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.

Poem by A. S. Ridgely

American and Horseshoe Falls
From Niagara, Its History, Incidents and Poetry by Richard L. Johnson

“Man lays his scepter on the ocean waste,
His footprints stiffen in the Alpine snows,
But only God moves visibly in Thee,
O King of Floods! that with resistless fate
Down plungest in thy mighty width and depth.
*    *    *   *   *  Amazement, terror, fill,
Impress and overcome the gazer’s soul.

Man’s schemes and dreams and petty littleness
Lie open and revealed.     Himself far less—
Kneeling before thy great confessional—
Than are the bubbles of the passing tides.
Words may not picture thee, nor pencil paint
Thy might of waters, volumed vast and deep;
Thy many-toned and all-pervading voice;
Thy wood-crown’d Isle, fast anchor’d on the brink
Of the dread precipice; thy double stream,
Divided, yet in beauty unimpaired;
Thy wat’ry caverns and thy crystal walls;
Thy crest of sunlight and thy depths of shade,
Boiling and seething like a Phlegethon
Amid the wind-swept and convolving spray,
Steady as Faith and beautiful as Hope.
There, of beam and cloud the fair creation,
The rainbow arches its ethereal hues.
From flint and granite in compacture strong;
Not with steel thrice harden’d—but with the wave
Soft and translucent—did the new-born Time
Chisel thy altars.     Here hast thou ever poured
Earth’s grand libation to Eternity,
Thy misty incense rising unto God—
The God that was and is and is to be.”

Source:  Johnson, Richard L. (ed).  Niagara: Its History, Incidents and Poetry. Washington, Walter Neale General Book Publisher, 1898
Also published in Holley, George W., ed.  The Falls of Niagara.  Baltimore: A.C. Armstrong & Son, 1883  (N.B. Holley mentions this poem by Ridgely is an excerpt from a larger work.)
Also published in Dow, Charles Mason. Anthology and Bibliography of Niagara Falls. Albany: State of New York, 1921.


Apostrophe to Niagara by R. L. Johnson

Niagara Falls From Prospect Point, c1900
Image courtesy of Library of Congress



Cyclopean torrent, this thy throne,
Which man but yesterday hath known,
Through all thy countless ages flown,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Creation’s masterpiece.

How wonderful and vast thou art!
Grand Pantheon of Omniscient art!
Thy flood-gates demonstrate thou art
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡“Without a parallel!”

Awe-struck I hear the passing crowd
Of heaving storm waves thundering loud,
And see them writing here the proud
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Grand Autograph of God.

A thousand waves on dress parade
Urge on the crowding cavalcade,
Which pauses on the brink, afraid
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡The awful plunge to take.

See yon gigantic wave command
The myriad troopers, as they stand
Erect, with flashing sword in hand,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡To charge the host below!

Adown they charge, that mighty force,
Resistless in its downward course;
The rider and the foaming horse —
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Brigade Victorious!


Thy grand façade, with curtains down,
Presents no monster’s ugly frown,
But, like a maiden’s bridal gown,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡A robe of beauty is.

Its elevation reaches high,
And fain would touch the changing sky,
Its falling waters ever cry,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Rejoicing as they leap:

“Majestic fleets that float their flags,
And brave Old Ocean’s rocky crags,
Dare not approach our rugged snags,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Nor Titan-fashioned front.

“Some noble bards have done their best
To praise Mt. Etna’s blazing crest,
Yet, we could flood the monarch’s nest
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡And crop his golden curls,

“And challenge heaven’s bright sentry stars
To find beneath his lavic bars
A spark, to light their gilded cars,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Before the blaze of morn.”

Primeval tribes no more shall roam
Thy banks to pitch their tented home,
Whose fairest daughters made thy foam
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Their willing sepulchre.

For here they gathered once a year,
With festive dance and savage cheer,
And sacrificed, without a tear,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡The fairest of the tribe.


Thy organ notes with thunderous roar,
Sound the Creator’s lofty score
Of Love and Mercy evermore,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡In grand diapason.

Beyond this temple vast and dim,
Methinks thy anthem, psalm, or hymn,
Floods in sweet melody to Him
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Who waits the grand Amen!

Sheets of sunfire blaze and quiver
On thy waves, O boist’rous river,
As they leap to foam and shiver,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Adown this gulf of death!

Deep undercurrents night and day,
An everlasting power display,
Exhaustless, unconfined, they play,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Unfathomed, unrestrained.

Take in the sight around—about,
And know, Vain Man ! beyond a doubt,
God’s power is here past finding out —
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Eternal mystery.

Oft have I sat, in quiet hour,
Beside this emblem of God’s power,
And fancied Eden’s sacred bower
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡No symbol had like this.

Emotionful our souls should know
He placed that graceful radiant bow
To span the hurricane below,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡In token of His love.

Thou Sacrilegious Man—go hence!
How futile is thy vain pretence
To scoff and doubt Omnipotence,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Arrayed in glory here!

Ere Cheops’ Pyramidal pile
Stood reared upon the classic Nile,
Was cut thy rough, rock-ribbed defile
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡By ante-glacial flood!

From yonder tower view Queenston’s height,
Hennepin was denied the sight,
From whence thou struggled in the night
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Of the primeval dawn.

The windings of thy crystal shoe,
Church faithfully portrayed, ’tis true,
The canvas shows a bygone view.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Pride of the ” Corcoran.”


When Winter steps upon the stage.
White-cowled and solemn as a sage,
Thou dost display an ample page
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Of glistening ice-moss bright;   

Ice Apples
From the book Niagara, Its History, Incidents ad Poetry

Then icy apples moonlit shine
On evergreens at midnight time,
And then thou seemest most sublime,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡In snowy satin robed.

Translucent columns, purest white,
Glisten in the morning light;
Prismatic scene of rare delight,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Of hues Elysian;

Here snow-capped mountains block thy flow,
While crystal diamonds crown the show,
And icy bridges form below,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡To span a Paradise.


The flower is pledged unto the bee,
The tidal wave unto the sea;
Our northern floods are pledged to thee,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Thou thundering watersheet!

And yet, O Thunderer, what art thou
To Him with iridescent brow,
Who guides thy grand retreating prow,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡That whispers of His might;

And notches on these walls of stone
His hieroglyphics, yet thine own,
To make thy soundless ages known,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Through glyptic monographs.

Who wrote his name, “The Unseen God,”
In burning letters, fiery shod,
On Terrapin Tower, once trod
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡By bold adventurers;

When lo! ’twas hurled from heaven to hell,
The tottering, grand old sentinel,
Where oft I went to view the well,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Above thy plunging floods.


God gave thee queenly sisters three,
Faith, Hope and glorious Charity,
And placed the Iris Isle to be
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡A brooch to pin thy veil.

He sent the morn with rustling wings,
And filled the vales with babbling springs,
And gave the birds their color’d wings
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡And sweetly charming notes.

To praise thy cascades most sublime,
Thro’ every land, thro’ every clime,
Whose opalescent rainbows shine
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡To prove His promise true.

He heaved the snow-clad mountains up.
To fill old Erie’s vine-clad cup,
With waters sweet for thee to sup.
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Majestic Orator!

He listeth in thy cave sublime,
And speaketh in that voice of thine,
And rideth on the storms of Time,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Which lash the Island’s home.

A spectacle personified,
May here be seen at midnight tide;
And lovers with the greatest pride
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡May view a modest beau.

He courts the Queen of Night by day,
At Ev’n song he tints the spray;
At peep of dawn he fades away—
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡The opal lunar bow.

For the lost Eden, search no more,
In myth or prehistoric lore;
That question’s settled, evermore,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡On this, the Sacred Isle,

Whose ferns and mosses scent the breeze,
Where east and west each soul agrees,
The Tigris and the Euphrates
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Flow swiftly, gladly on.


How bright and grand to thee did seem
This world arrayed in living green,
While Luna, robed in silvery sheen,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Her nightly vigils kept,

With gleaming light and lunar bow,
Thy phantom flood of joy and woe,
A milky stream of ceaseless flow,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡A phosphorescent dream;

‘Till paler man, with selfish soul,
Held in his hand a parchment scroll,
And taxed his neighbors, ev’ry soul—
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Infinite Oracle!

Who came to list thy voice so true,
And view thy waters, green and blue,
And marvel at thy emerald shoe
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Whose hoof an empire is!

Seated on the “Rock of Ages,”
While musing o’er the sacred pages,
Indited by inspir’d sages,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡I heard a spirit say:

“Let lions roar and people sing,
And eagles flutter on the wing,
While all the bells in steeples ring
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡For thee, Niagara,

“A jubilation loud and grand,
From frigid zones to torrid strand,
For Dufferin ope’d, with lordly hand,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Thy flood-gates tribute free.

“Now may thy incense heavenward soar,
And thy tempestuous billows roar
Their solemn protests, o’er and o’er
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Thy crest, Niagara.

“‘Till Justice, with concordant wand.
And Liberty with outstretched hand,
Shall welcome pilgrims as they land
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡On Freedom’s happy shore.

“And guard with zealous care for aye,
Thy mighty organ, night and day,
That all the world may hear it play,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡With unvexed harmony.

“Until discordant war’s alarms,
And conflicts of contending arms.
Are silenced by thy mad’ning charms,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Plunge on, Niagara!

“Nor let thy eyelids ever close,
In Neptune’s arms in sweet repose,
‘Till all the nations shall disclose,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Like thee, Niagara,

“A charity as broad and deep
As is thine own encircling steep,
Or as thy vortex where we peep
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Thro’ azure mists to heaven.”


In thee alone, Niagara,
Whose vast foundations seamed and knit
And bound by adamantine bars;
Methinks the Grecian bard would find
Meet inspiration for his noblest song,
And not in Trojan wars;
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡For here dwells Liberty.

While myriad sunlit, liquid pearls
Obscure thy bubbling pools and whirls,
Our goddess stoops, with golden curls,
To sip thy hydromel.

Proud Bedloe’s Isle may sound her horn—
Bartholdi’s gift her coast adorn;
But till her birthday’s final morn,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Here dwelleth Liberty.

In search of gain and worldly pelf,
The robber here hath shown himself,
And like the ox amid the delf,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡He would this figure break.

Let press and voice at once condemn
The spoiler who would steal a gem
From off the glittering diadem
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Of this majestic stream.

Though “Hope’s bright star” is sometimes pale,
Let Hope, not Fear, in man prevail;
The misty Ghost within the veil
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Proves life’s resurrection.

Alas! Niagara, what are we
Frail creatures when compared to thee?
Yet, what art thou to Deity?—
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡But Insignificance.

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

Thy Bells Deveaux (a song) by Thomas Vincent Welch and J. Ernest Rieger


Their tender tone o’er field and wood,
On summer wind now borne along;
With beating heart and eyes bedewed,
I hear once more their ev’ning song.

In many lands my feet have strayed,
Since I obeyed their vesper call;
When night winds stirred, in dreams I heard,
Their plaintive notes at evening’s fall.

Ring, ring, ring thy bells Deveaux
Ring o’er the cliffs thy bells Deveaux
Ring o’er field and wood as long ago;
Niag’ra’s murm’ring flood below
Ring o’er the cliffs thy bells Deveaux,
thy bells, thy bells, Deveaux

Once more a boy in forest dim,
I hear with joy their twilight hymn;
The toils of life, the joys we weep,
Our cares and sorrows ring to sleep.

O God from whom all blessings flow,
Protect thine hallow’d walls Deveaux,
And bells of heav’n, when life is past,
Call all thy children home at last.

Ring, ring, ring thy bells Deveaux
Ring o’er the cliffs thy bells Deveaux
Ring o’er field and wood as long ago;
Niag’ra’s murm’ring flood below
Ring o’er the cliffs thy bells Deveaux,
thy bells, thy bells, Deveaux

Source: Welch, Thomas Vincent (words) and Rieger, J. Ernest (music). Thy Bells Deveaux: Song for Soprano or Tenor and Mixed Quintette or Chorus. Niagara Falls, NY: J.E. Rieger, 1894

Many thanks to Lewis Buttery for bringing this song by Welch and Rieger to the NFPP curator’s attention.

The site of DeVeaux College is now owned by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, and is now the DeVeaux Woods State Park.

See the poem Chimes of De Veaux by Ada Elizabeth Fuller, to commemorate the installation of the new bells in 1913

Read more about the DeVeaux College Chimes

Visit the Big Daddy Dave blog post about DeVeaux School

Chimes of De Veaux by Ada Elizabeth Fuller

Ambrose Chapel at De Veaux College, where the bells were housed
Photo courtesy Big Daddy Dave blog


Fling out your silver peals,
‡‡Over the river’s breast.
Speak to the waters, peace,
‡‡Bid the wild Rapids rest.
Peal sweetly, high and low,
‡‡Chimes of De Veaux.

Chime to the flaming woods,
‡‡Gay in the morning sun.
Chime to the solemn pines
‡‡After the day is done.
Peal sweetly, high and low,
‡‡Chimes of De Veaux.

Ring out your silver strains,
‡‡Over Niagara’s breast.
Bid the wild waters roll,
‡‡On to their ocean-rest.
Peal sweetly, high and low,
‡‡Chimes of De Veaux.

Source:  Ada Elizabeth Fuller.  Sunshine and Shadow: Poems by Ada Elizabeth Fuller.  Niagara Falls, Ont. Ada Elizabeth Fuller, 1919

The site of DeVeaux College is now owned by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, and is now the DeVeaux Woods State Park. According to the DeVeaux School had a 10-bell chime installed by Meneely/Troy in 1913, which was sold to Verdin in November 1994.  The remaining structure on the site have also been demolished.

From The Living Church, vol. 50, January 3, 1914

New Chimes at De Veaux College

On New Year’s Eve, at midnight, the new chimes at De Veaux College, Niagara Falls, N.Y. (the Rev. William Stanley Barrows, headmaster), were rung for the first time. The bells, ten in number, were made by the Meneely Company of Troy, and are known as their F Tenor chime. They are a duplicate of those recently given to Christ Church, Greenwich, Conn, and are the gift of Mr. Albert H. Lewis of Bridgeport, Conn., who attended De Veaux College from 1857 to 1862. The inscription on the great bell reads: “Fortiter, Fideliter, Feliciter.  In honor of Samuel De Veaux and as a memorial to those trustees, masters, boys, and patrons who have faithfully served and fostered De Veaux College, this chime is presented by Albert Henry Lewis, ’57-’62, Founder’s Day, A. D. 1913, the fifty-sixth anniversary of the opening of De Veaux College. Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace good will toward men.” The inscription of the other bells is: “Fortiter, Fideliter, Feliciter. De Veaux College, ex dono Albert Henry Lewis, Founder’s Day, A. D. 1913.”

View the song Thy Bells Deveaux by Thomas Vincent Welch and J. Ernest Rieger

Read more about the DeVeaux College Chimes

Visit the Big Daddy Dave blog post about DeVeaux School