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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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[6. The night was calm. Clad in her mantle darkness]
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[6. The night was calm. Clad in her mantle darkness]

The night was calm. Clad in her mantle darkness
Nature rested. Through Contemplation's Courts
Ubiquitous: unconsciously I stray'd
The free thoughts came: the quickly attending Nymphs
Through the uncounted gates of her vast Halls
Into my presence told their tales and vanish'd;
One form rose more welcome than the rest:
Long had I lov'd and sought th' bewitching Maid—
Like the light mist call'd by the rising sun
To stretch its wreathy pinions and to mount
In exaultation o'er the sluggish world;
To spread its silver hair and to toss
Its snowy arms in the Cerulean Wilds,
The poet's eye may gaze in ecstacy
And Beauty's pow'r may kindle up his heart,
But never can his feeble pen pourtray
The changeful contour of the fleeting Cloud—
So rose the Nymph before my raptur'd eye,
In all her beauty undefinable—
To me she spoke but not as mortals speak;
Words are their signs few they are and pow'rless
But from her lips flow'd Ideas clear and full;
And when her silver Harp she took and sung
And touch'd those strings tun'd in the Choir of Heaven
Each swelling Note rung through my echoing heart—
She sweetly smiled and had me follow her
Into a forest's shade more dark and still
Than the deep cave where single silence dwells—
Here her clear voice pour'd a melodious lay
Harmonious, solemn, and majestic;
The list'ning trees bent through the murky gloom
And wav'd their branches to the pow'rful song.
And when she ceas'd, answering voices came


Loud at first they were but fainter sank,
Then softly whisper'd as from tree to tree
They wandered as unwilling to depart
From these retir'd umbrageous retreats—
Now from the groves we hied and soon I saw
The idle River slowly roll along,
And on its gentle glassy surface dwelt
Reflected objects beautifully soft
E'en the little stars that spring like flow'rs,
Gaily deck the distant fields of Heav'n,
Did twinkle there as bright as in the sky—
And when the mellow notes reach'd the flood
How the waters smil'd and bore their burthen
To the farthest shore—
Now to the deep and narrow vale we sped,
Cleft by some earthquake in the mountain's side
From the deep Chasm the mossy wall arose
And nodding rocks bent o'er the yawning gulf
And form'd an Arch from whose gray central stone
Countless greedy years had suck'd the strength away.
And now it hung suspended o'er the depth.
In dreadful poise like to a little world
Swung by a thread to utmost tension stretch'd
Through the black womb of unencompass'd space—
In murmuring sounds she first began
And the soft music kiss'd in wanton glee
The bare shapeless rocks and in the cliffs
Worn by the trickling stream they playful lurk'd
And mocking lisp'd and lisp'd again again—
But now the voice arose in louder swells
The rude rock trembled and the little fragments
Drop't from the steeps yet, and yet, it mounted
A mighty crash was heard and the huge Arch
That tow'r'd so high lay crumbled at my feet—
Now up a mountain's dangerous steep we sprung
With mountain speed as swift as though we strode


Upon the rushing blast that flew tow'rds Heav'n,
The mountain's airy summit soon we gain'd
And stood unwearied on its topmost cliff—
Around us spread a rich and varied feast
For the unsated eye—Over our heads
The Heav'ns' blue Curtain hung without a cloud
Faint and far off upon the reckless Wave
The dim horizon lay—The emblem fit
Of vague Futurity. So far we see
But all beyond is darkness doubt and fear—
On the Ocean's breast numerous islands lay
Like gems upon an azure banner spread
Nearer the dark brown woods, wav'd to the sky
And mighty Streams grasp'd in their Giant arms
The prostrate Earth—There the beauteous Nymph
Rais'd high her Harp and called the slumb'ring Winds
Th' attentive Breezes heard wak'd from their sleep
And sigh'd in softness o'er the sparkling flood
Augmenting. Soon a noisy blast began
To whistle rudely round the mountain top
The tall grass bound before the rushing wind
Hiding their heads the flowers stoop'd for shelter
The careless gale caught up the Maiden's hair
And swept it rudely o'er the troubled strings—
To the blue Heav'ns' interminable voids
Her glitt'ring Harp in silence mute she raised
Tow'rds the Abyss where formless Nothing dwells
Where echoes never lisp though Angels shout—
Again the slumb'ring notes were roused up
As o'er the clear Concave she swung the Harp
Millions! Millions! of stars did smile in light
And shone upon the wand'ring Instrument.
But when the deep red Shield of bloody Mars
Approach'd its edge oft from his fiery eye
She snatch'd it quick. To him she never sung
For he presides o'er gushing Blood and War—
But oft she wept in silence as she mus'd
The Soldier's fall and saw his Glory's Plume


Dyed in his own warm gushing precious blood—
And heard the Widow sigh in loneliness
The Orphan's wail in the Winter's blast
They rais'd their cry bereav'd and unprotected,
For in the field of War their sire was slain;
And cruel grief had rent their Mother's heart
And set her spirit free to rise to Heav'n—
In chasing streams I saw the Maiden's tears
Dash'd on the rocks like broken diamonds.
She rais'd her head, but still a lucent drop
Clung to her long eyelash as though it fear'd
To venture from its lov'd and secret Cell—
A rosy blush now sped across her cheek
And Lo! I saw betwixt the trembling Strings
Fair Venus beam'd! and in enrapturing lays
Were Love and Beauty sung; first Beauty blaz'd
Then lit the torch of Love. The Music's pow'r
Pour'd a rich stream which circles round my heart
And rising fill'd the cistern of my soul
Up to the brim. A nectar'd flood of bliss—
Nor did the Nymph forget that bounteous Queen
Who walks refulgent through the Court of Night
And smiles impartial o'er the trackless wild
The fertile valley and the trem'lous wave
Who from the radiant Crescent on her brow
On all our Wanderings shed a cheering ray—
The sounding Harp was full, and ev'ry string
Drunk in the glorious flood of kindling light
Her sweet voice to its utmost compass rose
And rocks and hills and woods and falling streams
Join'd their loud echoes to th' aspiring song.
From Heav'n she turned from Earth she rais'd her eye
And gaz'd on me while smiles hung round her lips
She thus addressed—
Thou art like the young breeze of the morn
O'er the hills and the valeys it stray'd


On a gay heedless pinion 'twas borne
And it recked not where'er it was laid—
Round the rough Mountain's brow it did play.
And far over the Ocean's blue breast
Through the Meadows of green held its way
And the full blushing Rose it carress'd
But what could it gather or bear
From the rough mountain's brow or the deep
Were not both of them barren and bare
There was nought that the soft breeze could reap
It is true that the grass of the field
Did bow to the breeze as it pass'd
To its kiss the rose blushing did yield
'Twas a perishing Odour at last—
But what of the grass or the rose
Could it carry away in its breast
Again they were left to repose
As though they had never been press'd.
Though beautiful objects it met
Their treasury it never could seize
And 'tis carelessly wandering yet.