by William Cullen Bryant
In "Thanatopsis," nature is a force and an idea, but she’s also a lady. This poetic trick is called personification. By turning an idea like nature into a woman, with a voice and a personality, Bryant makes nature more relatable, and also more comforting. We’ve been taught to associate women and nature with kindness and warmth – think of "Mother Nature." The poem picks up on that and uses the idea of a lady named Nature to soothe our fears.
- Line 1: We don’t learn that Nature is a woman in this first line, but we do learn that it’s possible to be in "love" with it. There’s a whole mix of feelings in this opening sentence, a combination of romantic and religious ideas (in line 2, the speaker talks about being in "communion" with Nature).
- Line 5: Nature has a beautiful voice, and she is sensitive to our feelings and needs. She "glides" into our sad thoughts and brightens them up. She talks to us when we need her most. Again, Nature’s not just a bunch of rocks and trees and dolphins here. She’s a person, a friend, a lover. She’s there to help us out when we get scared about dying.
- Line 15: Basically, Bryant’s advice, when we get bummed out, is to go outside and listen to the voice of Nature. It’s this "still voice" (line 17) that tells us about all the rest of the stuff in the poem. This is the last we hear about Nature herself, though. There’s more material about the natural world later on, but the character of "Nature" disappears.