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William Cullen Bryant

Thanatopsis Analysis

Symbolism, Imagery, Wordplay

Welcome to the land of symbols, imagery, and wordplay. Before you travel any further, please know that there may be some thorny academic terminology ahead. Never fear, Shmoop is here. Check out our...

Form and Meter

When we say that this poem is written in blank verse, that means a few things: Each line has five ("penta") "feet." A poetic foot is a basic rhythmic unit – in this case made up of two syllables....


We know this poem doesn’t come right out and tell you to believe in God, and we don’t actually think it’s "about" religion. Still, if we’re just looking at the speaker’s style, we totall...


OK, this might throw you off at first, but here’s how we see it. This whole poem has a kind of floaty feeling. All the things we see and hear about seem far away to us, as if we were looking do...

Sound Check

The sound we hear running through this poem is always calm and cool. It rustles and whispers, instead of crashing and thundering. It has a smooth, breathy voice, never sharp or harsh or grating....

What's Up With the Title?

Yeah, we definitely had to look this one up. Here’s the basic deal. This title is put together from two Greek words: "thanatos" (which means "death") and "opsis" (meaning "view," or "sight" ...

Calling Card

William Cullen Bryant is best known for writing calm, thoughtful poems about the natural world. He experimented with a bunch of different kinds of forms and meters, but he showed a pretty consiste...


This poem has a tricky, weird-sounding title and an old-fashioned style. Once we’ve helped you through that, though, we think this poem’s main idea is clear and consistent. We’re sure you...


Bryant got an early start in his writing career.  At the age of 13, he published a successful political pamphlet called "The Embargo." He was about 17 when he wrote "Thanatopsis" (source).Brya...

Steaminess Rating

Yeah, nothing steamy of any kind in this one. Actually, as much as we love it, this might be a contender for the least sexy poem ever.

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