Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage was written between 1812 – 1818 and was the first example of the Byronic hero.  Byron himself didn’t care for the poem because it was too autobiographical and after it was published he stated, “I woke up one day and found myself  famous.”

When I think about Byron’s poem in terms of Cole’s series, I think about  his influence on the Hudson River School.  Their landscapes  reflect three themes of 19th century America: discovery, exploration and settlement.

Many of the actual scenes painted are the synthesized compositions of multiple scenes or natural images observed by the artists. In gathering the visual data for their paintings, the artists would travel to rather extraordinary and extreme environments, the likes of which would not permit the act of painting. During these expeditions, sketches and memories would be recorded and the paintings would be rendered later, upon the artists’ safe return home.     — wiki

The Consummation of Empire, Thomas Cole

From Childe Harold’s Pilgramage, Lord Byron


I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs;
A palace and a prison on each hand:
I saw from out the wave her structures rise
As from the stroke of the enchanter’s wand:
A thousand years their cloudy wings expand
Around me, and a dying glory smiles
O’er the far times when many a subject land
Looked to the wingèd Lion’s marble piles,
Where Venice sate in state, throned on her hundred isles!

The Course of Empire – Destruction, Thomas Cole


There is the moral of all human tales:
’Tis but the same rehearsal of the past,
First Freedom, and then Glory – when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption – barbarism at last.
And History, with all her volumes vast,
Hath but one page, – ’tis better written here,
Where gorgeous Tyranny hath thus amassed
All treasures, all delights, that eye or ear,
Heart, soul could seek, tongue ask – Away with words! draw near,

The Course of Empire - Desolation, Thomas Cole


Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean – roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin – his control
Stops with the shore; – upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,
When for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.

Sic transit gloria mundi