19th Century Landscape Painting

by Meg J. Petersen

The guide gestures with a wide sweep
of his hand, as if to take it all in, gather
the vista and hand it over to the well-dressed
couple, who have a small dog, of course. The gentleman
sports a walking stick, and the woman laced boots,
petticoats and a delicate shawl. They perch in their finery on the table rock
conveniently located off to the right front,
the boulder forming a perfect stage
from which they survey the scene,
take it in with their eyes, claim it.
Their gaze owns the landscape, from the clear surface
of the lake reflecting the sky, though the notch
off into the mountain peaks beyond,
ethereal, hazy with mystery, shrouded
in golden mist, like heaven.
What they see is possibility:
great unspoiled stretches of land
rich in resources, lying untapped, land
waiting for eyes like theirs, capable
of perceiving its promise.
These figures in the foreground
are appropriately dwarfed
by the majesty of the land itself,
which calls to them
to tame it.