Thanatopsis As The Prominent Example Of The Romanticism Era
Thanatopsis is written by one of the most prominent poets from the Romanticism era, William Cullen Bryant. He is an American journalist and a nature and romantic poet. Written when he was seventeen, Thanatopsis became the most famous poem in his life-time. When the poem was first published, ‘Thanatopsis’ marked a new beginning for American poetry, and Bryant went on to become one of the most famous poets of the century. He is responsible for translating the messages of English Romanticism into something new. In ‘Thanatopsis,’ Bryant is looking to nature for a lesson about life and death and his thoughts progress from the fear of death to the acceptance of the event. Thanatopsis portrays how when one dies the afterlife becomes an endless world, how the death become one with the “earth, the trees, and everything that is great within the earth”, and how when one dies they do not die alone. The speaker of the poem is William Cullen Bryant himself and the poem is written in iambic pentameter.
In Thanatopsis, the author conveys his message of people should live and not be afraid of death, as everyone will die and become a part of the beautiful nature. The idea that death is not a negative and painful, but a comforting and equalizer power is its theme. Thanatopsis’ views death as part of nature, and believes that death is just another phase of morality of life. ‘Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again'(Bryant). This quote explains that a person once lived upon the Earth, and when they die the Earth will live upon that individual. The first part of the poem from line 1 to 32 discusses interpretation of nature. “Into his darker musings, with a mild And healing sympathy, that steals away Their sharpness, ere he is aware”(Bryant). The author starts by talking about nature’s beauty and its ability to make us feel safe and less painful. By picturing different aspect of nature in the beginning, it lightens people’s dark thoughts about death and make people not to fear death. Furthermore, from line 33 to 52, the poet now embarks on a consolation for the inevitability of death. He says that he’s not going to “final destination” alone and could not ask for a more magnificent place to go. Bryant states, “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” (Bryant). It doesn’t matter who the person is, because when everyone dies, he or her goes to the same place. This serves as a comfort, and keeps readers not to feel lonely. Moreover, the poet also refers continually to death as dreams and resting, which explains his thoughts of the afterlife. For example, at the end of the poem he refers death as dream, “By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave, Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch. About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams” (Bryant). This quote explains that when the time of death arrives, people should just accept and embrace it. A person needs to go to a grave like a person approaches to bed, and lie down to sweet dreams. In line 74 the poet suggested an advice to the readers, “live in the light of that knowledge, and when the time for death comes, go willingly. Do not be like a slave who has to be driven by a whip to work in a quarry at night, but be uplifted and comforted like someone who is going to bed, wraps the bedding around him, and lies down to await ‘pleasant dreams.'(Bryant). At the end of the poem, the poet talks about death is like a happy, dream-filled sleep.
Numerous ideas in the poem are presented clearly to the reader by the use personification, tone and imagery. The tone of the poem shifts throughout the poem. It first starts with a happy and upbeat tone and it ends with a hopeful tone. He mentions, “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” (Bryant). He uses a sweet, and happy tone to describe how pleasing the nature is. Additionally, the author conveys the message by using figurative language such as personification and imagery. “She has a voice of gladness, and a smile” (Bryant), nature is an inanimate object and referred as a woman that has a beautiful voice and smile. Bryant intends to portray nature as having such beautiful characteristics. Imagery is used throughout the poem to convey the relationship of death to nature. For example, “Of stern agony, and shroud, and pall,” the quote creates an image of something dark is going to occur. “The all-beholding sun shall see no more In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground, Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears, Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist Thy image” (Bryant). This quote examines how that one day they will never be seen on earth again.
By portraying the theme of nature, tone, and figurative language in the poem, the author successfully conveys his message that people should accept death and not fear it, but one should embrace the beauty of nature. With his imagery, tone, and theme, Bryant brings his readers together as members of a larger human race and comforts them that their death brings not fear or pain, but instead leads them to a place of solemn magnificent peace.