William Cullen Bryant American Romanticism Writer Biography Of William C. B. • Born in Cummington, MA; November 3rd, 1794. • Son of Peter Bryant; a doctor and later a state legislature. • In 1812, he entered the study of law, but later quit in three years because the subject didn’t retain his interest. • Wrote his first poem, “Thanoptosis”, at age nine; regarded as a prodigy. • At the age of 13 he wrote a satirical article about the Jefferson party which caught the eye of many. • At the age of 16, he attended Williams College in Williamsburg, MA. • In 1821, he presented “The Ages” to Harvard University’s Fraternity. • In 1825, he was appointed assistant editor to the New York review, which was the top selling newspaper at the time. • He became known for his literary works in America and also in England. • With growing interest studying abroad, he moved to the countries of France, Italy, and Germany, spending several years there. • William C. B. died in 1876 from a fall. William C.B. • William C.B was before his far beyond his time. He wrote over 30 poems and short stories all of which were regarded as literary genius. His writing were rarely about American heroes and idol for which his people were to follow. His writings were from a more philosophical, and natural stand-point. He wrote so well people began to question whether or not he was American. William C.B. Paved the way for many other literary artists to make their own path in the line of history. Poems by William C.B. • Thanatopsis • Spring In Town • Artic Lover • Hymn to death • Future Life • Love and Folly • Mutation • Spring in Town • Song of Marion's Men • The Death of Lincoln • June • The Death of Flowers • The Murdered Traveler • Consumption • Summer wind • After a tempest • The Living Lost • Consumption • The Strange Lady • Song of Pitcairn's Island • Hymn of the City • The Skies • October • The West Wind • The Yellow Violet • To a Cloud • To a Waterfowl • The Gladness of Nature • November Mutation By: William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) They talk of short-lived pleasure--be it so-- Pain dies as quickly: stem, hard-featured pain Expires, and lets her weary prisoner go. The fiercest agonies have shortest reign; And after dreams of horror, comes again The welcome morning with its rays of peace. Oblivion, softly wiping out the stain, Makes the strong secret pangs of shame to cease. Remorse is virtue's root; its fair increase Are fruits of innocence and blessedness: Thus joy, o'erborne and bound, doth still release His young limbs from the chains that round him press. Weep not that the world changes--did it keep A stable changeless state, 'twere cause indeed to weep. Interpretation: • This poem briefly explains the idea of someone having to let go before the pain become to much that ones consciousness can not bear. • It says that the only way a person can be without these feelings of remorse is only if their own mind is clear secrets that would belittle their own name. • Saying that the world doesn’t stop because one person is feeling down, and that it will move on without you. • Acknowledge the thing that is making you sad and move on without it. William Cullen Bryant Brittani Chasity Danielle Joy Philip Sam Table of Contents • Biography • Thanatopsis analysis • Lit. Book Questions • Significance of Bryant’s Poems in American Romanticism • (Sonnet) To the American Painter Departing for Europe • Poem analysis Biography • Born: November 3, 1794 • Died: June 12, 1878 • American poet, newspaper editor • first exposed to poetry in father’s library • (father was physician) • Keen observer of nature while growing up in N.E. countryside • Wrote number of poems before age 21 • Considered a child Prodigy • Works include: Thanatopsis, To a Waterfowl, Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood, and The Yellow Violet • Works reflected Eng. Romantics, included own simplistic style. Biography (continued) • Spent a year in private study at Williams • Practiced law in Great Barrington, Mass. Until 1825 • Moved to New York City, already known as a poet and a critic • 1826: becomes associate editor of New York Evening Post • 1829-death: part owner and editor in chief of New York Evening Post • Among these things he also was a defender of human rights, an advocate of free trade and of the abolition of slavery. Biography (continued) • Earliest American theorist of poetry • Delivered and published series of critical essays such as “Lectures on Poetry” • Essays stressed value of simplicity, original imagination, and morality • Later career: traveled abroad and made many public speeches • also wrote more poems: The Death of the Flowers, To the Fringed Gentian, and The Battle-Field Biography (extra notes) • First American writer of verse to win international acclaim • His father was a physician • 1866 after the death of his wife, Bryant resumed translating the Iliad and subsequently the Odyssey Thanatopsis Analysis • Thanatos: personification of death in Greek Mythology • Opsis: sight or appearance • “Thanatopsis” : meditation upon death • half poem was written when Bryant was 17, other half written when he was in his 60s • generally considered first important American poem Romantic Qualities of Thanatopsis • shuns artificiality of civilization, seeks unspoiled nature, contemplates nature’s beauty as path to spiritual and moral development, finds beauty and truth within exotic locales • looks to nature for lesson about life and death • nature explains cycle: life, death, rebirth • listen to nature’s teachings, contemplate nature’s beauty • contemplating surroundings allows for development spiritually and morally • “everything returns from whence it came” • Bryant explains to reader that he feels he must live life to the fullest to not have any regrets when he dies Romantic Qualities (continued) • poem offers comfort to reader in that when one dies, he/she also lies down “with kings… the wise, the good” • basically everyone is going to die eventually • reader is able to learn this fact through the contemplation of nature’s beauty, which then allows one to gain a better understanding of life and death • uses imagery and nature • TRUTH CAN BE FOUND IN THE UNSPOILED BEAUTY OF NATURE (Sonnet) To the American Painter Departing for Europe Thine eyes shall see the light of distant skies: Yet, Cole! thy heart shall bear to Europe's strand A living image of thy native land, Such as on thy own glorious canvass lies. Lone Lakes--savannahs where the bison roves-- Rocks rich with summer garlands--solemn streams-- Skies, where the desert eagle wheels and screams-- Spring bloom and autumn blaze of boundless groves. Fair scenes shall greet thee where thou goest--fair, But different--every where the trace of men, Paths, homes, graves, ruins, from the lowest glen To where life shrinks from the fierce Alpine air. Gaze on them, till the tears shall dim thy sight. But keep that earlier, wilder image bright. Analysis This poem was written to Thomas Cole, Bryant's frequent walking companion. Here is a painting of the two men ("Kindred Spirits" as painted by Asher Durand). In this Poem Look at the kind of wild American landscape which can be seen here and in his other pictures, and consider how that image of wildness (and American quality) is imprinted into this poem. Since Cole is a landscape painter, the first line is even more significant.
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