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Thanatopsis and The Bible
In William Cullen Bryant’s early nineteenth century poem Thanatopsis, a collage of imagery and ideas surround a central theme of the cycle of life. Within this poem lies a story of great wonder and hope. The story is that of the afterlife in which Bryant conveys a lot of the same ideas of a majestic and heavenly paradise that are present in the Christian Bible. Since Bryant was schooled heavily in theology, is Thanatopsis based on the ideas that the Christian Bible holds of the afterlife?
Bryant immediately introduces his notion of spiritual unity among humans and nature in the first line of the poem.
To him 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 gentle sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware (Line 1).
From this opening line of the poem the reader is aware of Bryant’s use of metaphorical language to describe the bond in which nature holds with man. According to the first book of Genesis, God created all of nature and delegated some of his authority over it to the human race. He gave humans the promise of protection and forgiveness in return for the service of watching over his creation. This is what Bryant affirms to be the “Communion” in which man holds with nature. Since nature is the circumstance for human existence, humans see it as glorious as well as comforting in times of trouble. No matter how lonely, or desolate a human soul can get, nature is still part of man. This is a very strong correlation to the Christian Bible, however it is not the only one that Bryant mentions in Thanatopsis.
Bryant goes on to describe and almost tell the reader of the story not to fear the final moments of life for all that is and was created “Will share thy destiny.”(Line 61) Lik...
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