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To Bryant, the Writer, Waiting in America

Rachel Dudley



To Bryant, the Writer, Waiting In America:

A Letter and Poetical Response to “To Cole, the Painter, Departing for Europe

As I read William Cullen Bryant’s poem “To Cole, the Painter, Departing for Europe, I became enthralled in his vivid use of words to Thomas Cole. His words were as invigorating as Thomas Cole’s paintings. Each was on the same path embarking upon the same journey in hopes of reaching a shared destination – cultural independence. The only difference between the two was the medium of expression they used: Bryant used literature where as Cole used painting.

I understand and relate to change. Bryant and Cole were attempting to change the dependence on foreign culture into an independent culture filled with individual authentic American experience. Change is difficult for many and resisted by others; nevertheless, Bryant and Cole continued in their endeavors. And, I admire those who stand for positive change and refuse to shrink back when faced with adversity. Cole was faced with adversity while on his voyage to Europe, and he responded by painting an American masterpiece of nature called the “Oxbow.” Bryant was faced with adversity when his “kindred-spirit” departed for Europe, and he responded with an encouraging poem dripping with idealism expressing their common goal entitled “To Cole, the Painter, Departing for Europe.” I too have been faced with adversity. I suffered a stroke resulting in partial ambulatory paralysis and speech loss, and I have responded by refusing to give up. I continue . . . Cole continued . . . Bryant continued . . . Change took place.

As I sit nestled in the country town I now call home, I smile as I read and re-read through Bryant’s literary work. I can relate. Nature is priceless, and sometimes in the name of “advancement and modernization” we lose sight of the very element that started the need for advancement. Once again, I do not want to be misunderstood, I am thankful for indoor restrooms, running water, and electricity, but I must admit when I wander down into the woods behind my country home, I breathe. Unencumbered by the “noise” of advancement, untouched by the machines of modernization, untainted by man’s improvements, I simply enjoy the blessing God has afforded me in the awesome beauty that penetrates my civilized eyes.

I am inspired to continue . . . . Still on a journey, I want to contribute through a reply poem to Bryant’s, “To Cole, the Painter, Departing for Europe.” Attempting to write in the style of Bryant with the voice of Cole, I began to write as though I was Cole and had just stepped off of the ship onto European soil. I attempted to express the potential shock Cole may have encountered as his eyes searched for nature, but found it buried beneath the houses, buildings, and sidewalks.

Letter To Bryant:

Response to “To Cole, the Painter, Departing for Europe”


 My Dear American Friend:

I wanted to reciprocate your encouragement with my own poem through the mutual feeling of kindred-spirits. However, as I write through the lens of a kindred-spirit, I find that I too am filled with sadness. I miss the tangible camaraderie of my fellow American friend who understands and contributes to our common cause – cultural independence. Therefore, I tried, as he did you, to offer encouragement and hope. Even though I am on European soil and you my dear friend Bryant have remained on American soil, we continue to journey together toward independence. We continue . . .


To Bryant, the Writer, Waiting In America:

A Poetical Response to “To Cole, the Painter, Departing for Europe”

 Bryant! My kindred spirit friend

Tis’ as you penned, here on this European land

The Iron-Smiths, Wood-Carvers, and Stone-Masons

Have stretched their masterpieces as far as one can see

Yet, my eyes are lonesome for the vastness of the untamed, untouched wilderness,

Void of man’s improvements.

‘Tis fair to look upon, ‘tis fair indeed

And I will not begrudge the ruinous talent

As I squint to view the autumn foliage burdened ‘neath their intrusive dwellings

But I long for the soothing ripple of our soulful streams

And yearn to hear the free wind whisper in my ear,

To gaze upon the majestic flight of the eagle soaring overhead

Brings comfort to my nature- craving heart as I reminisce ‘bout the bison grazing

Bryant, my kindred spirit friend

My time here has not yet ended

But I will keep the lands of home

Forever living as I roam this foreign land of cultural difference,

On canvass, I will continue to preserve, our American soil – untainted and pure

In radiant hues of majestic freedom

While thee dear friend continue to pen in tones free of restrictive influence

Stand! We will together though separated by an ocean

United! We will prevail on our journey

Forever free, forever stand, living embodied and etched on American - Nature’s Land.