Flower of Niagara by Hannah F. Gould

“Before the writer is a delicate white Anemone, plucked from under the water-sheet at Niagara Falls. It was found quietly growing in a crevice of the limestone bed that, on one hand, flanks the perilous passage beneath the cataract.”

Hannah Flagg Gould

Flower of Niagara, — spirit-like flower!
‡‡High is the language thou speak’st to the soul ;
Grand is thy birthplace of splendor and power, —
‡‡Only “Omnipotence” traced on the whole.

Floods in the cataract curtained thy bed,
‡‡Awful, — stupendous, — high over thee hung ;
Damp from their sweep thy soft infancy fed,
‡‡Thunders eternal thy lullaby sung.

Rushing, and raging, with fierceness and foam,
‡‡Proud as the angels who fell from their bliss,
Plunged the bold waters, o’ershooting thy home,
‡‡Howling and wild, to their wrathful abyss.

Sure but a step was between him and death,
‡‡Who ventured forth to thy wondrous retreat :
Only one foot-slip, — one careless-drawn breath, —
‡‡Then but once more had his life-pulse to beat !

Yet, little tenderling, still didst thou bide
‡‡Lone in thy crevice, all fair and serene ;
Ever surveying its stormy outside,
‡‡Mild and unawed by the turbulent scene.

There wast thou safe as a pearl in its shell
‡‡‘Mid a whole ocean of tumult and sound; —
Calm as an anchoret bowed in his cell,
‡‡Whilst war and hurricane ravage the ground.

What was thy confidence, — who was thy stay,
‡‡When the loud waters swift o’er thee were driven,
Headlong to fall, throwing up the mad spray
‡‡Aimed like weak insults of rebels to Heaven ?

Still not a shock jarred thy root or thy stem, —
‡‡No heavy drop struck a petal of thine ;
Thou wast secure as a beautiful gem
‡‡Placed in the niche from a finger divine.

Say, sweet Anemone ! say, didst thou know
‡‡What the whole storm of the cataract spanned, —
O’er it, how God bent his glorious bow,
‡‡Guiding the flood by a sign of his hand ?

Then didst thou hear, in the distance remote,
‡‡How in its lines the strong element ran,
Tamed and assuaged, — on its bosom afloat
‡‡Bearing the treasures and life-boat of man?

Firm in thy measureless fortress of stone,
‡‡Leaning wast thou on the Deity’s will,
Meek as a spirit that kneels at his throne,
‡‡Waiting his holy design to fulfil.

Thence art thou come on thy mission to me,
‡‡Mild little angel in floral disguise !
Speaking with import profound as the sea, —
‡‡Bright as the stars, and sublime as the skies !

Who could thy home and thy structure behold,
‡‡His love and care ever present to doubt,
Whose viewless hand wrought thy delicate mould,
‡‡Nursed thee, and rolled the dread water-sheets out?

Think, weary soul whom earth’s trials assail,
‡‡When for thy faith comes the dubious hour, —
Lest o’er its strength the loud terrors prevail, —
‡‡Think of the tender Niagara Flower.

He who evoked the soft bud in the rock
‡‡Will not leave thee in the conflict alone !
He loseth never a lamb of his flock, —
‡‡Droppeth no jewel he marks as his own !

Source:  Hannah Flagg Gould.  New Poems by Miss Hannah F. Gould.  Boston, F. J. Reynolds & Co., 1850

Read about Gould here

Niagara Visited in Autumn by Gurdon Huntington

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

Here in great Nature’s gorgeous fane we stand,
Where grand libation endlessly is poured,
And incense soars aloft forevermore :
Th’ Almighty King the offering receives,
And on the rising cloud of homage hangs
His bow of promise and of grace.
How fair and gladdening ( as a dream of love
And of the pure, fond bliss of childhood’s hours
To the mind torn and tortured by stern grief
And vexed by sullen gusts of wild despair, )
Shines near the foaming, furious cataract,
This promise writ in rich-hued beams of light !
Here swells in Nature’s temple thro’ all years
Her hymn of praise, while sound the thunder-tones
Of her great organ builded not by man,
Shaking the bases and the rock-reared walls.
The rich, dark evergreens with icy fringe
Hang sparkling now beside the dread abyss.
They seem like a swarthy queen in jewel’d gear,
With divers prized and fond attendants by,
As Cleopatra decking for the step
Adown the fearful steeps of death to realms
Of mist and shades.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡How beautiful yon grove
In all the wildness and the majesty
Of Nature’s primitive growth ! Rich mosses wrapt
Around the noble trunks are velvety
In colors brightened and bedewed with spray.
The tiny flower which blooms upon the sod,
Like it, is freshened in the flying mists
Which breathe their welcome day-dews thro’ these trees :
And hence, we, charmed with matchless beauty, learn
True greatness hath a ministry of love,
E’en for the humble and obscure, as for
The gorgeous and the stately in their hour
Of need and décadence.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Yon beetling cliffs
Which dark and dizzy, rise above the flood,
Adorned with crimson , pendent trees like vines,
Graceful and young , are types of strength,
The glorious architecture of a hand
Divine and infinite in power. And here,
Below the falling sheet, where foams the flood
With ceaseless roar and ever furious gusts
of rack and wind, — in this dim cave
The poet well might feign the genius fair
of this enchanting, gorgeous spot had shone
At twilight when no other eye beheld ;
As beamed the bright nymph thro’ the sparkling spray
Unto the eye of Manfred ’mid the wild, —
Th’ embodied, rich – hued glory of the scene.
If here the spirit of the Indian brave
Dwelleth amid the flying mists of the mad
And fearful cataract, ( its grander traits
Conspiring in his stern , etherial shape ; )
Forth from the poet’s imaged sprite doth glow
The light, the hues, the fresh , eternal charm
Of waters and of rocks and moss and flowers,
Of sun-bows and of foam-washed crystals clear,
The sparkle and the rich and bloomy grace
Which in the lovelier features of the scene
Adorn the spot as Nature’s glorious shrine.
This noble gem of scenic beauty set
Upon the swelling breast of Earth, hath, too ,
Its fair and delicate chasings as surroundings meet.

Source: Rev. Gurdon Huntington. The Shadowy Land, and Other Poems.  New York: James Miller, 1861.

From Rev. E.B. Huntington. A Genealogical Memoir of the Huntington Family in This Country, Embracing All the Known Descendents of Simon and Margaret Huntington.  Stamford, Conn.: The Author, 1863

GURDON, born Nov. 27, 1818, graduated at Hamilton College, 1838.
Ordained deacon of the Prot. Episcopal church, July 2, 1848, and presbyter, April 14, 1851. He was invited to Simmonsville, and Spraguesville, R. I., in 1848, from which post he went to Pottersville, N. Y., May, 1850. Called to Christ’s church, Sackett’s Harbor, N. Y., April 6, 1852, and to Sag Harbor, June 11, 1856, where he is now engaged. He has devoted much of his time to literature, and from early in his course, as student, has used a ready and skillful pen. His contributions to our poetic literature have been quite numerous, among which are the ” Shadowy Land,” now in press; “The Guests of Brazil;” ” The Romance of the Indian Country and its Tribes;” ” Washington at the Battle of Princeton;” “The Watery World;” ” The Mohawk River;” “Tuxedo Lake;” ” Genevieve ;” “Musings at Evening Hours ;” ” Child of Immortality;” “The Steamship.” Three of his poems, on public occasions, have also been printed: on ” Confidence and Affection,” &c. ; “Dignity and Triumphs of Mental and Moral Culture;” “Providence ;” and a prose essay on “The Conditions and Materials of Poetry.” His poem at the Huntington meeting, Sept. 3, 1857, appears in this book. He was married, Jan. 22, 1852, to Sarah Gold Sill, who died in Sag Harbor, Jan. 31, 1858. He married, the second time, Oct. 25, 1859, Miss Charlotte Marsh Sill, of Rome, N. Y.

Ode to Niagara by William Chambers Wilbor

Panorama view of Niagara Falls, river and gorge, from Victoria Park, Canada, 1913, by David Ellis. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

From far-famed lofty Table Rock, in wide-
Extending vision, I behold, entranced,
The magnitude and symmetry of thy
Proportions. In one grand panoramic
Picture thou stretchest out before me — thy
Spacious overflowing gulf, thy distant
Falling flood, an avalanche of silver
Sheen, thy wooded islands’ intervening
Crags, and, near at hand, thy massive bending
Horseshoe : while far above the ascending
Rapids thy broad expanse of azure waves
Blend with the skies which frame the inspiring scene.

Long ages past, when the primeval woods
Sheltered thy banks, and fierce barbaric tribes
Threaded the forest trails to look on thee
And listen to thy voice, they felt in their
Untutored hearts the presence here of the
Great Spirit brooding o’er thy heights sublime
And foaming depths profound.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Fit temple art
Thou for the living God. Nature perpetual
Sabbath keeps within thy precincts, and man’s
Soul, awed by the thunder of thy deep tones,
Hushes the discords of a world of strife
And, low before the universe’s King,
In spirit worships and with him communes.

Cool breezes blow thy mists between thee and
Mine eyes, yet, by thy roar, I surely know
Thou rollest on in that uneven course through
Which thy way hast led long eons while the
Feet of those who on thee gaze forever
Vanish from thy side. Vapors are transient.
Soon the sun’s warm rays suspend before thy
Face serene a double rainbow. Lo, the
Zephyrs die, all clouds disperse, and thy clear
Sapphire-emerald blending hues gleam fresh and
Bright in the transparent air.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Upon the
Calm, still bosom of thy stream the gliding,
Flashing waters flow, with ever-quickening
Pace, to make the awful plunge of thy vast
Cataract; then, placid for a while, press
On impetuous downward through thy gorge, ‘twixt
Palisades of high-built walls of rock, like
Herds of wild unbridled steeds rearing and
Rushing on through eddying whirlpool’s mad
Uproarious waves, till they find rest at
Length in the smooth deeps of plains beyond,
And fall asleep in blue Ontario.

Poised in the path of thy swift-flowing surge
Enchanting isles divide thy fleet cascades
And hang suspended on the dizzy edge
Of towering precipice and beetling cliff.
Secluded dells, ‘neath grateful shade of trees
With many a winding way ‘mid fairy
Bowers, are decked with feathery foliage
Of silver birch and spruce. Festooning vines
Of the wild grape there diadem thy brows
With verdant chaplets twined with sylvan grace.

Within this paradise restored the mind
May think upon thy gentler, softer lines
As, far below, upon thy splendor and
Sublimity, it views the no less skillful
Handiwork of God, and lauds his boundless
Wisdom and love of all things beautiful.

Within thy drenched and gloomy Cave of Winds
I hear, appalled, the loud and dreadful crash
And uproar of thy frightful leap, and learn
Anew thy measureless and matchless power.
Like liquid veil thy crystal deluge falls
With headlong speed and far-resounding rage,
Dashing its weight of water on shattered
Trembling ledge of stone, escapes in glistening
Effervescent surf, and whirls along to
Join the fleeing billows which haste away
From the dread home of chaos and dispute.

The Rock of Ages rising at thy feet.
Where strike most furiously thy ponderous blows,
Bears all the swellings of thy tempest great
Unmoved. It braves the o’erwhelming shock
And stands for aye the symbol of that Rock
Which holds the Christian faith secure and strong
‘Mid ceaseless conflicts in a realm of doubt.

Thou hast for me a weird, unearthly charm
At midnight, when thy melody has lulled
To rest the multitudes who throng thy side
By day. Then the faint gleam of twinkling stars
And crescent moon their dim rays shed upon
Thy curved crest, and weave a halo soft,
Unknown to glaring light, which crowns thee with
A mystic glory and a shadowy glow.

There in the solitude and on the brink
Of thy unseen abyss, with darkness filled.
The sound of many waters and the ghostly
Sheet of foam about thee, are speech and forms
Of other worlds to me. Amazed, and with
‘Bated breath, I seem to stand, upon the
Verge of time, alone with thy Creator.

Thy strange caprice in winter I behold
With admiration and surprise as, of
Thy cloudlike spray frozen to Parian
Marble, thou carvest images grotesque,
And, drooping from laden branch of tree and
Shrub, thou hangest wreaths of ivory and
Coral white, and drap’st with purity all
That yield to the influence of thy magic spell.
While, at the foot of thy great waterfall,
There grows from day to day, an icy mount
Almost to level of thine altitude.
While, far beneath thy jagged bridge of ice,
Which spans thy hidden bed; thou hurriest on,
Resisting all constraint of frost and snow.

Eternity is symboled in thy strong,
Full, ceaseless life through an unmeasured flight
Of years. A hand omnipotent, from earth’s
Reservoirs exhaustless, pours within the
Brimming shores of thy swift, unresting waves
Floods ever full yet ever new supplied.
Thou teachest all who come to learn of thee
The endless length and breadth and depth and height
Of beauty, grandeur, and of power divine.

Thou runnest on unchanged by aught that e’er
Transpires among the races of the earth.
Kings rise to power and pass away. Armies
Are mustered in, and nations’ destinies
Are sealed upon the battlefields where they
Forever disappear. Generations
Come and go unheeded and unmarked by
Thee, as, ever moving on, defiant of
The lapse of time, thy rugged stream flows through
The long unnumbered centuries the same.

Source: William Chambers Wilbor.  Ode to Niagara. Buffalo: C.E. Brinkworth, 1907

Also published in his Ode to Niagara and Other Poems. New York: Eaton & Mains; Cincinnati: Jennings & Graham, 1911.
(Some punctuation differs in this edition)

Bear and Falls by James McIntyre


Strange incidents do happen ever
On the famed Niagara river,
This thought to mind it now recalls
Event three miles above the falls.

Thrilling ventures there abound,
A bear which weighed eight hundred pounds,
Hunters they do him discover
As he was swimming down the river.

They felt he would be glorious prize
This grand fat bear of mighty size,
Three men they jump’d into canoe,
A skilful and determined crew.

Soon alongside of him they row,
But kindly feelings he doth show,
Quick he scrambled o’er the boat side
For to enjoy a good boat ride.

And as o’er the side he straddles
They hit him on head with paddles,
But all in vain, so two of crew
A short time bade the bear adieu.

And soon they swiftly swam to shore,
But current down the river bore
Man, bear and boat, the sound appals
Of roaring mighty water falls.

But vigorous now he plys the oar,
In hopes to safely reach the shore,
But this made bear to grin and growl
And wear on brow a horrid scowl.

So poor man sore against his will
Finds that in boat he must keep still,
Or else be hugged to death by bear,
While sound of falls becomes more near.

But his two friends so brave and true
Row quick ’longside in a canoe,
And fire in bruin leaden balls,
Thus saving friend from bear and falls.

Source: McIntyre, James. Poems of James McIntyre.  Ingersoll: The Chronicle, 1889.

Biography of James McIntyre in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

At the Head of the Falls by Kim Clarke Champniss

Looking Toward the Brink of Niagara Falls From Opposite the Old Scow. Photo by Kim Clarke Champniss

I am here now
Amid sacred calm
Amid white noise
Amid white water
Amid summer’s call

I am here now
Opposite the scow
Stranded on the rocks
A rusting man
At the head of the Falls.

I am here now
Amid Nature’s beauty
Amid eternal power
Amid endless Love
Amid the mystery of it all

I am here now
Under spreading maple trees
Beneath gulls gliding on the breeze
Upstream from crowds
Packed in amusement halls.

I am here now
Amid regal silence
Amid unknown history
Beside the river of time
Close to truth beyond the wired wall.

I am here now
Caught, like we all are,
In gravity’s deadly pull.
I am here now
In grateful solitude
At the head of the Falls.

Source: Kim Clarke Champniss. https://kimchampniss.wordpress.com/2018/08/13/at-the-head-of-the-falls/    August 13, 2018.

Biography of Kim Clarke Champniss