Under the Locust Boughs by Tom Lloyd Finlayson

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

locust

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.

Rivers of Light by Wayne Ritchie

 
wayne

A Canopy of Trees
Photo supplied by Wayne Ritchie

I often look up and into the sky.
I’m guessing, Heaven only knows the reason why.
WhenI get lonesome as I usually do.
I contemplate about the time spent with you. 
My youthful years went by far too quick.
Looking up into heaven for my uncle Nick.
Being my Cub Scout leader teaching me well.
Learned a lot more, it’s amazing to tell.
Laying on my back, I see rivers of light.
I can see water flowing. It’s a wonderful sight.
He taught the boys to row a canoe.
Down through the rapids here’s what you do.
With a paddle you could make water flow.
Making your vessel travel where you wanted to go.
Tops of the trees have plenty of leaves. 
Rivers of light flowing thanks to the breeze.
One Summer we circumnavigated around the Great lakes.
We learned from his talking, by our mistakes.
I remember a river that became Niagara Falls.
The swift mighty river that became river stalls.
Rivers of my youth flowed like blood in my veins.
Learned to build fires when no one complains. 
He loved to joke, here’s one of his best.
His laughter made tears, let’s get some rest.
Folks should know you can’t drink Canada Dry.
The answer is easy, just ask yourself why.
The answer is as comfortable as nightly dreams.
Canada has too many lakes, rivers, and streams.
Nighttime fell upon my campsite under the trees.
The rivers went dark, went to my knees.
Giving thanks to the Lord for the view.
So very thankful that I can tell you.
Open your eyes to the great sights we see.
There all around us, take it from me.


Source: Wayne Ritchie, 2023

At the time of submitting this poem, Wayne Ritchie was 73 years old and had been writing poetry and short stories for 60 years.

My First Visit to Niagara Falls by Wayne Ritchie

Fisherman in the Niagara River Near the Brink of the Falls. March 2003
Photo by Andrew Porteus

The forest is so quiet and I don’t know why.
Yes it’s all up to the man in the sky.
I’ve heard the water but I never saw it fall.
Now I know why humans come for the thrill of it all.
The animal kingdom keeps saying the world’s lost its cool.
The whole human race has turned into a gigantic fool.
Not one single human ventures out from their tiny abode.
My guess is humans think the world’s ready to explode.
It’s hotter in the summer and colder when it snows.
They always blame global warming however Mother Nature really knows.
Well I saw for myself, stepped out taking a chance.
Never knew falling water knew how to shimmy and dance.
The sound is so deafening, it is hurting my ears.
Water is splashing my face like I’m filled with tears.
Feels so cold to the touch, I’d love a taste.
It’s pure energy and it is all going to waste.
A sad state of affairs when no humans are around.
I really can’t get over how quiet the peaceful sound.
No roaring cars on the road with their bright lights.
It’s so much safer when I’m walking alone at nights.
I have always wondered where does this water all flow?  
One day I shall follow it, I’m quisitive you know.
Does this flow into a river, to a very large lake?
It’s a life changing moment, I know I should take.
As for now I’ll just stand here and admire the view.
I’ll pretend the wind is a human, like I’m talking to you.
Wait! Is that a human fishing down on the shore?
I must visit him, maybe he will tell me more.
I bet you he’s kind hearted and will toss me a fish.
I’ve yet to meet a mean human, I can only wish.
Now how do I get there? Well look there’s a trail.
I’m a kind thoughtful animal from my antlers to tail.
So this is what the humans call the mighty Niagara Falls.
A true sign of mother nature when she bids her calls.
A majestic beautiful true life drama to feel and see.
Now let’s head to that fisherman, hope he’ll be nice to me.


Source: Wayne Ritchie, 2023

At the time of submitting this poem, Wayne Ritchie was 73 years old and had been writing poetry and short stories for 60 years.

Niagara Falls by Rev. Roswell Park

Written in remembrance of a visit to Niagara, and Queenstown ; April 20, 1827.

roswell
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

Ode to Niagara by Lansing V. Hall

hall
Canada Southern Railway Train and Cars, American & Horseshoe Falls in Background
executed by the American Oleograph Co. Image Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

MAJESTIC river, full of awe and wonder,
Roll onward in thy might, and roar like thunder ;
Bring from the upper lakes where the waters nap,
Thy burthens to this brink, and let ‘ em drap.
Roll onward in thy wrath, and foam and spatter ;
My bark is on dry land—that’s what’s the matter.
To pay for all this splurge, there’s a Lincoln cent,
I’ve dropped it in thy surge—so let it went !
If more thou still demand, there’s a Canada copper,
Large as a full-blown moon-put that in your hopper !
Methinks I feel a bug, and hear him hum ;
‘Tis only the “Maid of the Mist,” for passengers come.
I’ve climbed the weary stairs, the steps I’ve counted,
But wish now by the cars and ropes I’d mounted.
My coat is wet with spray, but my throat is dry ;
This scene is grand, they say, but it’s all in their eye.
I’ve heard of thee, Niagara, and now I’ve found thee ;
But sorry thou dost keep such robbers round thee.
The Yankees stole my purse, John Bull my hat,
And my last disputed stamp I paid to Pat.
So now I’ve nothing left, as I’m a sinner,
To recompense “mine host” for his dollar dinner.
But hold ! I have it now—there goes the bell !
I’ll sell my ode, I vow ! Old stream, farewell !
Should e’er we meet again, with case inverted,
I, tumbling toward the main, thou, dry and deserted,
I’ll wet thy husky throat till thou feelest staggery,
And I’ll sprinkle well thy coat. Farewell, Niagara !
Should e’er we meet again this side the ocean,
I’ll sing in loftier strain my deep devotion ;
I’ll praise thy gorgeous bow till my voice shall quiver.
But the steam is up—we go. Good-by, old river !
Good-by ! the echoes die with the cataract thunder,
While away like the wind we fly to a western wonder,
Where objects meet the sight too marvelous to tell,
Where cities grow up in a night. Fogies, farewell !
For the golden land I’m bound, where the trees reach heaven,
With trunks four miles around—diameter seven ;
Where grapes like pumpkins grow in every dell,
Where corn needs plow nor hoe. Reader, farewell !
And when I’ve reached the shore by the “Great Pacific,”
I’ll carve on the depot door this hieroglyphic ;
A sleeping car, marked “through,” ‘neath a huge balloon,
Myself among the crew, labeled, “the moon.”


Source: L.V. Hall. Voices of Nature. New York: John A. Gray & Green, Printers, 1868.

In his  Anthology and Bibliography of Niagara Falls, Charles Mason Dow writes “The author of this poem was blind. The “Ode” is evidently intended to be humorous, but the humor consists largely in slang and bad grammar.