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Thanatopsis
Thanatopsis
by William Cullen Bryant

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" – that’s where we get the English word "optic"). When we put it together, thanatopsis means literally "a view of death," although some have suggested that "contemplation of death" is a better English translation. In any case, once we’ve done the translating, this title definitely tells us what this poem is all about: death.

You might wonder why Bryant would pick a Greek title for this poem. Well, it’s one way for a young American guy to show a little class. His title hints that he knows enough about the ancient world and the traditions of poetry to be worth taking seriously.

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