Creation’s Pride by Wilhelm Meister

The Rapids Above the Horseshoe Falls
From the book Niagara, Its History, Incidents and Poetry

Niagara’s canon, swept by waters grand!
No gorge like thine, nor depths, the mighty hand
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Of time hath wrought.

Thy cataract stupendous is, and fierce;
No human voice or sound can ever pierce
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Its deaf’ning roar.

Thy seething currents rend with awful might
Great rocks, that nature in chaotic night
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Did rear on high.

A whirlpool deep within thy walls doth hiss,
And, raging ’round, sinks down in dark abyss
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡To unknown depths.

Around Ontario’s blue and wide domain,
No mountains check, nor lofty barriers chain.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Thine outlet vast.

In the great ocean’s infinite expanse
Thy volumes rest, and with their powers, enhance
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡The vasty deep.

Source: R. Lespinasse. Notes on Niagara, 2nd ed.  Chicago: R. Lespinasse, Publisher, 1884

Also published in Johnson, Richard L. (ed).  Niagara: Its History, Incidents and Poetry. Washington: Walter Neale General Book Publisher, 1898

The author’s name, Wilhelm Meister, is probably a pseudonym, as Meister is the protagonist of two of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s novels.

Niagara’s Charms and Death of Webb by James McIntyre


Matthew Webb killed in the Whirlpool Rapids July 24 1883. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

Gazing on rapids mighty sea,
Struggling fiercely to be free,
But drawn downwards in its course
By gravitation’s wondrous force,
O’er those perpendicular walls,
Hurled ’mong mighty rocks it falls,
Causing the earth to throb and shake
Like to the tremor of earthquake.

Thus the world’s greatest wonder
Reverberates like peals of thunder,
Enshrined with mist and beauteous glow
Of varied tints of the rainbow,
Most glorious sight the human eye
Hath ever seen beneath the sky,
Along these banks none ever trod
But did feel grateful to his God,
For lavishing with bounteous hand
Glories majestic and so grand.

The foaming billows soon are seen
Transformed into a beauteous green,
Plunged by whirlpools dread commotion
It becomes a seething ocean,
Where furies join in surging dance
From centre to circumference,
This is the favorite abode
Of Neptune, mightiest sea God,
He hath decreed none shall survive
Who will into this vortex dive.

Webb swam the English channel brave,
Like seabird he did love to lave
His breast upon the mightiest wave,
Alas, found here a watery grave;
Torrent onward rushes frantic
On its course to the Atlantic,
But on its way doth gently flow
Through blue lake Ontario,
Rejoicing on its way it smiles,
Kissing the shores of Thousand Isles,
Mingling with St. Lawrance motion,
It soon is blended with the ocean.

Source: Niagara’s Charms and Death of Webb was published in McIntyre, James. Poems of James McIntyre.  Ingersoll: The Chronicle, 1889.

Biography of James McIntyre in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

An Address to the Body of a Man in the Whirlpool — Niagara by Emily Thornton Charles

Emily Thornton Charles

Ah, how ceaseless the rounds which, in darkness and gloom,
Thou hast made in the noisy confines of thy tomb,
‡‡‡‡‡Since the whirlpool so great,
‡‡‡‡‡Like a maelstrom of fate,
‡‡‡‡‡Did fiercely surround thee.
‡‡‡‡‡Drew downward and drowned thee.
‡‡‡‡‡Thou shrieked but none heard thee.
‡‡‡‡‡It beat thee and stirred thee,
‡‡‡‡‡Despoiled thee of breath,
‡‡‡‡‡And whirled thee to death.
Rising up, sinking down, with a thundering sound,
Thou art lashed by its fury around and around.
‡‡‡‡‡Now to sight thou art lost ;
‡‡‡‡‡Like a bubble art tossed
‡‡‡‡‡By the torrent’s strong clasp,
‡‡‡‡‡By the raging wave’s grasp,
‡‡‡‡‡Ever round and around,
‡‡‡‡‡Whilst the thundering sound
‡‡‡‡‡Ringeth still on deaf ears,
‡‡‡‡‡As it did ere you drowned.
Who, alas, were thy friends who must mourn thy sad fate ?
And how many are made, by thy death, desolate ?
Idle questions we ask, for we never shall know
Who was tossed by these waves, or in depths thrust below,
‡‡‡‡‡Now so fast and now slow,
As the wild gleaming whirlpool compels thee to go ;
‡‡‡‡‡Now a hand, or a foot
‡‡‡‡‡Close incased in a boot,
‡‡‡‡‡But a glimpse of a face —
So quickly it vanished — all too quickly to trace
Or to search out its features. Oh, terrible jest !
It is said, after death, that the body finds rest ;
Finds rest ! Seest thou thine ? It is whirling about
From the great seething caldron no more to get out.
Didst e’er fancy a fate like to this — that thou must
Be beaten and pounded, as ’twere hastened to dust,
‡‡‡‡‡With a din and a roar
‡‡‡‡‡Like the cannon’s outpour ?
‡‡‡‡‡For an instant didst think,
‡‡‡‡‡As thou stoodst on the brink
And looked on the rapids, that whene’er thou wert dead
They would grind thee to dust for Niagara’s bed ?
‡‡‡‡‡For it will not be long
‡‡‡‡‡Ere the eddying throng —
Waves we read of in story and picture in song —
Fiercely dash thee to pieces with shriek or deep groan —
Even droppings of water will wear away stone—
They will rend thy limp limbs, and will tear them apart ;
Will reach to thy vitals ; they will pluck out thy heart,
‡‡‡‡‡Until no one can see
‡‡‡‡‡What resemblance there be
‡‡‡‡‡Or a vestige in thee
‡‡‡‡‡Of a being who once was a mortal like me !

Source: Emily Thornton Charles.  Lyrical Poems, Songs, Pastorals, Roundelays, War Poems, Madrigals. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1887

Emily Thornton Charles had previously published the book Hawthorn Blossoms under the name Emily Hawthorne

Read about Emily Thornton Charles

“Not a great poem, but written in an interesting and buoyant style” — Charles Mason Dow

Lines on the Death of Captain Webb by James Gay

Captain Matthew Webb who lost his life attempting to swim the Whirlpool Rapids July 24 1883. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

These verses composed on one of the brightest of men,
Can never return on earth again.
No man like him before ever swam from shore to shore:
This was done by him as hundreds have seen
From Dover in Kent to Calais Green.
He left his wife and children dear,
His lot was cast this proves so clear.

Could see no danger before his eyes,
Death took him quickly by surprise.
No doubt he thought himself clever,
Could never have thought to breathe his last in Niagara river—
Where no man on earth could ever swim
Across this whirlpool, never, never.
This brave young man, he caused no strife,
Cut down in the prime of life, left behind him a widowed wife.

‘Tis not for man to frown or brawl,
His lot was cast in Niagara Falls.
I saw his likeness in Marshall’s place,
Plain to be seen without disgrace.

Those men in his company that day were clever,
Could not see his danger in Niagara river.
It was not to be, the young and fast,
This was laid out for him to breathe his last.
As I have often said, and say again,
I am sorry to hear of an untimely end.

‘Tis time for us all to prepare for fear of this dreadful snare;
As this roaring lion is around every day,
Our precious souls for to betray.
Let us cast all our fears on Christ, and on his word rely—
We can all live happy while on this earth,
And in heaven when we die.

Composed by
James Gay,
The Master of all Poets this day.

Royal City of Guelph, East Market Square.
N.B.—Your poet is about to visit these falls,
Where Captain Webb received his death call.

Source: James Gay. Canada’s Poet. London: Field & Tuer, [1884]

James Gay was the self-styled Poet Laureate of Canada and Master of All Poets

Read about James Gay in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography

Read about Captain Webb here

Crawford Kilian rated James Gay as #1 in the article Canada’s Five Worst Poets: Are You Number Six? in The Tyee.

Untitled by John G. Saxe


Niagara River Whirlpool. Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

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!”

Source: Table Rock Album and Sketches of the Falls and Scenery Adjacent. Buffalo: Steam Press of Thomas and Lathrops, copyright by Jewett, Thomas & Co.,1856c.1848