While this language use is lost on modern readers—there are two important points to note. Thanatopsis is a Greek word that means meditation on or contemplation of death, and the poem is an elegy that attempts to console humans, given that everyone eventually has to die. So it is a vast tomb. If you have a copy handy, we suggest keeping it near while you read our analysis. Bryant received in the following March a second letter from Channing, now editor-in-chief of The North American.
However, this is not explicitly stated. When thoughts Of the last bitter hour come like a blight Over thy spirit, and sad images Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall, And breathless darkness, and the narrow house, Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;— Go forth, under the open sky, and list To Nature's teachings, while from all around— Earth and her waters, and the depths of air— Comes a still voice. Spooner, informing Bryant that he had been unanimously chosen to deliver the annual poem before the next meeting of the society of. Lost on modern readers, these comforts are peculiarly interesting in light of the anxieties and concerns we have seen in the early republican. Later in the poem, the poet uses a technique similar to personification, known as the pathetic fallacy. The golden sun, The planets, all the infinite host of heaven, Are shining on the sad abodes of death, Through the still lapse of ages. Walker, Marshall, History of American Literature, St.
We must stop and reflect on this remark. Thanatopsis might be suggesting that as part of Nature we do continue to exist even once our form is gone. Quite simply, Bryant had by 1821 worked his way back to the roots of his thought about death. Again and again, death is talked of as a kind of sleep. Throughout the poem Bryant creates images which connect death and sleep. To illustrate his point, the poet then ranges far and wide: across the ocean to the Barcan desert which is in Libya and then westward to the Oregon River.
In 1815, he was admitted to the bar, and from 1816 to 1825 he practiced law in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. By 1830, American literature was set for a new flowering of writers who could give full expression to the young nation's spirit. The age of electronic publishing offers the prospect of further decentralization and democratization of the production of literary works. In this poem, nothing that lives is eternal except the forms of nature. Since Bryant had started his law studies as early as 1811, these were probably responsible for the careful, systematic presentation of his argument.
Let's look a bit deeper. So live, that when thy summons comes to join The innumerable caravan which moves To that mysterious realm where each shall take His chamber in the silent halls of death, Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night, Scourged by his dungeon; but, sustain'd and soothed By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave, Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams. Death, far from being lonely, is essentially communal when seen in an historical perspective. Take note of those that contain uplifting sentiments, expressing hopes of an afterlife. But how did Alison's associationist views and aesthetic principles translate within early Republican circles? As the long train Of ages glides away, the sons of men, The youth in life's green spring, and where he who goes In the full strength of years, matron and maid, The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man-- Shall one by one be gathered to thy side By those who in their turn shall follow them.
Bryant doesn't look at death as something to fear. Oneness With Nature Bryant uses nature to fully explore death. As opposed to asking for faith, deism asks us merely to use our senses and reason, which will lead us to an understanding of God and his ways. This is comparable to life expectancy in the United Kingdom 40 , France 37 , and Germany 41 , and higher than Spain 28 , Russia 28 , India 21 , and the world average 26. The simile that follows just two lines later, and which concludes the poem, expresses the opposite attitude of glad acceptance. Bryant's relations with the Review from 1816 to 1821, therefore, form an exceedingly important episode in his literary biography.
Yet perhaps the narrator intends as a consolation that even though our form disappears, we still are an integral part of nature. Included are some passages from the poem to illustrate the important elements. As ages go by, everyone—the young, the middle-aged, the old, even babies—will go to their deaths and therefore lie next to the reader's remains, put there by others who will in their turn be laid in the earth. It might look like this: To him who in the love of Nature holds The bold portions are the ups and would be emphasized. He tells us that, when we start to worry about death, we should go outside and listen to the voice of nature. Lesson Summary 'Thanatopsis,' by William Cullen Bryant, is a poem of encouragement and reverence for life and death. .
To him who in the love of nature holds Communion with her visible forms, she speaks A various language; for his gayer hours She has a voice of gladness, and a smile And eloquence of beauty; and she glides Into his darker musings, with a mild And healing sympathy that steals away Their sharpness ere he is aware. After reflective meditation in the wilderness Bryant comes to terms with death. Structure Here we'll look at the structure of 'Thanatopsis' as well as the major theme of the poem: life and death. Believing in civic involvement, the man of letters still expected the poet to function above the world. The general public, in fact, had no idea that a great poem had been produced on this side the Atlantic.