Thomas Cole. Oil on canvas, 1840, 51 ¾ x 78 ¼ in. Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, NY, 55.108.
The wings of Time are heavier & heavier laden as he flies; each hour brings its own trouble without dissipating that of the past. This reconciles us to death; when the soul is fatigued rest is welcome. 'O that I had the wings of a dove, then would fly away & be at rest.' Although pain & trouble may accumulate as we pass through life[,] hope like a star lights our path & as the darkness deepens increases in brightness[,] for as through reason of the darkness we perceive not the earth around us but look towards eternity which we trust contains brightness & glory & joy inconceivable. 1
"Visions of Life"
High on the swift and stayless wing of Time
Traversing free infinity's dim space
For years I slept and dreamed; but one day called
By some mysterious spirit I awoke—
Thus spoke the voice: "Rouse thee and look around
What dost thou see—below—before—behind ?"
I rose unwillingly from my place of rest
And looked below—it was a desolate scene
That met my eye—Bare rocks and rugged hills
And black pools and furious cataracts—
Castles there were tattering in ruin
Gardens laid out with the intent to beauty;
But left unfinished, and nought but weeds
And plants pale in the poisoned sickliness
Could vegetate in that accursed soil—
From the drear scene I turned in pain away
And looked before: there shadowy fogs were spread
And a black night was brooding o'er the land;
But through the gloom an ignus fatuus sped
And threw its light in fitful flickerings,
On any forms that sprung as if from Chaos,
Ever changeful; and at times they took bright forms
As palaces of clustered gems and gold
That shone in sunny splendor on the clouds
Vast rolling far beneath and fountains pure
Mid quiet groves gushed as with living light—
And e'en the music of their warbling came
Soft on the breeze—Anon some evil power
Those gorgeous scenes transformed, into the dark,
Dank, slimy haunt of serpents and of green dragons—
And then from deep and sulphury caverns burst
The dinful howl of demons ever torturing
And forever tortured—"Spirit," I cried:
"Let me not gaze on such soul sickening sights
As these"—"Turn then behind thy wearied eye."
Eager I gazed—What heavenly scenes were there!
Over the rocks, the rugged barren hills,
The deep black pools, the furious cataracts,
Distance had spread a veil of tender beauty;
And the drear, desolate wild, that we had passed—
Retiring grew more lovely ere 'twas lost—
"Is this my destined lot," I sighing said, "thou spirit
Ne'er to find joy, but in the fading past?
Bliss sicklied with regret"—The spirit spoke again
But faint and brokenly: and much escaped
My lingering ear—"another state of being"
"Eternity"—"good, evil"—"woe and bliss"
Were all I gathered more.