When this assignment was first given to me I was a little nervous because all I had was a list of names of people for the most part I do not care about. I picked William Cullen Bryant not out of my previous knowledge of his works or his life; I did not even pick him out of a curiosity for his works of life. I picked William Cullen Byrnat because of the name of his most famous work, Thanatopsis. I felt like if I was going to have to read an old American poem, I might as well read one about something in Greek, I was completely surprised by the poems dark subject matter.
Starting this assignment, I cared very little about the American romantic poets like Bryant, and I would be lying if I said I cared a lot about them now. But because of my research I have learned to respect thy poets. I learned about the amount of respect Bryant had for nature and his discontent with his life for the longest time. I like to see people go from a place of discontent to one were they feel at home. I also love to learn and know that I know about Bryant I feel like I know more about American History. His poems gave a great window to America during the early 19th century and without his dedication to nature New York City would lack a very large park.
Researching Thanatopsis was also very interesting. Even though it was not want I thought it was going to be, Thanatopsis was a nice exercise in interpresting not so obvious messages. This is something I like to constantly test myself with, due to my desired profession in film.
I may have not been the biggest fan of this project when we first got started, but after ditching google sites things started to look up. I developed a respect for Bryant and I started to like some of his poetry. I feel like a more complete person after learning about this romantic poet. It is not like I particularly enjoy learning about this, but I believe any and all knowledge has the potential to greater the scholar.
This week, we are going to take a look at William Cullen Bryant’s amazing romantic poem, Thanatopsis. Bryant wrote the short poem when he was seventeen years old and its brilliance was apparent from the get go. Bryant’s father, Peter, picked up the poem one day from his son’s desk; being so impressed with the work, his father sent it to the North American Review.
The editor of the paper, Edward Tyrrel, commented that nothing like Thanatopsis has even been written on the American continent. William Cullen Bryant would later expand on the poem before releasing it along with a group of other poems he had written.
Thanatopsis is the story of death and nature and how close they are to each other. The poem really talks about how death should not be seen as the end of life but another part to it, another chapter in the book of us. Robert A. Ferguson talks about how in Bryants early year, including Thanatopsis, Bryant seems to put man in opposition against nature. Bryant is not trying to say that nature and humanity are counterparts but parts of a whole who compete. Thanatopsis is a poem meant to reassure people that in death we will return to nature, and in Bryant’s eyes nature was paradise. This really put a whole new meaning to the phrase, “To be at peace.”
A line from Thanatopsis reads, “Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again.” Now as ominous as this quote sounds, it is not necessarily meant to be so. Here Bryant is talking about how after our time of living on Earth is up, we shall return and become one with Earth. Honestly this concept seems very Hindu and makes me think that Bryant had some access to Eastern ideas even at a young age. Bryant continues Thanatopsis saying “Surrendering up Thine individual being, shalt thou go To mix forever with the elements.” This part of the poem maybe more obvious to most readers, but that does not make it any less important. People may die, and then they may rot, but their person lives with nature and in some ways us. If we would just spend time communing with nature, perhaps we might find those we have lost. Again this all is sounding very eastern
Thanatopsis provides relief for the living and the dead in much the same way religion does. Bryant gives us comfort in knowing that the dead are never alone nor are they ever in anguish. All of the dead know that someday they will be with there families again because everyone has to die. Though Thanatopsis speaks a lot about death, the reader should know from Thanatopsis that he will not die alone and those who are alone in life shall be loved in death.
William Cullen Byrant was a member of a group of American poets known as the “romantics.’ This group was a reaction to the enlightenment thinkers of the day. Romantics tended to focus on natural and the world outside of human affairs. William Cullen Byrant felt a close connection to nature himself and would often go on walks. On one of his walks, the sight of a lone bird in the sky inspired his later poem “To a Waterfowl.”
The book of poems, Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth and the poem “The Grave” by Robert Blair had a great influence on the young Bryant. In Lyrical Ballads Bryant claims to have heard nature speak with dynamic authenticity, something that Bryant would ponder on with poems over the rest of his life. Bryant found a change of taste in “The Grave.” Bryant moved from a witty Neoclassic style and into a romantic style dominated by strong emotional influences
Brynats family had a large impact on Byrant as well. He inherited a sense of humor from his grandfather Shnell, but the family member that really made Brynat the man he was, was his father, Peter. Peter was a passionate Federalist, and he passed these political believes to his son. Peter was also greatly involved with music and most importantly, poetry. Bryants love for the literature problems stems from the love his father shared for the subject.
The politics of the day also greatly affected Bryant. He was a strong abolitionist, a supporter of suffrage for all, and promoted free trade between countries. These topics would come to greatly change Bryant as he worked for and ran newspapers and magazines. As the editor of the New York Evening Post and The New York Review Bryant shared his political agenda with the city of New York and spread his influence across the nation. These political matters where so important to Byrant that they consumed most of his life until his death.
Poet William Cullen Bryant was born in a small cabin in the highlands of Cummington, Massachusetts to Dr. Peter Bryant. Byrant’s mother SarahSnell had no patience with any form of deceit, or duplicity and Bryant would later credit his mother for inspiring his system of values. From an early age Bryant had a love for poetry, even publishing one of his verse poems in the Hampshire Gazette.
Bryant attended Williams college, but after two years left to study law at Worthington. When Bryant moved to Plainfield to study law, he took daily walks. One of these walks he saw a lone bird in the sky, this sight later inspired his “To a Waterfowl.”
After the success of “Thanatopsis” Bryant decided to put his literary skills to the test by writing criticisms for a magazine. His criticisms revealed a bold and clearly executed style that he would maintain through the rest of his life.
Bryant could not make a living as a poet so he continued to practice law and occasionally would work as the town’s hog reeve. Controversy eventually led him to step down from the field of law and started as a magazine editor in New York City. After a couple of magazine he edited went under, he got a job as the assistant editor for the New York Evening Post. After two years he was editor and chief of the paper and remained in this position for a half of a century. Through the wealth obtained as the Editor of the paper, Bryant was able to become a powerful political leader for New York and the entire nation.
Bryant fought for the civil liberties of black workers and immigrants through out his life. He was even invited to a conversation with President Lincoln after Bryant delivered a lecture in New York. Bryant was also elected to the position of Regent of the University of New York, but refused to accept the post.
Bryant’s work “Embargo” was published when he was 13 years old, it was satire on the presidency of Thomas Jefferson. The book sold out quickly and reflected his father’s strong Federalist position.
It is said that Bryant began his most famous work “Thanatopsis” when he was 17. His father took some pages from it and submitted them to the North American Review. The editor Edward Tyrrel Channing read the piece and said, “That was never written on this side of the water!” The poem was published but mistakenly credited to his father
· A few weeks after his marriage to Francis Fairchild, Bryant received a from Harvard University asking him to address the Phi Beta Kappa society at their August commencement. For this event, Bryant wrote “The Ages” a verse about the history of civilization ending with the birth of the United States. This poem, and many others by Bryant were published in a book called “Poems.” Byrant added verses to “Thanatopsis” for its publication.
In Bryant last years of life he spent his time translating the Iliad and the Odyssey and writing hymns for the Unitarian church. Bryant life came to an end after he fell down a flight of stairs in central park.