Asher Brown Durand's painting of Bryant and Cole in the Catskills entitled Kindred Spirits

by: William Cullen Bryant, 1817. (1794-1878)

Bryant and Cole

                        O him who in the love of Nature holds 

                        Communion with her visible forms, she speaks 

                        A various language; for his gayer hours 

                       She has a voice of gladness, and a smile 

                        And eloquence of beauty, and she glides 

                        Into his darker musings, with a mild 

                        And healing sympathy, that steals away 

                        Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts 

                        Of the last bitter hour come like a blight 

                        Over thy spirit, and sad images 

                        Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall, 

                        And breathless darkness, and the narrow house, 

                        Make thee to shudder and grow sick at heart;-- 

                        Go forth, under the open sky, and list 

                        To Nature's teachings, while from all around-- 

                        Earth and her waters, and the depths of air-- 

                        Comes a still voice--Yet a few days, and thee 

                        The all-beholding sun shall see no more 

                        In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground, 

                        Where thy pale form was laid with many tears, 

                        Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist 

                        Thy image. Earth, that nourish'd thee, shall claim 

                        Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,

                        And, lost each human trace, surrendering up 

                        Thine individual being, shalt thou go 

                        To mix for ever with the elements, 

                        To be a brother to the insensible rock, 

                        And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain 

                        Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak 

                        Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould. 


                       Yet not to thine eternal resting-place Coles

                        Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish 

                        Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down 

                        With patriarchs of the infant world--with kings, 

                        The powerful of the earth--the wise, the good, 

                        Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past, 

                        All in one mighty sepulchre.

                        The hills 
Rock-ribb'd and ancient as the sun,--the vales 

                        Stretching in pensive quietness between; 

                        The venerable woods; rivers that move 

                        In majesty, and the complaining brooks 

                       That make the meadows green; and, pour'd round all, Coles

                        Old Ocean's grey and melancholy waste,-- 

                        Are but the solemn decorations all 

                        Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun, 

                        The planets, all the infinite host of heaven, 

                        Are shining on the sad abodes of death, 

                        Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread 

                        The globe are but a handful to the tribes 

                        That slumber in its bosom.--Take the wings 

                        Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness, 

                        Or lose thyself in the continuous woods 

                        Where rolls the Oregon and hears no sound 

                        Save his own dashings--yet the dead are there: 

                        And millions in those solitudes, since first 

                        The flight of years began, have laid them down 

                        In their last sleep--the dead reign there alone. 

                        So shalt thou rest: and what if thou withdraw 

                        In silence from the living, and no friend 

                        Take note of thy departure? All that breathe

                        Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh

                        When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care 

                        Plod on, and each one as before will chase 

                        His favourite phantom; yet all these shall leave 

                        Their mirth and their employments, and shall come 

                        ColesAnd make their bed with thee. As the long train 

                        Of ages glides away, the sons of men, 

                        The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes 

                        In the full strength of years, matron and maid, 

                        The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man-- 

                        Shall one by one be gathered to thy side 

                        By those who in their turn shall follow them. 


                        So live, that when thy summons comes to join 

                        The innumerable caravan which moves 

                        To that mysterious realm where each shall take 

                        His chamber in the silent halls of death, 

                        Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night, 

                        Scourged by his dungeon; but, sustain'd and soothed 

                        By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave, 

                        Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch 

                        About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams. 


"Thanatopsis" was originally printed in the North American Review, in September of 1817, (Godwin, Vol. 1, 151), & is reprinted from Yale Book of American Verse. Ed. Thomas R. Lounsbury. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1912.


The three paintings are taken from Thomas Cole's allegorical series depicting birth (upper), youth (middle), and old age (bottom).


Compare to Wallace Stevens' poem