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696 Taygetus. A mountain in the southern part of Greece, on the Gulf of Messenia.
697 Ypsilanti's Mainote Greeks. Mainote is from Maina, a province of Greece, which furnished Prince Ypsilanti, a patriot in the struggle for freedom against Turkey, with many followers.
William Cullen Bryant was born in Cummington, Mass., November 3, 1794. His father was a physician and occasionally wrote poetry. He was owner of a good library, where the boy, who was fond of reading, spent much time. Young Bryant entered Williams College, but his father could not afford to keep him there, so he left to study law. But he preferred literature. When only nineteen, he wrote “Thanatopsis,” but was too modest to submit it for publication. One day his father found it in the boy's desk. Delighted with the poem, he sent it to the North American Review, whose editor at first doubted that such poetry had been written by an American. It was, however, published in September, 1817. In 1825, Bryant removed to New York, where he engaged in editorial work. He continued to write poetry at intervals throughout his life, and also published translations of the “Iliad” and “Odyssey.” He died in New York, June 12, 1878.
Bryant is distinctly an American poet. Almost all his poetry is inspired by some aspect of the natural scenes among which he was reared.
To him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
Over thy spirit, and sad images
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart; —
Go forth, under the open sky, and list
To Nature's teachings, while from all around
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air —
Comes a still voice — Yet a few days and thee
The all-beholding sun shall see no more
In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,
Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears,
Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist
Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,
And, lost each human trace, surrendering up
Thine individual being, shalt thou go
To mix for ever with the elements,
To be a brother to the insensible rock
And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak
Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.
Yet not to thine eternal resting-place
Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down
With patriarchs of the infant world
The powerful of the earth — the wise, the good,
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills
Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun the vales
Stretching in pensive quietness between;
The venerable woods — rivers that move
In majesty, and the complaining brooks
That make the meadows green; and, poured round all,
Old Ocean's gray and melancholy waste —
Are but the solemn decorations all
Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun,
The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread
The globe are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom - Take the wings
Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness,
Or lose thyself in the continuous woods
Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound,
Save his own dashings — yet the dead are there:
And millions in those solitudes, since first
The flight of years began, have laid them down
In their last sleep — the dead reign there alone.
So shalt thou rest, and what if thou withdraw
In silence from the living, and no friend
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one as before will chase
His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come
And make their bed with thee. As the long train
Of ages glide away, the sons of men,
The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron and maid,
The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man -
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side,
By those, who in their turn shall follow them.
So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.
How old was Bryant when he wrote “Thanatopsis”? Do you think the poem is especially remarkable on this account? Why?
Explain “holds communion with her visible forms," "speaks a various language,” “darker musings.”
What are patriachs?
What is meant by “rock-ribbed hills”?
Why are the rivers spoken of as “moving in majesty," and the brooks as "complaining"?
Explain “life's green spring,” “the full strength of years," "innumerable caravans.”
The word “Thanatopsis” is derived from two Greek words meaning a view of death.
50 Wings of morning. See Psalm cxxxIX: “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,” etc.
51 Barcan wilderness. The desert of Barca, a province in Tripoli, noted for its barrenness.
53 Oregon. A name given to the Columbia River in the northwestern part of the United States.
Is this a time to be cloudy and sad, ,
When our mother Nature laughs around; When even the deep blue heavens look glad,
And gladness breathes from the blossoming ground?
There are notes of joy from the hang-bird and wren
And the gossip of swallows through all the sky, The ground-squirrel gayly chirps by his den,
And the wilding bee hums merrily by.