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Monday, November 1, 2010

Poetry Explication - "Thanatopsis"

"Thanatopsis" is a poem written by William Cullen Bryant in the Romanticism time period. In it, Bryant, literally speaking, describes what is to follow. Bryant says that nature speaks to the people who love it. Nature is happy when they are happy and sad when they are sad. When death and sadness come into thoughts, go out to nature, where you will die. You were born of earth, so you will die of earth; this also means that since you were allowed to walk on the earth, everyone will now be allowed to walk on you, also. The roots of trees will take over what used to be your body. Therefore, you would not have died alone, and there could be no better resting place. You will be there with the wisest of the wise and the grandest of kings from all generations. The ocean, the rocks, the valleys, and the sun will be the scenery of your grave. The universe looks so sadly upon death, but death is inevitable. Go out into the wonder of nature and experience the death all around. You are going to die, and all of your friends are going to die. So, what if no one notices your death? The happy people will laugh and move on in life until their death; the young will grow old and die, and every being after them will follow. So, instead of dwelling on the impending death, live life to the fullest to be able to rest in peace. Literally, as was just stated, this sounds like a gloomy poem, but it is really not about the inevitable death in everyone's future. Imagery is vivid and colorful in "Thanatopsis." "The hills/ Rock-ribb'd and ancient as the sun,--the vales/ Stretching in pensive quietness between;/ The venerable woods; river that move/ In majesty..." (Bryant). His descriptions of nature being beautiful and majestic speak to his attitude toward nature. Bryant wants to celebrate nature, which is common among Romanticism writers. His descriptions also show that the poem has an underlying meaning, other than the predominant theme of death. Actually, Bryant is celebrating death because when we die, we will be surrounded by the beauty of nature.


Bryant, William C. "Thanatopsis." Poetry-Archive. Poetry-Archive.com, 2002. Web. 26 Oct. 2010. http://www.poetry-archive.com/b/thanatopsis.html.

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