Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Personally, I liked the poem a lot. It seemed like the poet had given the topic a lot of thought, and was trying to comfort himself rather than the imaginary person the poem was directed to (but maybe it just seems that way to me because that is the sort of thing I would do). Everyone who knows what it is to live fears death. Poets especially know what life is, because it is their job to feel and experience as much of it as possible, and then to analyze the feeling and put it in words.

One thing that rubbed me the wrong way about the poem "Thanatopsis" was its meter and rhyme scheme. The meter was strange because it had few syllables and was fairly consistent, but there was enough inconsistency in the number of syllables that it felt strange to read. The rhyming also seemed weird because of the meter. Normally when a poem has relatively few syllables per each line it has a rhyme scheme of some sort. This poem was a little strange because it did not rhyme at all.

One of the things I did enjoy about the poem is the way Bryant describes things. He writes really well when he personifies nature, and really makes it seem like something meant to care for people, instead of oppose them. He writes "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." Whit this sentence in mind, it makes one wonder why they do not spend more time outside, when such a benevolent force is awaiting them. Then they remember that it is cold and rainy that day and the effect is ruined, but please overlook the recent onset of pessimism that has taken my mind.

Huff's criticism seems to point out a sort of emotional back and forth between comforting thoughts and unpleasant ones (Huff). At first the person in the poem is spending a good time outside, and then he begins to think of death, and thinks of all the horrible things about it. Then he starts thinking that it might be alright to spend his death in the ground with everyone else who has ever lived, but then begins to worry that he will not be remembered after he is dead. The poem continues the back and forth after that, and it makes a sort of debate about what the proper attitude toward death is. I had not noticed that myself, so I am glad that this criticism pointed it out.

Over all I think that this poem touches on a real issue that everyone worries from time to time. Death is something that almost everyone fears, and this poet was also afraid. He wrote this poem to try looking at death in a different way, a way that was less frightening for him. It was a really interesting poem.

Bryant, William Cullen. "16. Thanatopsis. William Cullen Bryant. Yale Book of American Verse." Great Books Online -- Quotes, Poems, Novels, Classics and Hundreds More. Web. 23 Nov. 2011. .

Huff, Randall. "'Thanatopsis'." The Facts On File Companion to American Poetry, vol. 1. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. November 23. 2011. CPAP0402&SingleRecord=True (accessed November 23, 2011).

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