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Thanatopsis Analysis

Author: Poetry of William Cullen Bryant Type: Poetry Views: 11964

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To him who in the love of nature holds

Communion with her visible forms, she speaks

A various language; for his gayer hours

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. When thoughts

Of the last bitter hour come like a blight

Over thy spirit, and sad images

Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,

And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,

Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;--

Go forth, under the open sky, and list

To Nature's teachings, while from all around--

Earth and her waters, and the depths of air--

Comes a still voice. Yet a few days, and thee

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. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim

Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,

And, lost each human trace, surrendering up

Thine individual being, shalt thou go

To mix forever with the elements,

To be a brother to the insensible rock

And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain

Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak

Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mold.

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 sepulchre. The hills

Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun, -- the vales

Stretching in pensive quietness between;

The venerable woods -- rivers that move

In majesty, and the complaining brooks

That make the meadows green; and, poured round all,

Old Ocean's gray and melancholy waste,--

Are but the solemn decorations all

Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun,

The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,

Are shining on the sad abodes of death

Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread

The globe are but a handful to the tribes

That slumber in its bosom. -- Take the wings

Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness,

Or lose thyself in the continuous woods

Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound,

Save his own dashings -- yet the dead are there:

And millions in those solitudes, since first

The flight of years began, have laid them down

In their last sleep -- the dead reign there alone.

So shalt thou rest -- and what if thou withdraw

In silence from the living, and no friend

Take note of thy departure? All that breathe

Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh

When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care

Plod on, and each one as before will chase

His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave

Their mirth and their employments, and shall come

And make their bed with thee. As the long train

Of ages glides away, the sons of men--

The youth in life's fresh spring, and he who goes

In the full strength of years, matron and maid,

The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man--

Shall one by one be gathered to thy side,

By those, who in their turn, shall follow them.

So live, that when thy summons comes to join

The innumerable caravan, which moves

To that mysterious realm, where each shall take

His chamber in the silent halls of death,

Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,

Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed

By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave

Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch

About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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Wow, she is one of the most beautiful girls I have seen x

| Posted on 2017-12-31 | by a guest

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Bryant urges us to live in this poem(9 to last line). It\'s amazing and universal.

| Posted on 2012-10-23 | by a guest

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I also agree with many of the people above who are appreciate and recognize the value and message that this poem reveals. Bryant\'s portrayal of nature\'s role in life and death is done in a remarkable way to convince and persuade readers to value life similarily. It allows us to think about where we are in life and how death is the ultimate force that unites everyone.

| Posted on 2012-10-23 | by a guest

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I first read this poem in 1972 as a High School Freshman. It helped me to see that death perpetuates life. I shed my fear of death after reading and understanding this poem. It offers a look at how beautiful and freeing death really is. There is joy in this poem!

| Posted on 2012-08-25 | by a guest

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Im doing an essay about this poem wow. Lol.... Pokaaaa

| Posted on 2012-07-20 | by a guest

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To me this poems speaks of the love of Nature which comforts us in life and also in death. We come from dust, we dance on the earth for a minute, like snowflakes falling from the sky to be absorbed and become part of the earth. We will be dead longer than we were ever alive - where our spirit dwelt before that, who knows? Enjoy your time on earth and be comforted that the arms of Nature are waiting to receive you, as they are to receive all mankind, and all will become one. It also speaks to reincarnation as we are born again in new forms of life that gain sustenance from us when we are gone - whether in the earth, in the waters or as ashes. Strangely comforting - to me at least!

| Posted on 2012-03-22 | by a guest

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There were some very helpful comments on this site. although there were many that were just stupid. and off topic. k bye(:

| Posted on 2012-01-06 | by a guest

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I greatly enjoyed thepoem and believe it is about life and death and we should live life and realize that our death may come tod ay, tomorrow, or in ten years, but when we die we won\'t be alone.

| Posted on 2012-01-05 | by a guest

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Why are you all talking about this on a poem website. I love poems. I think they are beautiful and you are disrespecting my beliefs by saying this stuff. so back off!! I already cried for 5 hours

| Posted on 2011-12-14 | by a guest

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Thanatopsis means \"Death\" \"sight\" and the theme of a literary work is insight it offers into human experience :) !

| Posted on 2011-12-06 | by a guest

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This peom is lame and should never be read again. And for the clown that said they were a HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR, no one cares. Go die

| Posted on 2011-11-14 | by a guest

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The word thanatopsis itself means a reflection on death. The author is trying to comfort others\' fears of death.

| Posted on 2011-09-20 | by a guest

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This poem is about death and nature (earth). It is part of humans\' life to die. It does not matter how rich or powerful a man is on earth, all of us will pass away. Earth is \"the great tomb of man\" means that the earth is beautiful and marvellous. This poem also reads that we should be calm when our end comes.

| Posted on 2011-08-22 | by a guest

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This poem is really about death and knowing that when you die you will not be alone because of all the people who have lefted before you. Life is not all about who is the prettest or the most popular because in the end we all die..

| Posted on 2011-04-05 | by a guest

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this poem talks about when you die that you shouldnt be scared of being alone because everyone that passed away before you is going to be there waiting for you. so you wont be a lone when you die, because youll always have those people that you once knew there waiting for your arival.

| Posted on 2011-03-21 | by a guest

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you\'re salty chocalate balls, were rather delicios. i enjoyed reading this poem, while chowing dowm on salty adn sweet balls. thank u and good night.

| Posted on 2011-03-04 | by a guest

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This poem talked about how when you die the earth reclaims your body. It also talked about how quickly life comes and goes, so don\'t take it for granted.
- Abigail

| Posted on 2011-02-14 | by a guest

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this poem is basically about life and death ; i think that the message is never take life for granted and keep your love ones close because you never know what tomorrow will bring for you. but overall is a good poem good pick ms. walker =)
Darian Durousseau.

| Posted on 2011-02-10 | by a guest

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Deion King the poem is expressing the feelings of life an death

| Posted on 2011-02-10 | by a guest

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i think that the peom is about death, but it is telling us not to fear death but to just live our lives, knowing that some day the reality of death is coming soon__Kimberley:)

| Posted on 2011-02-09 | by a guest

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| Posted on 2011-02-08 | by a guest

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I think the poem is about death. That you shouldn\'t fear it\'s a natural thing. It also tells how nature relates to death. Depending on who you are when you die you are going to be apart of the earth or nature.Nikkia W.

| Posted on 2011-02-08 | by a guest

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I think this poem basically means, there is no reason to fear death because you become a part of all nature.
>Sham S.

| Posted on 2011-02-08 | by a guest

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| Posted on 2011-02-03 | by a guest

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im doing an essay on this right now.

| Posted on 2011-02-01 | by a guest

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it is pretty much saying that we all die and earth will reclaim our body\'s. And even more we are no more on this earth people go on with life happily and & pursue there dreams, however it is destined that we shall all die and every one will meet there own fate

| Posted on 2011-01-27 | by a guest

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I believe this poem isn\'t only about death however but about immortality. When William Cullen Bryant says that we basically get recycled it has another under tone such that we give each other what we received from the other before us. Thus death isn\'t just what we think it is already but a continuation of the entire human race.

| Posted on 2011-01-17 | by a guest

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Who or what is the \"He\" in this poem, I get how he uses she for mother nature but what is he?

| Posted on 2011-01-02 | by a guest

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This is an extremely fascinating work of poetry about life and death. And specifically how the sexual innuendos of retarded midgets relate to history and our past of communism and terrorism.
This is an absolute beauty to Western Civilization!

| Posted on 2010-12-09 | by a guest

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| Posted on 2010-11-10 | by a guest

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To the doltish \"balls\" guys. You need to get a life. I would like to have your balls (if you have any), a sledge hammer, and an anvil.

| Posted on 2010-11-07 | by a guest

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Here\'s my take on it:
Nature speaks to the people who she loves and who are familiar with her appearance. When they are happy, she speaks in a beautiful, satisfying voice, and has a smile on her face; she cheers them up when they feel sad, and gently calms them down. When you start to think of death and its uncomfortable images, go outside and listen to Nature\'s beautiful voice.
However, eventually, the sun will not be able to see you anymore as it travels through the sky and beneath the earth, where you were sorrowfully buried. You shall also not be seen by the ocean. The Earth, the source of all of your food, will take you in, changing you back into your original Earthly form.
And, losing every part of your identity, you will mix with the dirt and the stones in the ground, which the farmers will then use to make more food, while the oak tree\'s roots will slowly break open your coffin.
While this sounds like quite a horrible fate, you will not be the only person who will be buried. You will be in the midst of kings, heroes, and fortune tellers from the days of old, who were also buried in the Earth.
The earth is as old as the sun, and its calming valleys, lush green forests, flowing rivers, and dull-grey oceans are just the gloomy decorations for every man\'s final resting place; the stars and planets in the sky always shine on us and our eventual tomb. The number of the entire world\'s population is tiny compared to the number of our buried dead. If you were to examine the African desert or the silent woods in Oregon, you would find the dead in the millions because people have been burying their dead since prehistoric times. Eventually, you will sleep in the Earth as well. Even if you should happen to die when no one is around to bury you, you will still share the fate of everyone who ever lived. After you die, the living will continue to be happy, care for their young, and pursue their dreams; however, their time will also eventually come.
As the long shuttle-bus of time glides away from the short platform of life, the young, old, and newborn people of the world will jump on with you, leaving behind survivors, who eventually will also depart.
So, when your time comes, don\'t fight to stay alive and reluctantly active! Go to your grave like a tired man goes to bed, and lie down to sweet dreams!

| Posted on 2010-11-03 | by a guest

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Although a poem about death, I believe it to be one of also loosing his first love.

| Posted on 2010-10-23 | by a guest

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if some one could help me understande this poem that would be awsome PLEASE!

| Posted on 2010-10-12 | by a guest

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Salty nuggets are better than sweet nuggets. I have one salty nugget and one sweet nugget. So go right ahead and lick my nuts, there sweet and salty. a great combination.

| Posted on 2010-10-07 | by a guest

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All of you people are stupid idiots, except the few who actually wrote something intelligent. Thank you to those few people.
Anyway, I believe the poem is about how all of us will die eventually, and death is not something that should be negatively concieved.

| Posted on 2010-10-05 | by a guest

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Not only does this poem tell humans they all must die, but it makes a point of how dying isn\'t something to be feared. As he says, Earth is one huge tomb, and Nature is its tombstone. When you die, you are joining all the multitudes that died before you, and all who are still living will one day join you in the Earth.

| Posted on 2010-09-29 | by a guest

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Not only does this poem tell humans they all must die, but it makes a point of how dying isn\'t something to be feared. As he says, Earth is one huge tomb, and Nature is its tombstone. When you die, you are joining all the multitudes that died before you, and all who are still living will one day join you in the Earth.

| Posted on 2010-09-29 | by a guest

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This is a great poem which tells us only one thing: all of us will die. The pantheist may see pantheism in it; and the moralist may see some moral message, but it tells us only that all of us will die and that how we live in the meantime really matters. I\'m glad there was a \"romantic period\" in American literature, and that William Cullen Bryant helped to make it happen. Some of you think it was all written when he was only 17, but careful study of his life and of the poem and its publication will reveal that only part of it was done then, and more was added later. I hope all the young people who read this will think more deeply about its meaning: ALL of us will DIE. Young people have a tendency to think they are invincible and that death is far away, but we have no such guarantee. Whoever you are, you may die TODAY! I first read this poem when I was in high school, later in college, and now as an old man. I\'m 83 and I know that death will come before too long. The most important words in the final (oft-quoted) stanza are the opening words: \"So live that...\" He is telling us that life ought to be filled with things that are worthwhile and uplifting. You must decide for yourself those things that are worthwhile, and then DO THEM, but I want to add some personal words: There is only one way to be ready to die--you need to trust Jesus as your Savior. Then your life will be filled with good things that you are glad to do for Him and for others in His name. Many may ridicule me for this, but I am convinced this is the most important thing in the world. I\'m not pushing a certain church or denomination--but find Jesus--and trust Him. Then death will not be a \"dread enemy.\" LJB

| Posted on 2010-07-31 | by a guest

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Thanatopsis is one of those truly wondrous works of art which conveys different messages to different folk. It is to be read and relished within the context of each reader's personal experience. Which is to say, its message to you is uniquely to you, and only you can decipher that message.
I find it interesting that so many readers were mature enough, as I was, to find meaning in it for themselves while younger than Bryant was when he wrote it.
This is art, folks, not politics. Leave the quibbling to the pols and explore your souls for its personal message to you.
Jim Pruett, 79 and counting

| Posted on 2010-07-10 | by a guest

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