Saturday, June 18, 2011


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One with nature

William Cullen Bryant, American poet and journalist, born on November , 174 in Cummington, Massachusetts, was one of the first American poets to earn praise in the United States. Bryant wrote his finest poetry in his youth. The first draft of Thanatopsis, his most famous poem, was written when he was 16 years of age. The word Thanatopsis is a Greek word meaning meditation on death which Bryant drafted differs from the standard Puritan view of death that had dominated American literature prior to Bryant. Instead of focusing on Heaven and union with God, Bryant foresees death as a return to nature.

In his poem, Bryant tells about how when one dies the grave becomes an endless world, how the deceased become one with the earth and how when one dies they do not die alone. The poem starts out With a general statement on natures various language which breaks down into detailed components of gladness, beauty, sympathy, and consolation (Jelliffe 6). That nature tells us different things at different times. When we are having good times, nature contributes to that. When we are having bad times, nature is willing to help us through our problem. That death could simply be a time of rest that leaves the bodies of the beings, and allows the soul to waken and persist on in the afterlife. He uses strong words to describe the feelings one sees when they are in their last hours, even after they have passed away. The author makes death seem like something that should not be feared, but instead should be looked forward to. Of the last bitter hour come like a blight (). This means that the thoughts of death can be closely associated with nature and that one fact in our lives is that one-day it will end. Bryant referenced, While from all around / Earth and her waters, and the depths of air-- / Comes a still voice (15-17). In this quote, Bryants relates to an allusion of Elijah in the Bible. When Elijah goes through fires and a whirlwind and then hears Gods quiet voice. As well in the first stanza, Bryant is telling the reader to go out and become one with nature when the thoughts of death come. The reason he says this because he believes that people are only here for a short time before death takes them away and that their bodies become parts of nature. He also feels that death should be an exciting and relaxing experience. In this poem We are advised to go to Nature for counsel; she comforts us with the thought of her eternal calm, in contrast to the transitory and feverish existence of man (Phelps). He tries to show that when one dies instead of feeling deep sorrow and pain, one will become embraced by Mother Nature and her calmness. That it will be a smoothing experience rather than a painful and overwhelming experience.

In the second stanza, Bryants points out that all of Earth is the tomb of man, and all who die will be buried with ancient kings and wise men in one giant grave. He also says that when one dies the world will go on as it always has. But everyone who lives after you will soon die, and be buried by your side. In the beginning of the second stanza, Yet not to thine eternal resting-place / Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish / Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down / With patriarchs of the infant world- with kings, / The powerful of the earth- the wise, the good, / Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past, / All in one mighty sepulcher(1-7). Bryant says that when a departed one lays down into his or her eternal resting place, they could never imagine such a wonderful place to lay down forever. He continues to say that the resting place could never have been thought of such an amazing place that one could love so much. He describes the resting place like heaven, a wonderful place where you sleep in the clouds and are joined with all of the people and things you love. Bryant states, All that tread the globe are but a handful to the tribes / That slumber in its bosom (48-50). This reassured us that we will not die unaccompanied because there are more dead people than living and that the dead are everywhere. Bryant point out, Take the wings / Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness (50-51). In these two lines the wings can symbolize a holy angelic being, and the morning suggests a time of waking. After waking, the angelic being breaks through the incarceration of the human grave, which compares to the Barcan wilderness, and continues its existence elsewhere. These lines confirm Bryants belief in the afterlife and that he knows death is the end to the material world which led to the afterlife. Bryant mention, Take not of thy departure?(60), which point out how most stoic philosophers vision on death. They believe that people will eventually forget us and go on.

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In the last stanza, Bryants gives advice to the readers to live a peaceful life without any disappointment. Through the narrators self-reflection, the reader is Exhorted as a result of contemplating these truths, to live so as to prepare for death with serenity and dignity (Introduction). So, when it is time to die, one can go silently and trustingly, like someone who lies down to sleep.

Bryants believes that death prepares the soul for its next journey and death is part of the natural cycle, that we have no choice if we live or die, but we have a choice of how to die. We can die thrusting and screaming or decently.

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