Thanatopsis by William Cullen Bryant: Summary and Analysis

Thanatopsis is a popular poem by William Cullen Bryant which means view on the death in Greek. The author is trying to comfort others' fears of death. This poem speaks of the love of Nature, which comforts us in life and also in death. We come from dust, we dance on the earth for a minute, like snowflakes falling from the sky to be absorbed and become part of the earth. We will be dead longer than we were ever alive.

William C. Bryant (1794-1878)

So, enjoy your time on Earth and be comforted that the arms of Nature are waiting to receive you, as they are to receive all humankind, and all will become one. It is part of human life to die. It does not matter how rich or powerful a human is on earth, all of us will pass away. Earth is \ "the great tomb of man \” means that the earth is beautiful and marvelous. We should be calm when our end comes.

It also speaks of reincarnation as we are born again in new forms of life that gain sustenance from us when we are gone - whether in the earth, in the waters or as ashes. We should live life and realize that our death may come today, tomorrow, or in ten years, but when we die we won't be alone because of all the people who have left before us, are waiting for us. Life is not all about who is the prettiest or the most popular because in the end we all die.

Nature speaks to the people whom she loves and who are familiar with her appearance. When they are happy, she speaks in a beautiful, satisfying voice, and has a smile on her face; she cheers them up when they feel sad, and gently calms them down. The speaker suggests us when we start to think of death and its uncomfortable images, go outside and listen to Nature's beautiful voice.

The speaker tells us that when we die, the earth will take us in and change us in the original earthly form. Losing every part of your identity, we will mix with the dirt and the stones in the ground, which the farmers will then use to make more food. You will be in the midst of kings, heroes, and fortune tellers from the days of old, who were also buried in the Earth. Even if you should happen to die when no one is around to bury you, you will still share the fate of everyone who ever lived. After you die, the living will continue to be happy, care for their young, and pursue their dreams; however, their time will also eventually come. So, when the time of death comes to us, we should not fight hard to stay alive. We need to go to grave like a tired man goes to bed, and lie down to sweet dreams.

This is a great poem which tells us only one thing: all of us will die and that how we live in the meantime really matters. Young people have a tendency to think they are indestructible and that death is far away, but we have no such guarantee. Whoever you are, you may die today. The most important words in the final (oft-quoted) stanza are the opening words: "So live that..." He is telling us that life ought to be filled with things that are worthwhile and uplifting.

The idea that death is not a negative and painful, but a comforting and equalizer power is its theme. ‘Thanatopsis’ views death as part of the return' to nature, like death is just another phase of life itself. "Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,"(Bryant). This quote explains that as a person has lived upon the Earth, the Earth will now live upon that person.

Related Topic

William Cullen Bryant: Biography