links,
All held within the hollow of God’s Hand,
To be poured boldly, generously out
Upon His trembling footstool, swinging now
In space, that once was without form and void.

To look and listen where these waters fall,
Grave thoughts come thick and fast, but words are few ;
The inmost soul fain lists and looks in awe,
And yet how forcefully it throbs against
Its prison walls, as if to tear away
The shreds of flesh and nerve that bind it fast.

Sentiment keeps silence, thought steals away,
Erewhile such Real Presence passes by ;
Idea wanders aimlessly about,
Anear the throne of such immensity,
Where grandeur and magnificence hold sway
’ Mid rolling thunder’s warring elements,
Above the fearful sweep of perilous descent,
Rushing down ‘ neath bending bows of beauty,
In diapason deep, in whelming sound,
And sending up along its rocky balustrade,
The smoke of incense to the Heavens above.

From seething caldrons full and overflowing,
Where witches wild and furies fierce come up,
From seething wells of foam, enclosed and held
By rocky walls, by cliff and precipice,
By frowning battlements worn and beaten,
Seamed and scarred by gathering storms of years,
By telling ravages of Time and Age,
But holding well and firmly their allotted place
As when “ In the beginning ” it was said,
By Him, “ Let there be light ; and there was light. ”

Niagara ! where rainbows rest in beauty,
Where majesty sublime sits full enthroned,
Where Power Eternal walks and waits,
Where weak and finite strength dares not approach
The Infinite, mankind full well may gaze,
May listen , meditate and moralize,
Coming not too near, but worshiping afar,
May ask, “ Who built these ribbed and rocky walls ?
“ Who pours these gathered rapids with such force,
“ Headlong adown their steep and rugged way,
“ Into the fathomless abyss below ?
“ Who holds these foaming torrents in their place,
“ Taking their full measure, calms their violence,
“ And bids them go in peace again , to bear
“ The sails of commerce and to turn the wheels
“ Of the great world’s industries anew ? ”

‘ Twere well to ask, and those who ask and say
There is no God, may look and list and learn
A lesson full of meaning and of moment,
From out the book of nature, boldly spread
Before the eyes of man above, below,
Or near where falls the waters of Niagara.

Such restless volume ever flowing on,
And falling ever ; always following
Closely in the wake of what has gone before,
Plunging madly down this fearful cataract,
On through angry whirlpools, grand old gorges,
Soon calmly waiting in some sleeping lake,
Or held in close embrace by sunny slopes
Or broad and bending river, dotted thick
At times with rock-bound, leaf-embowered
Homes of water nymphs on Isles of Thousands,
Where beauty reigns and rest for man is found.

Great waters , moving on , in motion ever,
As though from out the world of which we know,
Away to distant realms of unknown seas ,
Where “ deep calleth unto deep,” and where
The streams that once dashed down Niagara’s rocks,
So weird and wild are now engulfed and lose
Themselves among the ceaseless rolling billows
Of the boundless ocean—going out in turn,
From mountain brooks, from restless rivers,
And placid lakes, as from the stream of Time,
Into the realms of a vast Eternity ;
Rolling ever on, ever and forever,
Where proudly stand Niagara’s world-famed rocks,
Mirroring in thought the earthly life of man,
From mountain rill, rough water-tides and currents,
Each in their course presenting features rich and rare ;
Intermingling reverent thought with low inquiry : —
“ Who poureth all these waters from His hands, ”
“ From which uprise the thunders of Niagara ? ”

To answer give to inquiries that come
Forcefully to the human soul and sense,
While sitting at Niagara’s feet,
With eyes and ears filled with all the wondrous
Sights and sounds which there come crowding in upon
The contemplative mind, wrapt in reverent thought,
Where whirlwinds roar, and incense rises
Heavenward, the human voice dares not give
Answer to these soul questionings at once : —
“ Who poureth all these waters from His hands ? ”
“ Who holdeth them in bounds so close and firm ? ”
“ Who bids them go in peace from out their rocky
“ Fastnesses ? Who sends them forth in peaceful
“ Paths toward the sea, o’erwhelmed and lost,
“ Within the boundless realms of waves and tides
“ And billows ? ”
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Man may not boldly venture
To reply, where heavenward rise the thunders
Of Niagara’s fall .

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡But still there comes
The same inquiry, whether within hearing
Of the deafening roar of wind and wave,
Or out upon Ontario’s placid face,
Or down the restless rapids of St. Lawrence,
In its course, or when engulfed within the
Billowy embrace of the broad Atlantic,
Holding itself in quick abeyance to a
Spirit nature that falls in tones sublime
Upon the mortal ear, save to recite
From out the book of Holy Writ, wherein
We read that in the Morning of Creation
The bounds were set and lines were closely drawn
Between “ the waters under the heavens,
And the dry land called earth ” for aye and ever.

God ” saw that this was good ,” and ever hence
Have poured, and continually will pour, in bounds
Already set,, on through coming ages,
And pass unchanged, the waters At Niagara.

Source: Good Housekeeping, February, 1894

Bryan was the founder and editor (1885-1899) of Good Housekeeping magazine. Read more about Bryan here.