Thanatopsis: My View On Life And Death Essay

Focus Correction Areas
– Clear explanation of my view of life and death
– Creativity
– 2 pages; standard paper form
My View On Life And Death
Thanatopsis, a poem by William Cullen Bryant, tells about how when one dies the grave becomes an endless world, how the deceased become one with the earth, the trees, and everything that is great within the earth, and how when one dies they do not die alone. He uses strong words to describe the feelings and visions one sees when they are in their last hours and even after they have passed away. The author makes death seem like something that should not be feared and should almost be looked forward to.

?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?(Bryant 153). I think that Bryant is taking what can be considered the stereotype of what death and dying feels like and putting it in some very descriptive and strong words. He then goes on to show, from what I gather, how one should really feel when dying. I think the author’s opinion of death is that it should be a happy and relaxing experience. He tries to show that when dying instead of feeling deep sorrow and pain you will become embraced by mother nature and her calmness and it will be a soothing experience rather than a painful and devastating experience. After reading this poem and seeing such strong descriptive words I can understand and almost invision how dying could be a pleasant experience, rather than going along with most of societies stereotypical ideas of how death really is.

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?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 forever 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?(Bryant 153).

In saying this, the author is trying to say that when one has fully embraced death, instead of staying in a small grave in the ground, the deceased will become one with the earth. Even in showing how death is wonderful he uses such powerful, descriptive words. Becoming a part of the earth and befriending all the elements sounds like a dream come true the way he puts it. It almost seems as if this is how Bryant portrays heaven or the after life. This is another way of showing how death should be a pleasant, soothing experience. In my opinion, if how he describes this part of dying is really how it is, than I would totally back him up on his point that death should be a pleasant experience. I am undecided weather I should fear death or if I should look forward to it.

?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- with kings, the powerful of the earth- the wise, the good, fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past, all in one mighty sepulcher?(Bryant 153).

In lines 31 through 37 of Thanatopsis, as quoted above, Bryant says that when a deceased one lays down into his or her eternal resting place they could never imagine such a wonderful place to lay down forever. He continues to say, as he does in the rest of the poem, that one’s eternal resting place could never have been thought of as such a wonderful place that one could love so much. In a way he describes it to be a huge couch which when you lay down upon it you just melt in and never feel like getting up, by saying ?nor couldst thou wish couch more magnificent?. The way he describes the resting place sounds exactly like the stereotype that has also been formed of what heaven is like, a wonderful place where you sleep in the clouds and are joined with all of the people and things you love.

In reading the poem and writing this response I have thought a lot about wether or not dying should be something to look forward to or to dread. When reading Bryant’s strong descriptive words about how great dying actually is I have been swayed to think that I should look forward to it. The way the author describes it so deeply it has made me think that he has actually died and been there, with the elements and with mother earth. I wonder how he could explain such a thing with such detail and precision unless he has been there.


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