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by William Cullen Bryant

Thanatopsis Time Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Line)

Quote #1

Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past, (36) 

The past is a super-big deal in this poem.  Over and over again, the speaker asks us to imagine the people that were here before us.  He wants us to think about how they lived their whole lives, and then passed away, and how we’re eventually going to do the same.  We think this "hoary seers" image is a really vivid example of that.  "Hoary" just means super-old.  We’re talking about old guys in olden times.  It’s like a double dose of the past, and it really makes us feel the weight of time in this poem.

Quote #2

[…] The hills  
Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun (37-38)

OK, we’ll admit to absolutely loving this line.  If time is a major theme in this poem, this gives us a burning image of what it means for something to be really old.  It’s as if the hills were some giant, unbelievably old animals with fossilized bones.  It’s such a great example of how a poem can take a sort of boring idea (hills are old) and turn it into something that completely lights up your imagination.  Or at least it does for us…but we’re kind of dorky like that.

Quote #3

Are shining on the sad abodes of death,  
Through the still lapse of ages (47-48)

Throughout the poem, the speaker steers us away from our personal, everyday worries and tries to get us to think about the bigger picture.  Here we get an image of all the stars and planets in the sky looking down on the world for ever and ever.  It’s a little grim ("the sad abodes of death"), but we think there’s also something sort of calming about imagining all that time, all that stillness, just rolling away into eternity.

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