William Cullen Bryant (1794- 1878)
Romantic characteristics of Bryant’s poetry
The question is “why a youth of 17 will write on such a subject—a view of Death.”
The best way to answer this question is to consider the ideas developed in the poem’s various parts.
Lines 1-8: Opens with what Bryant calls nature’s “various language”:
Lines 9-17: The poet suggests what one should do when s/he is oppressed by thoughts of death.
Lines 17-57: Nature offers comfort to the person facing death.
Lines 58-72: Dying unmourned is not important, according to the speaker of the poem
Lines 73-81: What is important is becoming one with nature
In “Thanatopsis,” Bryant uses archaic words, such as thee, thou, list, and couldst. These archaic words enhance the moral tone and the seriousness of the poem.
“To A Waterfowl”
Celebrates Divine Providence – God cares even for the affairs/life of a Waterfowl! (See stanza 4)
Concluding Thoughts and Questions
What “lesson” does the Waterfowl impress on the heart of the poem’s speaker/poet? (See last two stanzas)
Do you find the ideas expressed in “Thanatopsis” consoling or disturbing? Explain your answer.
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