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Thomas Cole's poetry

the collected poems of America's foremost painter of the Hudson River School reflecting his feelings for nature and the romantic spirit of the Nineteenth Century

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87. The Lute


The Lute

One day I fled the tainted crowd
And wandered far away
To where the wild woods' sombre shroud
Shut out the light of day.
And when the solitude was mine
On gray, fantastic root
I sat; of old and hoary pine
And struck my mournful lute.
An antique Lute it was I brought
From a far, tuneful land
With a wild melody 'twas fraught
When struck with skilful hand.
For it had Music's spirit bound
Within its stringèd zone
Which seemed when sank its native ground
To take a sorrowing tone.
How much of Heaven there can be
Wrapped in the fashioned wood!
The wind-songs of the parent tree
Thrilled yet in mournful mood.
The weary world was far away
The world of care and pain
And pride was far and pomp's display,
That vex the tortured brain.
My swelling voice with power did rise
And stirred the sleepy air;
The timorous deer with star-like eyes
Stood still and listened there.


I sang my heart; for it was full
The world had wronged it so
And sad and unrequited love
Had wrought it much of woe.
I called the rocks and streamlets near
To listen to my strain
And bade the woodland spirits hear!
I did not sing in vain.
I sang “I cast the world behind
To worship in your Fane
Ambition ne'er shall rule my mind
Nor Love imperious reign.
“The face of man no more I'll see;
But live and die in peace
And learn to love the flower and tree
And tend their lovliness.
“The deer shall my companion be
Attendant at my side
The squirrel leave the lofty tree
And in my cot abide.
“That cot of branches shall be made
With roof of matted pine
And on its floor soft masses laid
Inviting to recline.
“The streamlet gurgling by my door
Sweet beverage shall be
And I will have a plenteous store
Of Honey from the tree.
“A little spot for herbs and roots
Will be my greatest care
And gathering these with fallen nuts
'Gainst winter's dearth prepare.


“Let winter come my Lute and I
When raves the snowy blast
Will weave a gentle lulaby
Until the storm is past.
“While on the hearth the branches blaze
And light my leaf-lined bower
I'll ne'er regret my world-past days
Nor envy wealth and power.
“I have a kingdom in my mind
My Fancy's wide domain
And gentle thoughts and visions kind
Shall be my serving train.
“There renounce all mortal love
Spirits O hear my vow!
No more shall tender passion move;
To be propitious now.
“And if this prayerful vow arise
All pleasing to your ears
And you accept my sacrifice;
Let some sure sign appear.”
I scarce had ceased when rushed a blast
Through the black wood with rain;
My Lute afar from me was cast—
Its strings were snapt in twain.
I snatched it in my trembling fear
And fled the darksome dell.
No more I sought the forest drear:
Constrained 'mid men to dwell.
My gentle Lute I strung again:
It still had power to move.—
Again I struck the thrilling strain
Of tendernous and Love.


The maid I once believed so cold,
Listened and softly sighed,
And when I told her scorn of old
Two melting lips replied.