Comparison Of Thanatopsis And The Prairies By William Cullen Bryant
Thanatopsis is one of the famous poems which was written by William Cullen Bryant that refers to the views on death in Greek. Further, Bryant poem tries to comfort people from their fears of death through the poem while speaking on the love of nature which is considered to confront individuals in life and death. The author explains that people come from dust where they live on the earth for a while and later become absorbed back to the earth where they will stay longer than alive. The prairies on the other hand by William Cullen Bryant as well describes the image of mistreatment of Native Americans during their early 1800s. The depiction of literature indicates the place of beauty and freedom which is represented in many potential ways. The poem also involves a great deal of praise which surrounds the discovery and exploration of this new America. Primarily this served as a pitch which was used to encourage the movement of white Americans into the wilderness further because the author’s references and description were mainly based on the native Americans as part of the figurative language applied in the poem. Therefore, it is imperative to understand the comparison of Thanatopsis and The Prairies poems in regards to the explanation of romanticism literary works by the author.
The primary goal used by Bryant in the Prairies poem was to paint a positive image of the west Americans to the targeted audience. Primarily Bryant wanted to apply the use of imagery to swoon most of the white settlers to move on their westward. This is depicted from the first line of the poem which is presented with the analysis of beautiful and romantic metaphor. It states that these are the gardens of the desert (Bryant “Prairies” 495). Bryant describes these prairies as not a barren wasteland of the real desert but instead a flowering oasis which exists in the wilderness of American. There is a constant indication of more romantic sediment that takes place in the west throughout the poem that includes various aspects as illustrated in different lines. These lines state that as if the ocean is in its gentlest swell, and motionless forever, no- they are all unchained again” (Bryant “Prairies” 496). Notably, these lines are examples of a snapshot of American romanticism since the author paints to the audience a surreal portrait of the landscape moving and is in the actuality of the essence of the American wilds. The Thanatopsis, on the other hand, has the goal to comfort individuals fear of death. The poem illustrates the nature of love that brings comfort to life even though there is also an occurrence of death afterward. The aspects of romanticism are expressed when the author describes the arms of nature that we wait to receive because it is part of humankind to die in the end (Hay 480). The death does not matter on everyone whether an individual is wealthy, influential in the earth, but the ultimate purpose of all is death. This means that the earth is viewed as a magnificent tomb of man or beautiful and marvelous as described by the author.
The other goal which is put into consideration by the poems is the need to understand the guilt of beautiful cultures within the environment. In the poem prairies, there is ease set in the consciousness which is often shaming the white settlers not to drive the natives out of their traditional territory. The approach of this goal is determined through the use of historical similes which suggest the native Americans be uncultured savages. In this concept, the positive imagery of older inhabitants of the American wilderness is expressed to describe the existing culture. The author states that are they here/ the dead of other days (Bryant “Prairies”496). The phrase “dead of the other days” indicates that the people in which the author views have a cultured and glorious extinct from their land. There is also an indication that the past societies have fallen although there are some fragments which remain in their civilizations which are scattered throughout the wilderness of empty admirable people. The evidence of this element can be found through these lines’ which states that, did the dust/ of these fair solitudes once stir with life/ and burn with passion (Bryant “Prairies”496). These lines present the past cultures which the author has figuratively used to disconnect the ancient people from the west who are the native Americans. In thanatopsis, the understanding of culture is described through the reincarnation in all of the forms of life that gain sustenance from people when they are gone either in the earth, ashes or even waters (Bryant “Thanatopsis.” 51). The focus is to live a life and realize that death will come someday because it awaits everyone. It the cultural belief that it won’t take forever for an individual to live in this earth because life is not about the prettiest or famous person since all of them will be faced with death at the end (Hay 485). The poem also depicts when nature speaks to people she loves and those familiar with its appearance. Further, when they are happy, then it speaks in a beautiful and satisfying voice. The author, therefore, suggests that when people begin to talk about death and the uncomfortable images it possesses, then it is imperative to follow the cultural practice to get out and listen to the beautiful voice of nature.
Bryant uses the figurative justification language to justify the elements of romanticism in both the poems. In the Prairies, there is the justification of mistreatment of the North Americans which seems like these people need to be driven out of their homeland. He states that “the red man too/ he left the existing blooming wilds he ranged long ago/ and also nearer to the Rocky Mountains sought” (Bryant “Prairies” 497). The use of some words such as the blooming and wilder are the essential ones which refer to the state of the west which is now blooming and open with the growth of civilization of the western culture. The author has suggested on the native Americans in that they are waiting to leave the newly cultivated west to look for more savage and wild territory. In the Thanatopsis, there are also figurative terms described by the author within the poem. For instance, nature is often referred to as a force an idea, but in this poem, it is personified and described as a lady. Turning an idea like nature to a woman with a voice depicts an intended expression to the targeted audience. Besides, since this poem is also about death, it is not a surprising aspect which indicates the images of graves, tombs, and coffins being all over the place within the poem. It states that the world is nothing but “the existence of the great tomb of man” (Bryant “Thanatopsis.”46). Notably, the idea that death is not a negative and painful thing but a comforting element is the equalizer to the theme illustrated within the poem. In general, both the poems have indicated the use of symbolism in various capacities to provide the audience with the picture of expressions intended.
Bryant, William Cullen. “The Prairies.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym. New York: Norton, 201, pp. 495-98.
Bryant, William Cullen. “Thanatopsis.” The North American Review (1821-1940) vol. 201, no.710, 1915, pp151.
Hay, John. “A Poet of the Land: William Cullen Bryant and Moundbuilder Ecology.” ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance vol.61, no.3, 2015, pp. 475-511.