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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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64. Mt. Etna
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Mt. Etna

Breezes and bees were sweetly murmuring
And joyously like children bright,
Bedecked in shining crimson, gold and white,
Frolicked and danced the flowers around my feet.
Those were the fields of Etna where I strayed;
Those were the children of the flowers that erst
Fair Proserpina into garlands wove;
And where yon bubbling waters upward gush
With Pluto sank the loud-lamenting maid.
But these are fables and I lift my eyes
That they may wander through the cloudless sky.
My thoughts' companions; in that deep serene
They soar away 'till in that vast profound
In extacy and wonder they are lost.
What cloud is that, rearing its snowy head,
Dazzling and glorious in the morning sun,
Whose mighty form o'ershadows half the world?
No exaltation of the earth and sea;
It moveth not; nor sun; nor wind disperse;
Nor shatter its indissoluble mass!
Etna! The fastenings of thy lofty tent
Are in the rock-barred earth! Thy roots
Beneath the rushing of the briny deep!
In older times Charybdis furious waved
And Scylla clamored, horrid, at thy feet
But they are wasted by consuming time
Grown old and weak; yet thou, forever young,
Outlivest centuries! Beneath thy gaze
Nations have birth and death. Augmenting ever,
Time that doth crumble temples, pyramids;
Hath watched thee grow until thy regal hand
Usurps the empyrean with its starry realms.
But for yon filmy smoke, that from thy crest


Continual issues; there would be no sign
That from thy mighty breast bursts forth at times
The sulphurous storm—the avalanche of fire;
That midnight is made luminous and day
A ghastly twilight by thy lurid breath.
By thee tormented Earth is tossed and riven;
The shuddering mountains reel; temples and towers
The works of man and man himself, his hopes
His harvests, all, a desolation made!
Sublime art thou O Mount! Whether beneath
The moon in silence sleeping thy woods
And driven snows, and golden fields of corn;
Or bleat upon thy slant breast the gentle flocks,
And shepherds in the mellow flow of eve
Pipe merrily; or when thy scathed sides
Are laved with fire; answered thine earthquake voice
By screams and clamor of affrighted men.
Lone mountain of the pallid brow and heart
Of fire! Thou art a resting place for thought,
Thought reaching far above thy bounds; from thee
To Him who bade the central fires construct
This wond'rous fabric; lifted by thy dread brow
To meet the sun while yet the earth is dark,
And ocean with its ever murmuring waves.
[May, 1842]