Boston Museum of Fine Arts

In “Expulsion from the Garden” (c. 1827/8), American artist Thomas Cole has pictured several of the harsh truths of the “Punishment Poem.” A tiny Adam and Eve cross over a land bridge as it collapses behind them into the abyss below. They are cut off forever from God’s lush and luminous Garden (on the right of the picture). The world outside Eden is violent and infertile. At lower left, a wolf tears at the carcass of a stag, and, at upper left, a volcano spews out glowing lava in an ironic parody of the divine light from the Garden. Nature here is a dark and forbidding place where no living thing flourishes.

In the midst of this desolation, Cole hints at hope with the vaguely cross-shaped blasted tree that thrusts upward at the left of the picture.