Thanatopsis

To him who in the love of nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile

by William Cullen Bryant Click to read full poem

Comments (7)

Michael Bullington, Bryant was a Christian. He even wrote hymns. This poem is directly addressed to people who love nature (not necessarily Christians) and teaches them how to come to terms with their personal mortality.
This poem to me depicts the man who is at peace with God and ready to sleep at rest in the grave to meet Jesus at His second coming!
I first read this poem when I was a student in high school, and I have loved it ever since. It taught me that death is a part of life and should not be feared. So many have passed before us, and we will simply join them. It is not the end, as your body becomes part of nature and simply transforms into something else.
This poem gives hope to the reader.(@michael bullington) It gives hope to the one who has lost or is losing someone to death, to the one who is afraid of death. It tells them that death is not the end. And it tells them that they will not be alone. 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, All in one mighty sepulchre.
I have always found this piece offers the reader two ways to approach his/her own death ('when that time comes to join that innumerable caravan') and then lets the reader decide. This explains why some find the piece inspiring while others see it as depressing. I also think that argument can be made that Bryant introduced modern poetry to the United States in this piece (yes, even before Whitman) while also becoming the 'father' of the Transcendentalist movement.
It's a shame that you really don't get it, Michael. You poor, poor soul.
This is written by a man who has no hope beyond the grave. Poor, poor soul indeed. Eloquent, but utterly hopeless. And to think that this is regarded as his great work!