I think of ‘Kindred Spirits’ almost every time I’m out hiking.
Kindred Spirits (1849) Inspired by
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Nature’s observatory—whence the dell,
In flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
‘Mongst boughs pavilioned, where the deer’s swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the foxglove bell.
But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refined,
Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.
Perhaps the best known painting of Hudson River School painter Asher Durand. It depicts the recently deceased painter Thomas Cole and his friend the poet William Cullen Bryant in the Catskill Mountains. The landscape, which combines geographical features like Fawns Leap in Kaaterksill Clove and a minuscule depiction of Kaaterskill Falls, is not a literal record of a particular site but an idealized memory of Thomas Cole’s discovery of the region more than twenty years prior to the canvas’s execution.
The painting was commissioned by New York art collector Jonathan Sturges and its title inspired by John Keats‘ “Sonnet to Solitude“. Bryant’s daughter Julia donated the painting to the New York Public Library in 1904. In 2005, it was sold at auction to Walmart heiress Alice Walton for $35 million, a record for a painting by an American artist. The Library was criticized for “jettisoning part of the city’s cultural patrimony“, but the Library defended its move stating it needed the money for its endowment fund.
Kindred Spirits in popular culture
- In his book A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, Bill Brysondescribes his love for the painting and how he would love to jump into the scene which the picture depicts.
‘This Sonnet, published in The Examiner for the 5th of May 1816, signed “J. K.,” is stated by Charles Cowden Clarke (Gentleman’s Magazine for February 1874) to be “Keats’s first published poem.” In Tom Keats’s copy-book it is headed “Sonnet to Solitude,” and undated. The only variation is in line 9,– “I’d” for “I’ll.” The Examiner reads “rivers” for “river’s” in line 5, and lines 9 and 10 stand thus —
Ah! fain would I frequent such scenes with thee;
But the sweet converse of an innocent mind.’
~ Poetical Works of John Keats, ed. H. Buxton Forman, Crowell publ. 1895
“Keats’ first published poem appeared in The Examiner, a lively radical weekly newspaper, on 5 May 1816. The sonnet ‘To solitude’, with its controlled rhythm and youthful echoes of Wordsworth, was a clear indication of his rapidly maturing talent. Signed simply ‘J.K.’, it attracted little public attention, but Keats was sufficiently encouraged to persevere with his writing; by the end of the year he had decided to give up the practice of medicine.”