Descriptions and details that create a mood in Thanatopsis poem by William Cullen Bryant?

Expert Answers
jmj616 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The word thanatopsis  means an essay that expresses a view about death.  William Cullen Bryant, in his poem "Thanatopsis," uses a variety of images to symbolize his thoughts about death.

Some of the images create a sad, almost depressed mood:

     * "the shroud, and pall, / And breathless darkness,

         and the narrow house..." 

     *  "the cold ground
Where thy pale form was laid with many tears..."

     * "To be a brother to the insensible rock
And to the sluggish clod..."

A different set of images conveys the comforting idea that the dead person will not be alone in death--he will be together with all those who have already died:

 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 sepulchre.

The poem ends on a hopeful note.  Bryant says that if a person lives a morally correct life, death will be painless and even pleasant,

Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.




Read the study guide:

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question