To him who in the love of Nature holds Communion with her visible forms (1-2)
We think the word "communion" is really important here. When you hear that word, we bet you think of the Christian religious ceremony, right? We think Bryant does that on purpose, to get us thinking about spirituality and religion. He’s taking that idea of believers coming together with God and moving it outside, into the open air. He imagines us joining together with Nature in a kind of spiritual union that could heal our pain and take away our fear of death.
[…] while from all around—Earth and her waters, and the depths of air— Comes a still voice (15-17)
We think this is a beautiful, slightly eerie moment in the poem. We love the idea of a mystical voice coming out of the water and the air. This is kind of embarrassing, but it makes us think of that scene in the Lion King where Simba sees his dad in the sky and hears his voice telling him to "Remember...remember...." Actually, this whole poem is sort of about the "circle of life," isn’t it? OK, now we’ve boiled "Thanatopsis" down into a Disney movie, and we feel a little weird about it.
The innumerable caravan, which moves To that mysterious realm (74-75)
There’s a famous line in Hamlet where Hamlet refers to death as "that undiscovered country." We wouldn’t be surprised if that was what Bryant was thinking about when he wrote this. Instead of telling us what happens or where we go after we die, he simply tells us that it’s "mysterious." This poem has a lot to say about death, and that naturally makes us think of the possibility of an afterlife. Still, the speaker avoids making any predictions about that.