Tag Archives: Thomas Cole

‘The Splendour Falls on Castle Walls’

Lanscape with Tower in Ruin. Thomas Cole. 1839.


from The Princess

Alfred, Lord Tennyson


The splendour falls on castle walls

And snowy summits old in story:

The long light shakes across the lakes,

And the wild cataract leaps in glory.

Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,

Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.


O hark, O hear/1 how thin and clear,

And thinner, clearer, farther going!

O sweet and far from cliff and scar

The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!

Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying:

Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.


O love, they die in yon rich sky,

They faint on hill or field or river:

Our echoes roll from soul to soul,

And grow for ever and for ever.

Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,

And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.

Intimations of Immortality

The Voyage of Life: Childhood. Thomas Cole. 1842.


Ode. Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

William Wordsworth, 1804


There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,

The earth and every common sight,

To me did seem

Aparell’d in celestial light,

The glory and the freshness of a dream.

It is not now as it hath been of yore;–

     Turn wheresoe’er I may,

By night or day,

The things which I have seen I now can see no more.


     The rainbow comes and goes,

     And lovely is the rose;

     The moon doth with delight

Look round her when the heavens are bare;

     Waters on a starry night

     Are beautiful and fair;

The sunshine is a glorious birth;

But yet I know, where’er I go,

That there hath pass’d away a glory from the earth.


Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,

     And while the young lambs bound

As to the tabor’s sound,

To me alone their came a thought of grief:

A timely utterance gave that though relief,

And I again am strong:

The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep;

No more shall grief of mine the season wrong;

I hear the echoes through the mountains throng,

The winds come to me from the fields of sleep,

And all the earth is gay;

Land and sea

Give themselves up to jollity,

     And with the heart of May

Doth every beast keep holiday;—

Thou Child of Joy,

Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy



Ye blesséd creatures, I have heard the call

Ye to each other make; I see

The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;

My heart is at your festival,

     My heart hath its coronal,

The fulness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all.

O evil day! if I were sullen

With Earth herself is adorning,

This sweet May morning,

And the children are ciulling

On every side,

In a thousand valleys far and wide,

Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,

And the babe leaps up on his mother;s arm:—

I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!

—But there’s a tree, of many, one,

A single field which I have look’d upon,

Both of them speak of something that is gone:

The pansy at my feet

Doth the same tale repeat:

Wither is fled the visionary gleam?

Where is now, the glory and the dream?


Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

     And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Shades of the prison-house begin to close

Upon the growing Boy,

But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,

He sees it in his joy;

The Youth, who daily farther from the east

Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,

     And by the vision splendid,

     Is on his way attended;

At length the Man perceives it die away,

And fade into the light of common day.


Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;

Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,

And, even with something of a mother’s mind,

And no unworthy aim,

The homely nurse doth all she can

To make her foster-child, her inmate Man,

Forget the glories he hath known,

And that imperial palace whence he came.


Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,

A six years’ darling of a pigmy size!

See, where ‘mid work of his own hand he lies,

Fretted by sallies of his mother’s kisses,

With light upon him from his father’s eyes!

See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,

Some fragment from his dream of human life,

Shaped by himself with newly-learnèd art;

A wedding or a festival,

A mourning or a funeral;

And this hath now his heart,

And unto this he frames his song:

Then will he fit his tongue

To dialogues of business, love, or strife;

But it will not be long

Ere this be thrown aside,

And with new joy or pride

The little actor cons another part;

Filling from time to time his ‘humorous stage’

With all the Persons, down to palsied Age,

That Life brings with her in her equipage;

As if his whole vocation

Were endless imitation.


Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie

Thy soul’s immensity;

Thou best philosopher, who yet dost keep

Thy heritage, thou eye among the blind,

That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,

Haunted forever by the eternal mind,–

Mighty prophet! Seer blest!

On whom those truths do rest,

Which we are toiling all our lives to find,

In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;

Thou, over whom thy Immortality

Broods like the Day, a master o’er a slave,

A presence which is not to be put by;

To whom the grave

Is but a lonely bed without the sense or sight

Of day or the warm light,

A place of thought where we in waiting lie;

Thou little Child, yet glorious in the might

Of heaven-born freedom on thy being’s height,

Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke

The years to bring the inevitable yoke,

Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife?

Full soon thy soul shall have her earthly freight,

And custom lie upon thee with a weight,

Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!


O joy! that in our embers

Is something that doth live,

That nature yet remembers

What was so fugitive!

The thought of our past years in me doth breed

Perpetual benediction: not indeed

For that which is most worthy to be blest—

Delight and liberty, the simple creed

Of childhood, whether busy or at rest,

With new-fledged hop still fluttering in his breast:—

Not for these I raise

The song of thanks and praise;

But for those obstinate questionings

Of sense and outward things,

Fallings from us, vanishings;

Blank misgivings of a Creature

Moving about in worlds not realized,

High instincts before which our mortal Nature

Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:

But for those first affections,

Those shadowy recollections,

     Which, be they what they maym

Are yet the fountain light of all our day,

Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;

Uphold us, cherish, and have powers to make

Our noisy years seem moments in the being

Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,

To perish never:

Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavor,

Nor Man nor Boy,

Nor all that is at enmity with joy,

Can utterly abolish or destroy!

Hence in a season of calm weather

     Though inland far we be,

Our souls have sight of that immortal sea

     Which brought us hither,

Can in a moment travel thither,

And see the children sport upon the shore,

And hear the might waters rolling evermore.


Then sing, ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song!

And let the young lambs bound

As to the tabor’s sound!

We in thought will join your throng,

Ye that pipe and ye that play,

Ye that through your hearts to-day

Feel the gladness of the May!

What though the radiance which was once so bright

Be now for ever taken from my sight,

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind;

In the primal sympathy

Which having been must ever be;

In the soothing thoughts that spring

Ot of human suffering;

In the faith that looks through death,

In years that bring the philosophic mind.


And O ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,

Forebode not any severing of our loves!

Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;

I only have relinquish’d one delight

To live beneath your more habitual sway.

I love the brooks which down their channels fret,

Even more than when I tripp’d lightly as they;

The innocent brightness of a new-born Day

Is lovely yet;

The clouds that gather round the setting sun

Do take a sober colouring from an eye

That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;

Another race hath been, and other palms are won.

Thanks to the human heart by which we live,

Thans to its tenderness, it joys, and fears,

To me the meanest flower that blows can give

Thoughts tha do often lie too deep for tears.


Autumn Twilight (View of Copway Peak, Mount Chocorua, New Hampshire). Thomas Cole. 1834.



Lucy Maud Montgomery


From vales of dawn hath Day pursued the Night

Who mocking fled, swift-sandalled, to the west,

Nor ever lingered in her wayward flight

With dusk-eyed glance to recompense his quest,

But over crocus hills and meadows gray

Sped fleetly on her way.


Now when the Day, shorn of his failing strength,

Hath fallen spent before the sunset bars,

The fair, wild Night, with pity touched at length,

Crowned with her chaplet of out-blossoming stars,

Creeps back repentantly upon her way

To kiss the dying Day.


Lucy Maud Montgomery, who wrote a number of nature poems, is best known for the classic novel Anne of Green Gables. Like Dunbar’s “Dawn,” recently featured on Wrestle with the Angel, Montgomery describes the meeting of day and night as a kiss.


The Mountain Ford. Thomas Cole. 1846.



Edgar Allan Poe, 1849


Gaily bedight,

A gallant knight,

In sunshine and in shadow,

Had journeyed long,

Singing a song,

In search of Eldorado


But he grew old—

This knight so bold—

And o’er his heart a shadow

Fell as he found

No spot of ground

That looked like Eldorado.


And, as his strength

Failed him at length,

He met a pilgrim shadow—

“Shadow,” said he,

“Where can it be—

This land of Eldorado?”


“Over the mountains

Of the Moon,

Down the Valley of the Shadow,

Ride, boldly ride,”

The shade replied—

“If you seek for Eldorado!”


A Fine Picture—Some have found this the most mysterious painting by Cole. A lone figure in Renaissance dress rides through Adirondack scenery. Possibly, the painting had great significance for Cole, who was readying himself for his most ambitious project. A few months before he painted The Mountain Ford, Cole described himself as “one who, traveling through a desert, comes to a deep stream… and fears to venture in the rushing waters. But I am about to venture.” This “deep stream” was the zealous (but ultimately unrealized) dream of completing a five-part religious cycle called “The Cross and the World.” It was to contrast the life journeys of a Christian and of a worldly man.

A Little Poetry—”Eldorado” was one of Poe’s last poems. It was published on April 21, 1849, during the time of the California Gold Rush. Interestingly, Poe uses the word ‘shadow’ in each of the stanzas, and they each have a different meaning: absence of sunlight, despair, ghost, and death.

God’s Grandeur

The Oxbow. The Connecticut River near Northampton. Thomas Cole. 1836.


God’s Grandeur

Gerard Manley Hopkins,


The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have tod;

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.


And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward springs—

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


A Fine Picture—While other painters of the Hudson River School would merge the two in Romantic scenes, Thomas Cole chose in this painting to make clear the dichotomy between wilderness and cultivation.

Long after the painting was completed, Matthew Baigell identified the logging scars on the distant hill as Hebrew letters. Viewed upright they seem to spell the name “Noah”; viewed upside down, as though from God’s perspective, the word shaddai, “the Almighty,” is formed.

A tiny self-portrait of Thomas Cole with his easel can be spotted on the rocks in the foreground.

The painting is an entry submitted by Fiona of Vista Court.

The Little Land

The Titan's Goblet. Thomas Cole. 1833.


The Little Land

Robert Lewis Stevenson, 1913


When at home alone I sit

And am very tired of it,

I have just to shut my eyes

To go sailing through the skies—

To go sailing far away

To the Pleasant Land of Play;

To the fairy-land afar

Where the Little People are;

Where the clover tops are trees,

And the rain-pools are the seas,

And the leaves like little ships

Sail about on tiny trips;

And above the daisy tree

Through the grasses,

High o’erhead the Bumble Bee

Hums and passes.


In that forest to and fro

I can wander, I can go;

See the spider and the fly,

And the ants go marching by

Carrying parcels with their feet

Down the green and grassy street.

I can in the sorrel sit

Where the ladybird alit.

I can climb the jointed grass

And on high

See the greater swallows pass

In the sky,

And the round sun rolling by

Heeding no such things as I.


Through that forest I can pass

Till, as in a looking-glass,

Humming fly and daisy tree

And my tiny self I see,

Painted very clear and neat

On the rain-pool at my feet.

Should a leaflet come to land

Drifting near to where I stand,

Straight I’ll board that tiny boat

Round the rain-pool sea to float.


Little thoughtful creatures sit

On the grassy coasts of it;

Little things with lovely eyes

See me sailing with surprise.

Some are clad in armor green—

(These have sure to battle been!)—

Some are pied with ev’ry hue,

Black and crimson, gold and blue;

Some have wings and swift are gone;—

But they all look kindly on.


When my eyes I once again

Open, and see all things plain:

High bare walls, great bare floor;

Great big knobs on drawer and door;

Great big people perched on chairs,

Stitching tucks and mending tears,

Each a hill that I could climb,

And talking nonsense all the time—

O dear me,

That I could be

A sailor on the rain-pool sea,

A climber in the clover tree,

And just come back, a sleepy-head,

Late at night to go to bed.


The Voyage of Life: Old Age. Thomas Cole. 1842.



Henry Vaughan


My soul, there is a country

Far beyond the stars,

 Where stands a winged sentry

All skillful in the wars.

There, above noise and danger,

Sweet Peace sits crowned with smiles,

And one born in a manger

Commands the beauteous files.

He is thy gracious friend,

And (Oh, my Soul awake!)

Did in pure love descend

To die here for thy sake.

If thou canst get but thither,

There grows the flower of peace,

The rose that cannot wither,

Thy fortress and thy ease;

Leave then thy foolish ranges;

For none can thee secure

But One who never changes,

Thy God, thy life, thy cure.

Death, Be Not Proud

Pilgrim of the Cross at the End of His Journey. Thomas Cole. 1848.


Death, Be Not Proud

John Donne, 1633


Death, be not proud, though some have called thee

Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;

For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow

Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.

From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,

Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee do go,

Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, desperate men,

And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,

And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well,

And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,

And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.