Falls of Kaaterskill (1826)
Thomas Cole
Oil on canvas
The Warner Collection of Gulf Paper Corporation, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Hudson River School Art Trail
Cole's charcoal sketch at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA)

Thomas Cole, "Essay on American Scenery," The American Magazine, n.s. 1 (Jan. 1836): 1-12.

[…]In the Forest scenery of the United States we have that which occupies the greatest space, and is not the least remarkable; being primitive, it differs widely from the European. In the American forest we find trees in every state of vegetable life and decay--the slender sapling rises in the shadow of the lofty tree, and the giant in his prime stands by the hoary patriarch of the wood--on the ground lie prostrate decaying ranks that once waved their v erdant heads in the sun and wind. These are circumstances productive of great variety and picturesqueness--green umbrageous masses--lofty and scathed trunks--contorted branches thrust athwart the sky--the mouldering dead below, shrouded in moss of every hue and texture, form richer combinations than can be found in the trimmed and planted grove. […] Trees are like men, differing widely in character; in sheltered spots, or under the influence of culture, they show few contrasting points; peculiarities are pruned and trained away, until there is a general resemblance. But in exposed situations, wild and uncultivated, battling with the elements and with one another for the possession of a morsel of soil, or a favoring rock to which they may cling--they exhibit striking peculiarities, and sometimes great originality. [….]

There is one season when the American forest surpasses all the world in gorgeousness--that is the autumnal; -- then every hill and dale is riant in the luxury of color--every hue is there, from the liveliest green to deepest purple--from the most golden yellow to the intensest crimson. The artist looks despairingly upon the glowing landscape, and in the old world his truest imitations of the American forest, at this season, are called falsely bright, and scenes in Fairy Land. […]

James Fenimore Cooper -- The Last of the Mohicans (1826; Penguin edition and first edition, London)

  1. A young man, in the dress of an officer, conducted to their steed two females, who, it was apparent by their dresses, were prepared to encounter the fatigues of a journey in the woods. One, and she was the most juvenile in her appearance, though both were young, permitted glimpses of her dazzling complexion, fair golden hair, and bright blue eyes, to be caught, as she artlessly suffered the morning air to blow aside the green v eil, which descended low from her beaver. The flush which still lingered above the pines in the western sky, was not more bright nor delicate than the bloom on her cheek; nor was the opening day more cheering than the animated smile which she bestowed on the youth, as he assisted her into the saddle. Penguin 18; London, Vol. 1, 20-21

  2. As they traversed that short distance, not a voice was heard amongst them; but a slight exclamation proceeded from the younger of the females [Alice], as the Indian runner glided by her, unexpectedly, and led the way along the military road in her front. Though this sudden and startling movement of the Indian, produced no sound from the other [Cora], in the surprise, her veil also was allowed to open its folds, and betrayed an indescribable look of pity, admiration and horror, as her dark eye followed the easy motions of the savage. The tresses of this lady were shining black, like the plumage of the raven. Her complexion was not brown, but it rather appeared charged with the color of the rich blood, that seemed ready to burst its bounds. And yet there was neither coarseness, nor want of shadowing, in a countenance that was exquisitely regular and dignified, and surpassingly beautiful. She smiled as if in pity at her own momentary forgetfulness, discovering by the act a row of teeth that would have shamed the purest ivory; when, replacing the veil, she bowed her face, and rode in silence, like one whose thoughts were abstracted from the scene around her. Penguin 19; London, Vol. 1, 22

  3. While one of these loiterers showed the red skin and wild accoutrements of a native of the woods, the other exhibited, through the mask of his rude and nearly savage equipments, the brighter, though sunburnt and long-faded complexion of one who might claim descent that permitted him to heighten the effect of his earnest language, by the clam but expressive gestures of an Indian, engaged in debate. His body, which was nearly naked, presented a terrific emblem of death, drawn in intermingled colours of white and black. Penguin 29; London, Vol. 1, 45-46

  4. The frame of the white man, judging by such parts as were not concealed by his clothes, was like that of one who had known hardships and exertion from his earliest youth. His person, though muscular, was rather attenuated than full; but every nerve and muscle appeared strung and indurated, by unremitted exposure and toil. He wore a hunting-shirt of forest-green, fringed with faded yellow,* and a summer cap, of skins which had been shorn of their fur. He also bore a knife in a girdle of wampum, like that which confined the scanty garments of the Indian, but no tomahawk. His moccasins were ornamented after the gay fashion of the natives, which the only part of his under dress which appeared below the hunting-frock, was a pair of buckskin leggings, that laced at the sides, and which were gartered above the knees, with the sinews of a deer. A pouch and horn completed his personal accoutrements, though a rifle of great length, which the theory of the more ingenious whites had taught them, was the most dangerous of all fire-arms, leaned against a neighboring sapling. The eye of the hunter, or scout, whichever he might be, was small, quick, keen, and restless, roving while he spoke, on every side of him, as if in quest of game, or distrusting the sudden approach of some lurking enemy. Notwithstanding these symptoms of habitual suspicion, his countenance was not only without guile, but at the moment at which he is introduced, it was charged with an expression of sturdy honesty.
    *[1831 footnote]: The hunting shirt is a picturesque smock-frock, being shorter and ornamented with fringes and tassels. The colors are intended to imitate the hues of the wood, with a view to concealment. Many corps of American riflemen have been thus attired; and the dress is one of the most striking of modern times. The hunting shirt is frequently white. Penguin 29; London, Vol. 1, 47-48

  5. “...The horses of white men are coming!” returned [Chingachgook], raising himself with dignity, and resuming his seat on the log with his former composure. “Hawk-eye, they are your brothers; speak to them.”

    “That will I, and in English that the king needn’t be ashamed to answer,” returned the hunter, speaking in the language of which he boasted; “but I see nothing, nor do I hear the sounds of man or beast; ‘tis strange that an Indian should understand white sounds better than a man, who, his very enemies will own, has no cross in his blood, although he may have lived with the red skins long enough to be suspected! Ha! There goes something like the cracking of a dry stick, too-- now I hear the bushes move-- yes,yes, there is a trampling that I mistook for the falls--and--but here they come themselves; God keep them fro the Iroquois!” [Chingochgook and Hawkeye] Penguin 35; London, Vol. 1, 62-63

  6. "If you had daylight, it would be worth the trouble to step up on the height of this rock and look at the perversity of the water! It falls by no rule at all; sometimes it tumbles; there, it skips; here, it shoots; in one place 'tis white as snow, and in another 'tis green as grass; hereabouts, it pitches into deep hollows, that rumble and quake the 'arth; and thereaway, it ripples and sings like a brook, fashioning whirlpools and gullies in the old stone, as if 'twas no harder than trodden clay. The whole design of the river seems disconcerted. First it runs smoothly, as if meaning to go down t he descent as things were ordered, then it angles about and faces the shores; nor are there places wanting, where it looks backward, as if unwilling to leave the wilderness, to mingle with the salt! Ay, lady, the fine cobweb-looking cloth you wear at your throat is coarse, and like a fish net, to little spots I can show you, where the river fabricates all sorts of images, as if, having broke loose from order, it would try its hand at every thing. And yet what does it amount to! After the water has been suffered to have its hand that made it, and a few rods below you may see it all, flowing on steadily towards the sea, as was foreordained from the first foundation of the 'arth!" - (Hawk-eye on Glenn Falls) Penguin 55; London, Vol. 1, 112-114

  7. The savage spurned the worthless rags, and perceiving that the shawl had already become a better prize to another, his bantering, but sullen smile, changing to a gleam of ferocity, he dashed the head of the infant against a rock, and cast its quivering remains to her very feet. For an instant, the mother stood, like a statue of despair, looking wildly down at the unseemly object, which had so lately nestled in her bosom and smiled in her face; and then she raised her eyes and countenance towards heaven, as if calling on God to curse the perpetrator of the foul deed. She was spared the sin of such a prayer; for, maddened at his disappointment, and excited by the sight of blood, the Huron mercifully drove his tomahawk into her own brain. The mother sunk under the blow, and fell, grasping at her child, in death, with the same engrossing love that had caused her to cherish it when living. Penguin 175; London, Vol. 2, 133

  8. The fiercer element had cropped the verdure of the plain, which looked as though it were scathed by the consuming lightning. But, here and there, a dark green tuft rose in the desolation; the earliest fruits of a soil that had been fattened with human blood. The whole landscape, which, seen by a favouring light, and in the genial temperature, had been found so lovely, appeared now like some pictured allegory of life, in which objects were arrayed in their harshest but truest colours, and without the relief of any shadowing. The solitary and arid blades of grass arose from the passing gusts fearfully perceptible; the bold and rocky mountains were too distinct in their barrenness, and the eye even sought relief, in vain, by attempting to pierce the illimitable void of heaven, which was shut to its gaze, by the dusky sheet of ragged and driving vapour. Penguin 181; London, Vol. 2, 148

  9. [Magua's plunge:] Without exhausting himself with fruitless efforts, the cunning Magua suffered his body to drop to the length of his arms, and found a fragment for his feet to rest upon. Then summoning all his powers, he renewed the attempt, and so far succeeded, as to draw his knees on the edge of the mountain. It was now, when the body of his enemy was most collected together, that the agitated weapon of the scout was drawn to his shoulder. The surrounding rocks, themselves, were not steadier than the piece became for the single instant that it poured out its contents. The arms of the Huron relaxed, and his body fell back a little, while his knees still kept their position. Turning a relentless look on his enemy, he shook his hand in grim defiance. But his hold loosened, and his dark person was seen cutting the air with its head downwards, for a fleeting instant, until it glided past the fringe of shrubbery which clung to the mountain, in its rapid flight to destruction. Penguin 338; London, Vol. 3, 264-265

  10. Chingachgook became, once more, the object of the common attention. He had not yet spoken, and something consolatory and instructive was expected from so renowned a chief, on an occasion of such general interest. Conscious of the wishes of the people, the stern and self- restrained warrior raised his face, which had latterly been buried in his robe, and looked about him, with a steady eye. His firmly compressed and expressive lips then severed, and for the first time during the long ceremonies, his voice was heard, distinctly audible.

    "Why do my brothers mourn!" he said, regarding the dark race of dejected warriors, by whom he was environed ; "why do my daughters weep ! that a young man has gone to the happy hunting grounds; that a chief has filled his time with honour. He was good. He was dutiful. He was brave. Who can deny it ? The Manitto had need of such a warrior, and he has called him away. As for me, the son and the father of Uncas, I am a blazed pine in a clearing of the pale-faces. My race has gone from the shores of the salt lake, and the hills of the Delawares. But who can say that the serpent of his tribe has for gotten his wisdom ! I am alone "

    "No, no," cried Hawk-eye, who had been gazing with a yearning look at the rigid features of his friend, with something like his own self-command, but whose philosophy could endure no longer; "no, Sagamore, not alone. The gifts of our colour may be different, but God has so placed us as to journey in the same path. I have no kin, and I may also say, like you, no people. He was your son, and a red-skin by nature ; and it may be, that your blood was nearer but if ever I forget the lad, who has so often fought at my side in war, and slept at my side in peace, may He who made us all, whatever may be our colour or our gifts, forget me. The boy has left us for a time, but, Sagamore, you are not alone !"

    Chingachgook grasped the hands that, in the warmth of his feeling, the scout had stretched across the fresh earth, and in that attitude of friendship, these two sturdy and intrepid woodsmen bowed their heads together, while scalding tears fell to their feet, watering the grave of Uncas, like drops of fallen rain.

    In the midst of the awful stillness with which such a burst of feeling, coming, as it did, from the two most renowned warriors of that region, was received, Tamenund lifted his voice, to disperse the multitude.

    "It is enough !'' he said. "Go, children of the Lenape ; the anger of the Manitto is not done. Why should Tamenund stay? The pale faces are masters of the earth, and the time of the red-men has not yet come again. My day has been too long. In the morning I saw the sons of Unamis happy and strong ; and yet, before the night has come, have I lived to see the last warrior of the wise race of the Mohicans.'' Penguin 349-50; London, Vol. 3, 293-295

The Last of the Mohicans (1992; directed by Michael Mann)
Uncas / Alice at the Waterfall    |   Final battle scene   |   Ending, theatrical release   |   Alternate Ending |