1820 to 1865 Period Introduction

Period Introduction Overview

William Cullen Bryant

Daguerreotype of William Cullen Bryant, created in 1851 old-picture.com

Bryant Biography

Was inspired by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, English Romantic Poets.

Started writing poetry at nine.

Wrote Thanatopsis at age Seventeen.


Thanatos – Death

opsis – Seeing

Thanatopsis – a way of thinking and looking at death

The poem can be broken down into three parts:

  1. Lines 1-31
  2. Lines 31-72
  3. Lines 73-81

Part 1, Nature reminds us of death and comforts us. Nature is personified.

Part 2,  You are going to die, But you will not go through it alone.

Part 3, talking about life, and to live life to its fullest. Then, when you die, you can welcome it.

Is Nature’s advice about death comforting?

Romanticism and Thanatopsis

  • Draw moral lessons from nature
  • Reverence for Nature

Romanticism was not only in England and the US, it was worldwide. You can find romantic ideas in German writers as well.