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Poems

To Cole, The Painter, Departing For Europe: A Sonnet

Thine eyes shall see the light of distant skies:
Yet, Cole! thy heart shall bear to Europe's strand
A living image of thy native land,
Such as on thine own glorious canvas lies;
Lone lakes—savannas where the bison roves—
Rocks rich with summer garlands—solemn streams—
Skies, where the desert eagle wheels and screams—
Spring bloom and autumn blaze of boundless groves.
Fair scenes shall greet thee where thou goest—fair,
But different—everywhere the trace of men,
Paths, homes, graves, ruins, from the lowest glen
To where life shrinks from the fierce Alpine air,
Gaze on them, till the tears shall dim thy sight,
But keep that earlier, wilder image bright.
-1829

 

Title, Cole: This poem is dedicated to the painter, Thomas Cole (1801-48), a friend of Bryant's and leader of the Hudson River School of American landscape painting. Bryant and Cole are depicted contemplating a typical Hudson River scene in Asher B. Durand's well-known canvas, Kindred Spirits (1849).
l. 3, thy native land: Bryant mistakenly assumes that Cole, born in England, was a native-born American. He later altered this line to read “A living image of our own bright landâ€.