Illustration Friday: Poem

Posted in History, Illustration, Illustration Friday, Military, Painting at 4:24 pm

The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
Standing on what too long we bore
With shoulders bent and downcast eyes,
We may discern–unseen before–
A path to higher destinies.
Nor deem the irrevocable Past,
As wholly wasted, wholly vain,
If, rising on its wrecks, at last
To something nobler we attain.
– Longfellow

These are the last few sentences of a Longfellow poem entitled The Ladder of St. Augustine. They have always reminded me of the many soldiers in conflicts past who have answered the call of duty and paid the dearest price for our freedoms.

This is an acrylic underpainting I’ve begun for a portrait of a 101st Airborne infantryman in World War II. I plan to finish the painting in transparent oil glazes. I will post the results as the work progresses. The contributions of the 101st are legend and a perfect illustration of the spirit the poem speaks of.

101st Airborne Soldier of World War II


  1. arindam goon said,

    07.21.07 at 2:59 am

    i salute the soldiers and i salite your work for what it speaks to the world of today.

  2. froggie said,

    07.21.07 at 7:27 am

    i can’t imagine this looking any more authentic, steve. i know it’s an underpainting, your skinny layers, but so much impact, even from the hint of what is to come.

  3. jane said,

    07.21.07 at 7:28 am

    Beautiful and quite sad, especially the expression in the soldiers eyes, a sense of duty done but recognition of something lost.

  4. David Poe said,

    07.21.07 at 7:54 am

    This is a beautiful under painting! I agree that it fits with the spirit of the poem. I especially like the smoky feel and lighting… Great job!

  5. Tina Vaziri said,

    07.21.07 at 8:36 am

    Fantastically painted, perfect composition and mood.

  6. Steve Mitchell said,

    07.21.07 at 10:01 am

    Thanks everyone for the thoughtful comments.

  7. n.b. said,

    07.22.07 at 3:39 pm

    Hi Steve, and thanks for your comment on my IF piece. This is a very skillful illo! I’ve always enjoyed Longfellow (I even wrote an impassioned paper in defence of his out-of-favor style in college.) The first four lines of this excerpt ring especially true to me.

  8. neoauteur said,

    07.25.07 at 10:34 am

    What an amazing illustration! That’s all I can say.

  9. afewgoodpens.com » Blog Archive » Blogroll Updates said,

    08.15.07 at 8:19 pm

    [...] From Ponder and Dream, wonderful original historical illustrations that just make you think. See for example, this one, which is prefaced by a Longfellow poem.  Or just start with sites home page and look at as many as you can. [...]

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