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An exploration of William Cullen Bryant's "Thanatopsis."

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  1. 1. “Thanatopsis” Poem by Wiliam Cullen Bryant (poem is in “ “ because it is not published separately as a major work, but is a minor work published in an anthology = collection of literary works
  2. 2. POETRY TERMS • Foot = has 1 stressed and 1+ unstressed syllables • Iambic foot = unstressed/stressed or ˘ ’ • Meter: number of poetic feet in a line of poetry • Pentameter = 5 feet • Iambic Pentameter = 5 sets of ˘ ’ • Blank Verse = unrhymed iambic pentameter
  3. 3. William Cullen Bryant • 1794 - 1878 • England considered him one of them = • In the “Graveyard School of Poets” • Annoyed Irving, leader of Knickerbocker literary group and Cooper, leader of • Leatherstocking literary group
  4. 4. Diacritical Marks • Diacritical Marks = guides to pronunciation • Most languages have them – Cofre’ Gruss (w/umlaut over u) – Per’spic ca’ cious (accents/stresses on 1st & 3rd syllables) – Iambic Pentameter = • ˘’˘’˘’˘’˘’
  5. 5. “Thanatopsis” from the Greek thanatos (quot;deathquot;) and the suffix -opsis (quot;sightquot;); often translated as “view of death.”
  6. 6. To him who in the love of Nature holds Communion with her visible forms, she speaks A various language
  7. 7. 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… Nature has the capacity to heal the hurt of our lives and sometimes we do not even notice that it does.
  8. 8. …When thoughts Of the last bitter hour come like a blight Over thy spirit, and sad images… Go forth, under the open sky, and list To Nature’s teachings… What is Bryant saying about man’s connection to nature?
  9. 9. …Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again, And, lost each human trace, surrendering up Thing individual being, shalt thou go To mix forever with the elements. What is the connection between nature and death?
  10. 10. To be a brother to the insensible rock And t 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. Is Bryant’s message comforting? Why/not?
  11. 11. 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. What reasons could you give to comfort someone dealing with death?
  12. 12. The venerable woods--rivers that move In majesty, and the complaining brooks That make the meadows green; and, poured round all. Old Oceans gray and melancholy waste-- Are but the solemn decorations all Of the great tomb of man…. What is nature’s role? Does it work for you?
  13. 13. …--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. Where do the “dead reign”? Why?
  14. 14. So shall 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 Plot 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…. What is the worst fate that could befall the dead? What is the comfort the living can find with death?
  15. 15. …As the long train Of ages glide away, the sons of men, The youth in life’s green spring, and he who goes In the full strength of years, the 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. What figure of speech is working in these lines? Effective?
  16. 16. So live, that when thy summons comes to join The innumerable caravan, which moves To that mysterious realm… Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night… …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. Last 2 lines work only if…?