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This great country that shines with light,
pouring over her sun-kissed fields and ruffled lakes,
fills the air with a spirit anew.
Avoid the fumbling trains that steal your might,
and advance forth into the dusky night!
Make a path across the starlit skies, above the past discoveries of this newfound nation,
and find forth the lands that hold the key to revelation!
The sense of discovery in the exploration of the American West led to the finding of many of the collections in the Peabody today. This painting, once owned by O.C. Marsh, depicts a landscape of the type Marsh investigated in his journeys.
Junction of the Platte Rivers (1866)
Thomas Worthington Whittredge (1820-1910)
Yale Peabody Museum
But it is what it is.
A moment frozen,
stuck in the recesses of flurry fleeing all around.
Where is the atmosphere, the movement that
flows round and round and drives the body into
flee? Made from the same photograph,
the horses of the Wounded Bunkie
hold poise on one hoof.
The same moment, filled with the
chaos of the flying hooves
and the valiant fear of the crouching stare
of a man leaning in to support his wounded friend
in a tricky maneuver so precisely brought to life by the
gliding hand. Or the rush of two wagons sailing in the river
of misty dust in the odd proclamation. One man turning back
to face the galloping cart and proclaim the eager pair man and wife!
The hands that craft these muscles,
caressing the bodies in its folds and crinkles,
holding nothing back for Imagination’s drink.
A touch of the feet clinging on to a boat
before the gun’s recoil
and the imperfections of rowing
caught in the birdspring of a twisted torso.
Who knows the art between representing and resembling?
For it is the manner of dissembling that tells the tale
from its warmth and intimacy under the bath of light,
blooming in the rose bud of a deep silence,
the crinkles of a forehead crowned with a hidden lapel,
emerging from the haunting shadows of the Civil past,
or the spinning wheel kept a-running in the boyhood home of Washington Gray,
refusing to be stopped by the picture box in honor of the eye.
And the young son leads,
over the Coloradoan Pikes of pecan brown
and the merlot buckeye trees across the great river valley,
to the hues of crimsons and violets in the Adirondack Fall,
where red and yellows steep the streams in vivid breeze,
and two boys come to fish in the over-flooding lakes
in the curious zest of the bountiful American spirit!
A path that would come to define the great transcontinental railroad!
For unconquerable is the golden sun,
making its way up the glacier point
where a meandering river cuts between two cliffs,
leading the way from sea to shining sea
as the horsemen race to take on its alms,
stopping at the valley point to marvel
the door of possibility
in the sweet-singing landscape of the Yosemite shrine!
But across this road come the new horde,
changing the tranquility of the Catskill Creek,
where girls once rode on ponies wading through the mystic plains,
forever altering the Eden untouched
as flocks come to chase the adventurous haywain,
without the same spice that once marked these venturesome souls.
Head North and witness the towering wrecking falls,
which artists now erase the bodies to romanticize the lone.
The straddling crowd who comes in the fashions
of a cabined soul, climbing the new-made stone steps
on the base and walking the Goat Island bridge in measured step,
in stark contrast to the exhibition of the untempered storm
ripping away the stones behind the billowy mask of foamy clouds.
Where are the explorers of the old frontier?
The young souls of eternal youth
spying a nook of the Bash Bish Falls?
Fresh discovery! Awakening the spirit of the
folklore tales, permeating the airs with the
winds of the exotic, where artists search for
the unseen in the old castle ruins afore the Chimborazo Volcano,
to recapture the same spirit of free men sailing past the Port of Maine!
For they are the first explorers,
quenching their thirst for the unknown brook,
drenching their souls in the beautiful storm!
The Unconquerable Wilderness
This title is under the Peabody Collection
The Opening Verse
Fields of sweet pink roses against the wind-swept sky,
lined in rows over the hilly gaunt thorns.
This is certainly a beautiful country!
A paradisaical haven!
Sure to rouse,
nibbling the heart of a passing traveler
with a weary sigh,
and steering his eye in watchful gaze.
Twenty pairs of hands working at the bush,
combing through and through
with yet another crawling push against the cold hard earth,
made gentle with a wicker hat and a bonny smile.
The tears of laughter,
of courtship and of play,
teasing the berries into a game of bowls
whose jack rests between two mouths.
Behold the spirit of the American West! Cranberry fields, lovely brooks, and gorgeous mountains lighted by the stunning sun, shunning the racing frontier of the conquering front! The beautification of nature in perfecting it is witnessed also on our own restrained selves, in our desire to learn all. But knowledge destroys the art of atmosphere, and we need to seek the fronts within to find the key of revelation.
Up she goes,
sashaying her bucket in childish dance,
held asway by a restrained arm
trained by habit in defiance to the blazing wind.
Bucket after bucket,
the cranberries go down
afore the maiden who lies in sight of the passing Angel
where new sprung adventures lie.
They scamper off into the picnic barn
while the others stay to start the fall aflame.
And so the ladies glide with linked hands amid the pleasing song,
a tune of mellifluous notes hung captive in the air
by the diaphanous simplicity of the harp
whose delicate strings pull the birches
up and down like puppet lines guiding the
enjoined hands of the grand arabesque.
An enchanting sight!
Soothing the wishes of uncharted dreams
across the ever running frontier,
which never recalls the time at bay,
but the whispers of the time overpast
and the romance of the hour to come.
She who plays the tune gazes up
to enchant the voyeur into the wood.
and look askance the gilded veil
of mirrored reflections in the tempered lake,
where Nemi reigns to seal the void which drowns
the pagan priests chasing themselves amid the sacred groves,
in a bid to crown the next King.
But seal away those thoughts to make something new,
and refresh the land with a spirit anew!
Look afore the Garden high,
across the women swimming in the water’s bath.
Feel the majesty of the victorious town,
in the soft-kneading hands braiding the little girl’s hair.
A vast stormfront of dangling cliffs and jagged edges,
leveled with a barrage of forceful hands,
brought to life in a self refined,
made less dangerous over the passing viaduct whose hands struggle to unite.
To make anew the vast wilderness,
borrowing the inks of the Phlegraen Fields
where night falls to paint the sky in eventide
and call the chorus to the Vesper Hymn.
But a man remains still on his wooden raft,
looking at the moonrise with a head dipped down
in grand surrender to the river’s tide
along the marsh bay land of the Great Alexandria.
A dream to be realized,
held in the midsummer shadows of a little winding road,
over the townsfolk of a summer red house,
in the rainboots of two children wiling the time atop the Shinnecock Hills
along the importation of a whole generation
enticed by an inviting arch after the season of rains
which douses all in a gossamer coat of ethereal beauty
that preys upon the mind of the Artist.
He embraces the silence,
stroking the waters with his pole,
and sees the beauty as it is amid the wrinkled glass.
Cross the hundred lakes and another waits at the Northeastern tip,
where a young man sits in anticipation of the new future,
where cattle roam in penned squares and sawmills fell to erect
a passage over the passing brook now used by men
driving in horse-drawn buggies.
And within the small frame of this grand crossroad,
a lady walks up the narrow plank to an old mill,
to receive her fate in the woes of a past agrarian dance,
so marked by the black ribbon round her sand pebble boat hat,
and the shining ray of red against the dark tresses of the homespun clothes.
Milk pail in hand, she moves, after the animal before her,
while the group of three whisper among the trees
for they will go last, and feel the least.
For elsewhere the same red glow
steeps the scene in a rose-hued sea
where cattle and oxen now drink from the tiered fountain
in the quiescence of a silent implosion
obscuring the fields and the valleys.
They desire to be seen,
and will not be till they
reemerge in symmetry.
Putting a leash on the game,
and building a shelter from the wood,
the man contemplates the vast mountains before the pristine lake
where cows serenely sit to drink,
reviving himself under pampered eaves.
But they prove too high to climb,
lying outside the bounds of cultivation
away from the blood-apple glow of the setting sun.
What difference is it to the high hung tales?
The Child’s Instructor and the Duty,
made to frame the spirit with pronounced eye,
in one neat cloth that appeals mainly
for the vain attempt to control, seen
in the well-fashioned stitches of patience
piecing together a handsome silk bag
that dissolves away the unchained wild.
Without restrain they go about their day,
pushing round the wheel of nature,
while the others sought to steel themselves
in the ruffled trappings of a new book.
They are portents, omens of death and decay
to the flowery nations symbolized in the overreaching hands,
harbingers of doom floating above the Romans
who fought to domesticate an enclosed garden.
They do not much care,
and the men continue their dinner search
as they wade into the tide pools,
rake and trowel in hand,
oblivious to the firesome roars of the hooting train,
as the tides are their sole command.
No draft of cold could sullen these faces
as warm hands work in tandem to restore the holes.
The faces that gaze sternly in the passing glare,
remarking the welcomed intrusion of sudden stare.
A brief second, a transient moment, for them
to advance a highbrow world of mockery and manners
on those peeking into their lives.
But death comes after learning,
in man’s desire to accumulate all,
for what does the knowing spirit do after knowing all?
A may morning in the park,
left to paint the artless truth,
away the abode of the ardent youth.
To capture a moment
and steal away its mystery,
like the guilty wax models
sitting afore the easel’s brush
in hollow gloom to the never-ending chimney of the Tiffany room.
No more conquests, no more awe.
Left with reason, left with truth,
the mind no longer wonders at the veiled cloaking falls
but seeks to festoon a rope of dead sparrows
round the fleeting horse
and freeze a confession out of them
under the watchful eye of the eagle
that sees the monotony of the trot.