How does nature prepare us for ultimate rest in "Thanatopsis"?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this excellent poem, which is famous for its expression of Romanticism and an organic, cyclical view of nature, Nature is shown as a force that is ultimately benevolent and with whom we can have a relationship whilst alive. Note the way in which we are shown that we can be comforted by Nature when we are depressed by thoughts of our ultimate death:

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...

The images used in these lines all are common images refering to death: from the pain of a fatal illness to enclosure and burial in a coffin. However, in spite of the grim death-imagery that the opening stanza contains, it is clear that Nature wants to communicate with us, consoling us about our fate, reassuring us that death is not as we think of it; rather it is only a re-joining of ourselves to Nature, which gave us life in the first place.

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