A Day at the Falls of Niagara

James Lynne Alexander


The Table Rock

  It chanc'd the day was calm and bright,
Which much enhanc'd the wond'rous sight,
When from the Table Rock they saw
The Falls of great Niagara.
The table rock was dry; the spray
Blown by the wind another way,
Induc'd them to prolong their stay,
On that commanding point of view,
Where their researches they pursue.
It was a most majestic sight,
To see descend from such a height,
(Forming a semicirc'lar wall,
With his waters as they fall,)
That giant stream, that king of floods,
That drains the North American woods.
With all the waters of the lakes,
Over the precipice he breaks;
Superior, Erie, and Huron,
And the sea-like Michigan,
With a hundred others, pour,
Their collected tributes o'er,
And, in foaming fury, meet
Far below th' observer's feet.
The waters hasten o'er the brink,
With graceful curve, and downward sink,
Uninterrupted to th' abyss,
Where they commingle foam, and toss,
Spouting, in the dread affray,
Hills of foam, and clouds of spray --
When two strong embattl'd hosts,
Of various tongues, from various coasts,
Rush to the fierce and deadly charge;
A thousand guns, at once enlarge
Their fiery thunderbolts of war;
The battle shout is heard afar,
But louder, far, Niagara,
When meet, in wild tumultuous shock,
Thy waves, beneath the table rock;
Till chaf'd and tir'd with needless ire,
From the stern conflict, they retire
With sullen murmer, as they go
Down their winding course below.

  St. John in amazement, says,
"Flows it to the Antipodes?"
Ere to the brink he came so nigh,
That he the bottom might descry ;
Seeing the river thunder down
Into a basin so profound.
"Small pleasure in the sight I feel."
Observ'd the pensive Miss De Lisle ;
"It is a scene of such commotion ;
'Tis too much like a troubl'd ocean,
Or noisy bustle of the world.
I'd rather see a stream, that purl'd,
With gentle murmer o'er the ground,
Where all is green and still around."
"Oh how delighted I would be,"
Exclaim'd the light hearted Marie,
"To make such visit every day;
And watch the dancing foam and spray,
That sport about so merrily."
"I would not change our native Seine,
It's flow'ry banks and meadows green,
For such a blust'ring scene as this,
Tho' deck'd with wood and precipice."
Observes Madam, too prejudic'd,
In favour of her own dear home,
Else where ought excellence to own.
"St. Julian, had we this in France,
How it would make our trade advance!
Instead of our own puny rills,
Scarce long enough to turn our mills."
Thus spoke his friend ; they leave the place,
And onward move to the staircase.

  It was a tall Canadian Pine,
Sunk in a perpendicular line;
The foot on firm foundation stood,
Halfway above the boiling flood;
Well bound with braces, at the top,
Of iron, to the solid rock;
Round it a spiral staircase wound,
Like a cork-screw, to the ground;
Whence th' advent'rous foot may gain,
Tho' at the risk of bruise and sprain,
Or, it might hap, of broken bones,
O'er the slipp'ry, shelving stones,
The border of the boist'rous stream;
Where, in every eddy swim
Wild fowl, paddles, oars and deals,
Canoes and myriads and eels,
Masts, and rudders, keels and spars,
And jackets of some shipwreck'd tars,
Logs and pine trees lodg'd in holes,
Worn by friction small as poles,
Involv'd amid the watr'ry war,
Meet in this common reservoir.

  But chief that place the eye attracts,
Where thunders down the cataract.
O'er the watery abyss,
Hangs the fearful precipice,
Under which the traveller goes.
('Twere well he wore his bathing clothes;
For upon the slipp'ry path,
He gets a copious shower bath)
'Twould seem, to the astonish'd eye,
As if the floodgates of the sky
Were open, and a deluge pour,
Such as destroy'd the world before,
Did not Heaven's aerial bow,
The safety of our planet show.
What liquid mountains thunder down;
How high the rock; and how profound
The deep wherein they disappear!
The sound how deaf'ning to the ear!
And from behind the watr'y wall,
The winds rush forth, with sudden squall,
As from Aeolian cave they hied,
When they upturn'd the Tuscan tide.

  How insignificant is man,
When in a scene like this he stands!
Here he may gain an awful sense
Of the Divine Omnipotence.
Go, search this world of wonders o'er;
And every secret nook explore;
No spot such objects can combine;
So beautiful and so sublime.
Soar on the pinions of the wind,
Far as the east, or western Ind;
And on the Andes' summit high,
Or on the Himalayan height,
Envelop'd in the gloomy shroud
Of a black, low'ring thunder cloud,
When in a hurricane it bursts,
And the whirlwinds descend in gusts,
Levelling forests as they sweep
And anchor'd navies o'er the deep;
Hear the wat'ry torrents pour;
Hear the dreadful thunder roar;
See the lightening, as it rolls,
Flash at once the both the poles;
See the earth beneath you shake,
And affrighted mortals quake.
Then may he judge, that never saw,
Thy uproar, dread Niagara.

  But see the ferry boat awaits,
To waft us over to the States.
Still unsettl'd is the tide,
Over which we safely ride;
Above, the horse shoe fall is seen,
And the gulf the banks between;
And Iris, messenger of Heaven,
Forms a bridge across the chasm,
With an end on either side;
O'er it sprites in airy pride,
Lightly tripping to and fro,
On their secret errands go.
Fancy sees them as they march
O'er and o'er the heavenly arch;
Sometimes singing as they go,
In concert with the waves below.

    We land, contiguous to a fall,
Which we American may call.
Like a coy disdainful bride,
Her mater upon the other side
Of that green island she forsakes,
And this idle circuit makes.
At her feet, a fairy green;
And the whiteness of her stream
Rivals the translucent froth,
Whence fair Venus had her birth,
Patroness of love and mirth.
Now the ladder we ascend;
To Porter's bridge our course we bend;
Thence to Goat Island and renew
Our search at every point of view.
When curiosity at last,
Is sated by the rich repast,
We hasten to recross the tide,
And land on the Canadian side.

For a comprehensive selection of poems about Niagara, see the Niagara Falls Poetry Project.