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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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Part Four

4. Part Four

Struck by my Mentor's serious reply
In sorrow I had clasped my hoods across
My tearful eyes; yet were my tears half joy;
For the quick sentence of rebuke did close
With breath of kindling hope and promise bright;
As broke upon the blind by Siloam's pool of light.
“Behold!” the voice then said: “The closing scene
Of best humanity.” The winds had ceased
Their raving and the floods their roar—serene
The air yet steeped in gloom as is the East
When Earth's broad shadow o'er itself extends
And far beneath the Main the evening sun descends.
No hills of green, no gentle flowery vales
No breezes fresh from out the crystal deeps
No blithe birds warbling oft repeated tales;
But silence, leaden silence, such as keeps
The tongue fast bound the straining ear awakes
As when the judge's sentence on the prisoner breaks.


There, flowed the river; but with sluggish pace
And met and mingled with the Ocean dun
No more exulting in the headlong race;
But fainting as its destined Goal was won—
Last 'mid the boundless, as the single voice
When crowded multitudes do suffer; or rejoice.
Still the eye caught the dim and shadowy shore,
The last bare headlands of the dark terrene;
Herbless, desolate, glimmering and obscure;
As landscape by the troubled dreamer seen,
Their shattered forms down sinking one by one
Into the deep of many deeps, the fathomless unknown.
Oppressed I gazed: my thick and struggling sighs
Or checked by the silence would have filled the air;
But soon the winged Boat my eager eyes
Discerned—the Man—the Tempest-tossed was there.
O'er the unrippled flood with motion slow
As heavy laden, sinking—sinking moved the prow.
Broken that prow which once glanced o'er the stream;
Its Hours ensculptured all in gold were gone,
And gushed the floods through many a gaping seam:
It stopped,—it settled—like a thing of stone:—
Some ponderous rock that 'cross the plain is sent;
Which labors on and on 'till with its labor spent.
There sat the Voyager, an ancient Man,
Withered and blighted by the frosts of time:
Furrowed his cheek, his forehead bare and wan
As though the tempests of each earthly clime
Had broken o'er him in their fiercest mood
And he with patient soul their fury had withstood.
Then as the fulgent moon o'er ocean comes,
Spreading her wings of light at eventide,
I saw the Guardian's radiant flames
Hush the black midnight wave and swiftly glide
Through the illumined, fast dissolving wrack
And by the Voyager her airy station take.


The Old man saw the Spirit for the earth
Was falling from his soul and from his eyes
The film of blinding clay as falls the swarth
Envelope from the opening bud. Surprise!
O blest! To see, undreaming, spirit forms
Immaculate and free from all that earth deforms.
He saw the blessed Guardian of his way
And knew “his Angel”; ne'er before discerned;
And love and new-born joy broke in like day
Upon his heaven-illumined soul. He turned
To gaze upon the beauteous one, when lo!
As from the clouds strange music 'gan to flow.
Music it was, if thus is named in heaven
Those mingled gushes of Seraphic bliss
Which flowed like sunlight of the Spring-tide given
In beamy gold to wake the wilderness;
Or like the hymning of some circling band
Of joyous stars just sped from their Creator's hand.
Gently swelling, gently falling
Softer, sweeter yet it grows;
As when Summer's breeze is calling
Fragrance from the dewy rose.
Yes far sweeter and more thrilling
Were the soulèd sounds that fell,
All the airy concave filling
And the heart's most secret cell.
Tuneful breathings—voicèd hymning
Joined with harps of golden sound
Fill the spherèd concave brimming—
Shed rich harmony around.
Now the Trumpet's crystal voice
Lifteth up its notes of joy
Calling to the saved “Rejoice!
Enter through Heaven's portal high.”
Back the murky clouds are driven
As the blackness of the sky
By the morning sun is riven


Angels! Angels! Blessed creatures!
Toward the Voyager descend;
Turn on him their holy features
Lit by joy that ne'er can end;
Down the streamy light they sweep
Round him wave their dazzling wings;
Lift him gently from the deep
Whisper to him wondrous things.
Swift he rises—Earth has left him
With its painful load of clay;—
Death or grief and sin hath reft him
And he soars—away!—away!
I turned mine eyes; I could no longer gaze
Upon the Splendour, which intenser grew
And live; To my relief a dimming haze
Dropt like a curtain dark and shut the view;
But 'neath the weight of Glory which had shone
Upon the Earth's low bosom prostrate I was thrown.
There long I lay mingling my sighs and tears
Recalling all the Vision to my mind,
Its varied scenes, its many hopes and fears
Its seasons four mysteriously combined,
How through bright Childhood's vale the river flowed
Youth, Manhood, Age, to reach the mighty flood.
But my soul spoke and roused me—“Rise
Dwell not inactive on the Vision true
Remember that Life's River swiftly hies
Toward the great Deep and thou hast much to do:
The Vision teaches when divined aright
That he must trust in God and strike, who conquers in the fight.”