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Thanatopsis

Thanatopsis

by William Cullen Bryant

Death Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,   
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,   (11-12)

This is one of the first mentions of death in the poem, and it’s pretty spooky.  We start out thinking about the heavy, sad, scary side of death.  This is the stuff you might worry about while you’re lying in bed late at night.  You might start to think about being in the grave, in the dark, unable to breathe, boxed in by a "narrow" coffin.  Well, we hope you don’t think about that stuff much.  In case we do get a little depressed about death, the speaker wants us to know that we can feel better just by going outside.

Quote #2

Yet a few days, and thee  
The all-beholding sun shall see no more   (17-18)

This is kind of a weird moment in the poem.  Basically, it tells us that we’re about to die.  We think this is a way of getting the reader to think a little more about this scary subject.  We spend a lot of time trying not to think about death, so the speaker asks us to put ourselves in this situation, to imagine that we are facing death in "just a few days."

Quote #3

Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim  
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again, (22-23)

This is a big theme in this poem.  When we die, the speaker says, we’ll go back into the soil, return to the earth that fed us as we grew.  This is where the nature and death themes come together, where we see the link between the end of our lives and the entire universe.  It’s not a new idea at all. Maybe you’ve heard the saying "ashes to ashes, dust to dust"  - same idea.  It sounds a little grim, but we don’t think it’s meant that way.  This poem really wants to focus us on big cycles, on the harmony between us and the world.  That’s what this line is all about.

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