To Niagara by J. S. Buckingham

(written at the first sight of its falls, August 13, 1838)

Handbill of the Poem “To Niagara” by J.S. Buckingham, 1838
From the Brock University Library Handbill Collection


Hail! Sovereign of the world of floods! whose majesty and might
First dazzles, then enraptures, then o’erawes the aching sight:
The pomp of kings and emperors, in every clime and zone,
Grows dim beneath the splendour of thy glorious watery throne.

No fleets can stop thy progress, no armies bid thee stay,
But onward, — onward, — onward, — thy march still holds its way;
The rising mists that veil thee as thy heralds go before,
And the music that proclaims thee is the thund’ring cataract’s roar.

Thy diadem’s an emerald, of the clearest, purest hue,
Set round with waves of snow-white foam, and spray of feathery dew;
While tresses of the brightest pearls float o’er thine ample sheet,
And the rainbow lays its gorgeous gems in tribute at thy feet.

Thy reign is from the ancient days, thy sceptre from on high;
Thy birth was when the distant stars first lit the glowing sky;
The sun, the moon, and all the orbs that shine upon thee now,
Beheld the wreath of glory which first bound thine infant brow.

And from that hour to this, in which I gaze upon thy stream,
From age to age, in Winter’s frost or Summer’s sultry beam,
By day, by night, without a pause, thy waves, with loud acclaim,
In ceaseless sounds have still proclaim’d the Great Eternal’s name.

For whether, on thy forest banks, the Indian of the wood,
Or, since his day, the red man’s foe on his fatherland has stood;
Whoe’er has seen thine incense rise, or heard thy torrents roar,
Must have knelt before the God of all, to worship and adore.

Accept, then, O Supremely Great! O Infinite! O God!
From this primeval altar, the green and virgin sod,
The humble homage that my soul in gratitude would pay
To Thee whose shield has guarded me through all my wandering way.

For if the ocean be as nought in the hollow of thine hand,
And the stars of the bright firmament in thy balance grains of sand;
If Niagara’s rolling flood seems great to us who humbly bow,
O Great Creator of the Whole, how passing great art Thou!

But though thy power is far more vast than finite mind can scan,
Thy mercy is still greater shown to weak, dependent man:
For him thou cloth’st the fertile globe with herbs, and fruit, and seed;
For him the seas, the lakes, the streams, supply his hourly need.

Around, on high, or far, or near, the universal whole
Proclaims thy glory, as the orbs in their fixed courses roll;
And from creation’s grateful voice the hymn ascends above,
While heaven re-echoes back to earth the chorus – “God is love.”

Source: The Falls of Niagara. Toronto: James Campbell, 1859.

The text and punctuation from the 1859 book differs in a number of places from the handbill text. 

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

Read about James Silk Buckingham

Niagara by Wallace Bruce

niagara wallace bruce
Illustration from Wayside Poems
Proud swaying pendant of a crystal chain,
    On fair Columbia's rich and bounteous breast,
With beaded lakes that necklace-like retain
    Heaven's stainless blue with golden sunlight blest!
What other land can boast a gem so bright!
    With colors born of sun and driven spray - 
A brooch of glory, amulet of might,
    Where all the irised beauties softly stray.
Ay, more - God's living voice, Niagara, thou!
    Proclaiming wide the anthem of the free;
The starry sky the crown upon thy brow,
    Thy ceaseless chant a song of Liberty.
But this thy birthright, this thy sweetest dower,
    Yon arching rainbow - Love still spanning Power.

Source: Wallce Bruce  Wayside Poems. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1895
Also published in: Myron T. Pritchard. Poetry of Niagara. Boston: Lothrop Publishing Co., 1901

See the full text of Wayside Poems on

Niagara by Henry Austin

Splendour supreme of constant majesty,
Of towering passion, overpowering charm,
At last, mine eyes behold thee as thou art -
In all the lightness of thy moving grace;
In all the whiteness of thy soaring spray;
In all the brightness of thy might!

                At last,
Mine ears drink in thy voice miraculous,
O plunging mountain full of thundersongs
Defiant or triumphant, echoing aye
Through vasts of day and night!
                        O Shape beyond
All winged imagery of magic words
Most musical, by ancient bards bequeathed
To spell the hearts of ever-coming men,
At last, I grasp, I clasp thee; and my soul,
Struck speechless in thy Cavern of the Winds,
Breathlessly burns with sharp, voluptuous ache
To dash herself against thy torrent breast
And join the awful Angels of thy fall
Perpetual on the crags of Agony -
Victorious Agony of glorious doom!

O perilous bridge 'mid gusts of dazzling pearl,
Or where a diamond storm enshrouds the way.
Thou seem'st like Life a span 'twixt Day and Night;
For tho' eternal rainbows crown the rocks,
Halos of Hope, charmed circles of high Faith,
Commanding entrance through the chasms of Doubt,
To deeps of nobler knowledge and soul-strength,
Yet all this beauty overwhelms the mind
By clash of contrast with our littleness.


                        So, Heart of Mine,
Oh! Heart of All, stand up and take the sun!
Seize, for 't is thine, thy sovereignty of Light!
Night with her pale Infinitude of Stars,
Nor Ocean, nor the Mountains, nor e'en Thou,
Niagara, with all thy loveliness,
Can match, in possibilites of growth
To Power, to Beauty, to Sublimity,
That noblest Mystery, the Soul of Man.

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

Niagara by Christopher Pearse Cranch

niagara cranch
General View From New Suspension Bridge.
Courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

I stood within a vision’s spell;
‡‡ I saw, I heard. The liquid thunder
Went pouring to its foaming hell,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡And it fell,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Ever, ever fell
Into the invisible abyss that opened under.
I stood upon a speck of ground;
‡‡ Before me fell a stormy ocean.
I was like a captive bound;
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡And around
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡A universe of sound
Troubled the heavens with ever-quivering motion.
Down, down forever–down, down forever,
‡‡ Something falling, falling, falling,
Up, up forever–up, up forever,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Resting never,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Boiling up forever,
Steam-clouds shot up with thunder-bursts appalling.
A tone that since the birth of man,
‡‡ Was never for a moment broken,
A word that since the world began,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡And waters ran
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Hath spoken still to man ̶
Of God and of Eternity hath spoken.
Foam-clouds there forever rise
‡‡ With a restless roar o’erboiling ̶
Rainbows stooping from the skies
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Charm the eyes,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Beautiful they rise,
Cheering the cataracts to their mighty toiling.
And in that vision as it passed,
‡‡ Was gathered terror, beauty, power:
And still when all has fled, too fast,
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡And I at last
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡Dream of the dreamy past,
My heart is full when lingering on that hour.

October 1838

Source: Christopher Pearse Cranch. Poems. Philadelphia: Carey and Hart, 1844

Also published in abbreviated version, under Anonymous, in Myron T. Pritchard, comp. Poetry of Niagara. Boston: Lothrop Publishing Co., 1901.

Niagara by Thomas Gold Appleton

Bust of Thomas Gold Appleton in Boston Public Library. By Sculptor Cantalamessa-Papotti. Daderot took this photograph.

Though the dusk has extinguished the green
And the glow of the down-falling silver,
In my heart I prefer this subdued,
Cathedral-like gloom on the water:
When the fancy capriciously wills,
Nor loves to define or distinguish,
As a dream which enchants us with fear;
And scarce throbs the heart unaffrighted.
With a colour and voice of its own
I behold this wondrous creature
More as a living thing.
And joyous with joy Titanic,
Its brothers in sandstone are locked,
Yet from their graves speak to it.
It sings to them as it moves,
And the hills and uplands re-echo,
The sunshine kindles its scales,
And they gleam with opal and sapphire.
It uplifts its tawny mane,
With its undulations of silver,
And tosses through showers of foam,
Its flanks seamed with shadow and sunshine.
Like the life of man is its course,
Born far in some cloudy sierra,
Dimpled and wayward and small,
O’erleaped by the swerving roebuck;
But enlarging with mighty growth,
And wearing wide lakes for its bracelets,
It moves, the king of streams,
As man wears the crown of his manhood.
It shouts to the loving fields,
Which toss to it flowers and perfume;
It eddies and winds round its isles,
And its kisses thrill them with rapture;
Till it fights in its strength and o’ercomes
The rocks which would bar its progress.
The earth hears its cries of rage,
As it tramples them in its rushing,
Leaping, exultant above
And smiting them in derision;
Till at length, its life fulfilled,
Sublime in majestic calmness,
It submits to death, and falls
With a beauty it wins in dying,
Still, wan, prone, till curtains of foam enclose it,
To arise a spirit of mist,
And return to the Heaven it came from.

As deepens the night, all is changed,
And the joy of my dream is extinguished:
I hear but a measureless prayer,
As of multitudes wailing in anguish;
I see but one fluttering plunge,
As if angels were falling from Heaven.
Indistinctly, at times, I behold
Cuthullin and Ossian’s old heroes
Look at me with eyes sad with tears,
And a summons to follow their flying,
Absorbed in wild, eerie rout,
Of wind-swept and desolate spectres.
As deepens the night, a clear cry
At times cleaves the boom of the waters;
Comes with it a terrible sense
Of suffering extreme and forever.
The beautiful rainbow is dead,
And gone are the birds that sang through it.
The incense so mounting is now
A stifling, sulphurous vapour.
The abyss is the hell of the lost,
Hopeless falling to fires everlasting.

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


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