The Hermit of Niagara by Professor James A. Martling

martling

martling
Francis Abbott Drowning in Niagara River. From Osgoode Bradbury, Francis Abbott; or, The Hermit of Niagara: A Tale of the Old and New World.  1846

“Though in thy veil of mist thou hid’st from me,
‡‡Thy glistening footsteps have I hither tracked :
Here on this rock I sit and wait for thee —
‡‡Thee love, thou Spirit of the Cataract.
O list again my tale of constancy !

“I’ve dreamed of thee since boyhood.   I have thought
‡‡Of thee at midnight, when beneath the stars
The whole earth slept, and thou hast been inwrought
‡‡Into my daytime reveries on the cloudy cars
Which sailed the sky with happy breezes fraught.

“And I have heard thy voice come calling me
‡‡When underneath the rustling beech I lay,
And watched the wave that to the terraced knee
‡‡Of the green hill leaped, hound-like, then away
Along the sands went gambolling toward thee.

“And I have thought that all things sought for thee ;
‡‡For thee the Sun climbed up the eastern shore,
Fresh bathed from the Atlantic’s purity,
‡‡And weaved thee rainbow garlands, and threw o’er
Thy form, of sheen and gold a gorgeous drapery.

“I have not sought the circles of the gay,
‡‡Where wanton beauty half unveiled is whirled
In the mad dance, by passionate youths that pay
‡‡Their amorous glances ; nor to breasts impearled
Nor all their wealth of charms are eyes forbid to stray.

“Nor could halls of learning, — nor the stage
‡‡Rich with enchantment, where the poet’s soul
Hath shed its affluence, — nor the voice of sage
‡‡Dewy with scripture, weaken thy control,
Nor me from my devotion disengage.

“Nor love, nor wine, nor song, nor power, nor gold
‡‡Nor the sweet glimpses of domestic bliss
That wooed me oft !   No, thy caresses cold
‡‡And pure embraces, and the frequent kiss
That falls like rain, dearer than all I hold !

“Thou hast all power, all passion in thyself
‡‡Thou Spirit of the Cataract, and I gaze
Where leap the waters from their rocky shelf
‡‡Down the abyss to thee with no amaze,
For thy charms lure sea-sprite and mountain-elf.

“The spirits of the mountain peaks, that keep
‡‡The hidden treasures of the mighty west,
Steal down the moonlit rivulets to peep
‡‡Upon the beauty of thy snowy breast
Unveiled amid the tossings of thy sleep.

“The spirits that collect the dews, and fill
‡‡The broad lakes, fill them for my love alone,
Their purity but equals thine : distil
‡‡The stars on thee their light, and o’er thy throne
Scatter the radiance of their holy bill.

“No more delay, my destiny divine,
‡‡But give the token of my speedy bliss :
I know my life shall be drawn into thine
‡‡Even as my whole heart already is :
And yet I wait the anticipated sign.

“Three happy yet three weary months have seen
‡‡Me waiting in my strange novitiate,
O love, thou knowest how constant I have been
‡‡Watching and waiting at the diamond gate
That flashes me and my pure love between.

“She comes !   She comes !   I see the radiant star
‡‡Upon her brow — the glory of her face !
She comes !   She comes !   she lifts the silver bar !
O love, in thine my arms I interlace,
And we forever more united are !”

Source: Professor James Abraham Martling. Poems of Home and Country. Boston: James H. Earle, Publisher, 1885


Click to read more about Francis Abbott, the Hermit of Niagara, and to see other poems about him.

Untitled by W. A. Stevens

lovers leaps

lovers leaps
Clarke Hill Islands – The Rapids and the Lovers Bridge. Photo by George Barker. Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

If Lovers Leaps were now the fashion,
‡‡‡‡As they were in days of yore,
O what a place to drown the passion
‡‡‡‡In Niagaras foaming roar.

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

This link takes you to the scanned version of  the 1855 version of Table Rock Album from the Hathi Trust

See the Table of Contents of the Table Rock Album on this site.

The Hermit of the Falls by Lydia Huntley Sigourney

sigourney hermit
Hut on Goat Island Used By Francis Abbott. the Hermit of Niagara, from 1829-1831. Sketch by C. Breckinridge Porter

It was the leafy month of June,
And joyous Nature, all in tune,
‡‡With wreathing buds was drest,
As toward Niagaras fearful side
‡‡A youthful stranger prest;
His ruddy cheek was blanched with awe
And scarce he seemed his breath to draw,
‡‡While bending oer its brim,
He marked its strong, unfathomed tide,
‡‡And heard its thunder-hymn.

His measured week too quickly fled,
Another, and another sped,
And soon the summer rose decayed,
The moon of autumn sank in shade;
Years filled their circle, brief and fair,
Yet still the enthusiast lingered there,
‡‡Till winter hurled its dart:
For deeper round his soul was wove
A mystic chain of quenchless love,
That would not let him part. Continue reading “The Hermit of the Falls by Lydia Huntley Sigourney”

The Leap of Niagara by Henry Pickering

Roar loud, ye winds! ye awful thunders peal!
    And instant rouse them from their fatal sleep,
    Ere (cruel chance) they sink amid the deep,
    Whose secrets Death permits not to reveal.

They wake! O heavens!  What now avails their zeal?
    Precipitous their maddening course they keep;
    And reeling now they make the shuddering leap,
    Down-dashed mid watery worlds with all their weal!

And thus are they forgot! Not such the fate
    Of that immortal maid — enchantress sweet —
    Who from Lucadias rock (provoked by Hate)
    Plunged fearless in the waves that round it beat.

Her name the sighing winds still breathe around,
And Sappho, all the mournful caves resound.

Source: Myron T. Pritchard, comp. Poetry of Niagara. Boston: Lothrop Publishing Co., 1901.

The Leap of Niagara was originally published in Henry Pickering’s The Ruins of PæstumAnd Other Compositions in Verse. Salem: Cushing and Appleton, 1822

Choices by Jan Conn

Jan Conn, photo by Stacy Greene
Jan Conn, photo by Stacy Greene

the falls spill over grey walls of rock,
a repeated hallucination. marble green water
unfurls white crinolines of foam that
cascade over the edge like five thousand
angels in anklets of lace.

churning in the river’s jaw
like loosened teeth, chunks of ice
jostle each other near the lip
of boiling water, then grind
and shatter far below.

once a man crossed this on a tightrope —
others rolled over in barrels. some
survived, some dreamed over and over
white water caught in the grapes of their lungs.

last year a woman dropped her child
over the black rail. was slow
to scream for help. exposure
takes too long, she said.

all night the child’s fingers
climbed the bedroom walls
like the knuckles of spiders.
the mother bathed in moonwater,
wanted to live in the mouth of a rose.
the child was an octopus, hungry
for love or milk. she provided milk.
love was a luxury.

we walk between twisted trees,
make starts of conversation.
wind whips sheets of snow
over dead grass; pares our faces
thin as paper.

we lean over the rails, stare down
until the water shifts, begins to fall
up. spray beads our hands, we reel
like drunken boats. we’re not yet sure
why we’re here. a sign nearby says
keep back. it doesn’t say
don’t jump.

Source:Mary di Michele (ed.) Anything is Possible: a Selection of Eleven Women Poets. Oakville: Mosaic Press, ©1984

Jan Conn’s website