Within the mighty Gorge I stand alone, ‡‡But little more than those small grains of sand
Which lie unnumbered, where the wave-worn shore ‡‡Stretched out to grasp them in its open hand.
But high above the river’s mighty voice, ‡‡A crystal throat brings in its note of charm—
The steady drip of water on a ledge ‡‡Of rocks, upheaved as by some mighty arm.
O’erhead the trees, with pray’rful murmurings, ‡‡Breathe soft to all the winds that flutter by—
The breezes that but came a moment hence ‡‡And went their airy journey with a sigh.
The river winds its fretful way along, ‡‡But deep within its plaintings, great and small,
I hear the mighty Maker’s mighty voice ‡‡In thousand thund’rous accents rise and fall.
Source: Ada Elizabeth Fuller. Sunshine and Shadow: Poems by Ada Elizabeth Fuller. Niagara Falls, Ont. Ada Elizabeth Fuller, 1919
The builder who first bridged Niagara’s gorge,
Before he swung his cable, shore to shore,
Sent out across the gulf his venturing kite
Bearing a slender cord for unseen hands
To grasp upon the further cliff and draw
A greater cord, and then a greater yet;
Till at the last across the chasm swung
The cable — then the mighty bridge in air!
So we may send our little timid thought
Across the void, out to God’s reaching hands —
Send out our love and faith to thread the deep—
Thought after thought until the little cord
Has greatened to a chain no chance can break,
And we are anchored to the Infinite!
Source: Markham, Edwin, The Shoes of Happiness, and Other Poems; the Third Book of Verse. Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, Page & Co., 1915.
The Niagara Suspension Bridge was the first bridge to span the Niagara River, and was in service from 1848-1855. To get the initial cable across, a kite flying contest, pictured above, was held. Contestants used the prevailing westerly winds to fly the kites from the Canadian to the American site. 13 year old Homan Walsh won the contest. Progressively larger strings and cables were tied to the kite string and pulled across until cables could be anchored to either side and bridge construction could begin.
Niagara Falls to me is home, but so much more than just home.
In my time here, I’ve come to adore it like the comfort of an old childhood blanket, yet with the wonder and enthusiasm of a new love at same time.
When I walk down Queen Street in my silent reverie, I relish in its quaintness and the beautiful architecture of new memories, mixed with memories past.
As I drink in the warm rays of the sun through my skin so present to the miraculousness of all this city has to offer, I recognize that everything here has a special sort of charm.
From the way the curb wraps upward on River Road to the gorgeous endearing character homes to the old bridge on Queen with it’s wonderous, wild overgrowth.
And nothing more awing than the immensity of the gorge with it’s swirling, playful, mesmerizing currents of every sort.
Therapy and serenity live here for me and from what I observe, many others.
Not to mention a timeless sense of community.
Imagine a place where anyone can sit at a beautifully crafted instrument and engage in their own masterful creation outdoors.
Where you can experience culinary delights of every taste and culture.
Ride or walk along one of the wonders of the world and sip wine so thoughtfully created by those dedicated to producing something enjoyed by so many from wine to icewine to jams and jellies.
Festivals and faces of every sort of interesting.
The future, full of any possibility, for me remains the present as in my mind there is an almost indescribable perfection in what is exists as now.
When I stand in my silent reverie overlooking the river while the water sparkles and dances to a natural silent melody, I know I am home, but not just home, somewhere that is so much more than just home to me and I believe so many more.
Source: April Jones, 2019
A Most Beautiful Space on Earth was originally an entry in the 2019 Niagara Falls Writer’s Festival Poetry Contest. The contest was cancelled.
April Jones is a real estate agent as well as being employed with a winery, which she feel allows for her to engage in two passions of hers, and wine is obviously something this region is well known for as well as by trade, which to her is creative and fascinating. Jones loves anything creative from reading to writing to visual art of most any media. She moved to Niagara three years prior with my three children from Toronto and fell in love with the region instantly, and she feels like her love affair with it has only deepened and will continue to. She is grateful to share her experience of a place almost indescribable to her.
June 17, 1848. Charles Ellet, Jr., the civil engineer who designed the suspension bridge soon to be built over Niagara Falls, today tested the service span to be used in its construction by driving his horse across the planking. – Brooklyn Eagle
I, Charles Ellet, Jr., licensed engineer
son of a provident Quaker farmer
now stand at the gorge where Niagara Falls
offers a prospect so sublime no rival
as yet is known on this great globe of ours.
Let men deride me as actor, rainmaker;
let it be said of me that I have loved
all carriageways and catwalks, all defiles
wide gaps and narrow verges to be bridged
am fond of women and horses equally
although the latter’s sensibility
is plainer far to read. However much
respect I hold for Nature’s rash downrush
her virginal ebullience, I itch
to take it in the compass of my fingers.
One does not “break” a horse, but wins its trust.
With towers and cables, not brute trusses;
with tact, not tug; suspension, not piled piers
I mean to overarch this wild splendor.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡* * *
Let them think me odd who see as if
asleep my silent self reflecting how
to span the rapids boiling at my feet
two hundred forty feet below the cliff
to be exact. An arrow from a bow?
A bird or a balloon? Why not a kite?
A kite could soar across the open rift!
The public loves such deeds. I’ll offer a prize,
a decent sort of prize, say five gold dollars
to the first man or boy who sends his string
to Canada.** The placard up three days
a local gap-toothed lad steps forth to win —
a widow’s son, shy skinny Homan Walsh.
He’s going to outlive me. Will he grow
up bold, race Thoroughbreds, get rich
performing acts of wild derring-do?
I don’t at this point know, nor know that
I’m to die a colonel in the Civil War
a hero slain leading a charge of rams
— warships rigged to ram opponents’ hulls —
on The Big Muddy to rout the Confederates.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡* * *
Backward looks are licensed. To look for-
ward isn’t done; is not acceptable.
But give me leave to leap beyond the date
of my flamboyance, 1848,
and introduce High-Jumping Sam: Sam Patch
clad all in white, who dives from the cliff into
the rainbowed pool at the foot of the cataract
and not content with one dive, makes it two.
Reprises at Genesee and straightway drowns.
Or Blondin in ’59 adored by thousands
who cheer his tightrope walk across the chasm.
He’ll have a score of successors, circus clowns
who mock the danger, simulate cold fear
half-fall, recover and go blithely on
some piggyback, some skipping rope, afire
with the same lust for fame and fortune
as those who dare chute down the drop in barrels.
The first a cooper proving his staves would hold
then scores of imitators taking the falls
by barrel, boat and cork, a steady parade
of madmen. And always the suicides . . .
Dramatic death! Love also knows no season.
Though bliss be brief that attends unbridled passion
romantic couples will hasten by canal
or rail to flaunt their ecstatic portion
fulfill the fleeting period of joy
that one wag titles “honey-lunacy.”
Some say the falls gently distract the lovers’
overweening focus on one another.
Some say the tumult of the cataract
conceals the newlyweds’ embarrassment
caught, as it were, in the rapturous nuptial act.
Others aver the falls’ ceaseless descent
evokes a rich manly response. Some brides
claim happy negative ions are produced
by falling water. You may take your choice
of savants, sages and hypotheses
but thus Niagara will come to boast
hotels and curio shops and carriage-rides
to vistas for photos of the just-now wived.
Skeptic I am, unmarried by design.
Still, might not the spectacle conjoin
male and female qualities into one?
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡* * *
Now let us turn back from this clairvoyant
glimpse to the day that Homan’s kite string held.
I tie it to a somewhat stouter cord
and next, a heavier one of finespun wire
and ever-mightier cables to support stout
wooden planks until from shore to shore,
just wide enough to let a phaeton pass,
a catwalk spans the gorge. The boards are spaced
to let rainwater through. Side rails? None.
I test it harshly across and back, first at
a walk, then jog, then crow-hop up and down
assured that it will hold. Once I trust it
I harness up my mare, to show she will.
A chestnut Morgan, foaled in my own barn
and trained to voice commands the way a skilled
driving horse need be, to keep from harm.
Vixen by name but not by temperament,
spirited, willing and confident.
Do not mistake submission, the highest
accolade man can bestow on a horse,
with truckling subservience. The mare must trust
the steady justice of the driver’s hand.
Fingers that speak, not snatch; a voice
that soothes and urges but withholds choice.
Vixen and I prepare to take our stand.
I stand up in the cart as in a chariot
the better she may sense we are allied
and ask her to move off at a rapid trot.
She never casts a glance to either side.
The crowd is aghast. Several women swoon.
The catwalk sways most fearfully but holds
beneath the mare and horseman in the sky
and that is how we cross, Vixen, my bold
partner, and I, Charles Ellet, Jr.,
bridge builder, licensed engineer.
**The kites were actually flown from Canada to the United States using the prevailing westerly winds.
Source: Kumin, Maxine. “The Bridge Builder.” TriQuarterly, Winter 1995, p. 162-166.
Also published in her 11th book of poems, Connecting the Dots, Norton, 1996
Maxine Kumin (June 6, 1925 – February 6, 2014) was an American author and poet who won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1973. She was the Library of Congress Poet Laureate for 1981-1982
See Niagara’s torrent pour over the height, ‡‡How rapid the stream! how majestic the flood
Rolls on, and descends in the strength of his might, ‡‡As a monstrous great frog leaps into the mud!
Then, see, o’er the waters, in beauty divine, ‡‡The rainbow arising, to gild the profound ― The Iris, in which all the colours combine, ‡‡Like the yellow and red in a calico “gownd!”
How splendid that rainbow! how grand is the glare ‡‡Of the sun through the mist, as it fervently glows,
When the spray with its moisture besprinkles the air ‡‡As an old washerwoman besprinkles her clothes!
Then, see, at the depth of the awful abyss, ‡‡The whirlpool careering with limitless power,
Where the waters revolve perpetually round. ‡‡As a cooper revolves round a barrel of flour!
The roar of the waters! sublime is the sound ‡‡Which forever is heard from the cataract’s steep!
How grand! how majestic! how vast! how profound! ‡‡Like the snore of a pig when he’s buried in sleep!
The strong mountain oak and the tall towering pine, ‡‡When plunged o’er the steep with a crack and a roar,
Are dashed into atoms ― to fragments as fine ‡‡As a pipe when ‘t is thrown on a hard marble floor!
And O! should some mortal ― how dreadful the doom!― ‡‡Descend to the spot where the whirlpool carouses,
Alas! he would find there a rocky tomb, ‡‡Or, at least, he’d be likely to fracture his “trowsers!”