Bell Ringer
• Explain the difference between the two words
listed and determine whether or not both words
are used in the English language.
accept / except
a lot / alot
all right / alright
all ready / already
allude / elude
William Cullen Bryant
Pg. 277
Emphasis on Imagination
Love of Nature
Colorful Language
Fascination with the Supernatural
Fascination with Death
Encouraged Individualism
Strong Sense of Emotion
• communion - the sharing of intimate thoughts and
• musings - deep thoughts or contemplations
• shroud - a garment a dead person is wrapped in for
• blight - a thing that spoils or damages something
• elements - one of four substances, earth, air, fire, or
water, formerly regarded as a fundamental
constituent of the universe
• pensive - thinking deeply or seriously
• quarry - a place, usually a large deep pit from which stone
or other materials have been extracted
• Rude swain- an uneducated youth
• Pall- coffin cover
• Hoary-seers- white haired prophets
Bryant created the word “thanatopsis”
by combining two Greek words.
thanatos - means death
opsis - means sight
* a way of thinking and looking at the
concept of death*
About the Author
William Cullen Bryant
• was inspired by Lyrical Ballads, a volume of poetry by William
Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
• was attracted to a deist philosophy, which states that divinity
can be found in nature.
• started writing poetry at age nine.
• wrote “Thanatopsis” when he was seventeen.
• was considered to be an outspoken liberal because he
supported social reform, free speech, and the abolition of
Inverted Sentences
English sentences usually have a subject, verb, complement or
object word order.
Bryant rearranges his sentences, so he can keep the same meter
throughout the poem.
“Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who
transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not.
Attachment leads to jealously. The shadow of greed, that is.”
Lines 1-16
What does nature do for those who communicate with her?
Note the word “ere” in line 8 which means “before.”
Nature comforts them even before they begin to think dark
When the speaker talks about “sad images” that make him
“grow sick at heart,” what is he referring to?
All of these images refer to death.
Lines 17-30
When the poem reads, “Comes a still voice,” whose voice is
This is nature’s voice.
What does it mean “to forever mix with the elements”?
Nature says once we die, we decompose and become part
of the natural rhythm of earth.
Lines 31-51
In lines 31-32 how is nature consoling the speaker?
You are going to die, BUT you will not be going through this alone.
When nature says that the dead will be “with kings,/The powerful of
the earth--the wise, the good,/Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,”
what characteristic of Romanticism are these lines demonstrating?
When the poem reads, “The globe are but a handful of the
tribes that slumber in its bosom,” it is saying at this time more
people are dead than alive. This is not true today because of the
growing population rates.
Lines 52-72
What does the segment “each one as before will chase his
favorite phantom” mean? Is nature giving advice to the
living here?
Yes, nature is saying that one should not chase after
insignificant or unimportant things in life.
What comfort does nature offer in lines 71-72?
People who are alive will eventually join the dead.
Lines 73-81
In the last segment of the poem the speaker’s voice
resumes. Instead of talking about death, what is he giving
advice about now?
The speaker is talking about life and says to live life to
its fullest, so when you do die, you welcome it as you would
welcome a sweet dream.
Opinion question: Do you find nature’s advice about
death comforting or disturbing and why?
Analysis Activity
Paraphrase the lines assigned to you.
Determine what the lines actually mean.
Identify poetic devices.
Explain how Bryant uses the device to
convey/reveal meaning.
• Share your discoveries with the class.
• Take notes!

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