Wednesday, March 31, 2010

From Darkness to Eden

From Darkness to Eden -- The Art of Thomas Cole

(Thomas Cole, 1842, The Voyage of Life, Childhood)

Here Thomas Cole's first movement of his quartet starts at the beginning: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:1-2)." We have the darkness still as a memory, the shadow of the cave still radiates into creation, but there is no going back, the river flows on. And this light of day brings with it a distinction, light now, darkness before, meaning and non-meaning. And perhaps it brings a fear, a fear that man will one day return to the darkness, that there is a tunnel at the end of time as there was in the beginning, a fear of death and a fear of madness, a fear that man will return to beast. But the child cannot see the darkness, only its shadow, he sees only newness that only the new can understand:

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;--
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where'er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

(Ode: Intimations Of Immortality From Recollections Of Early Childhood, Wordsworth)

If you're wondering, I am on good authority to propose "celestial light" sounds something like this:

(Daphnis and Chloe, Ravel)

(Niépce's Nicéphore's, 1826, View from the Window at Le Gras)

Perhaps we can see "the glory and the freshness of a dream" here, in the first photograph ever taken.

The first day.

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