William Cullen Bryant wrote “To a Waterfowl” in 1815. Bryant, an attorney, ultimately became a writer and the editor of the New York Evening Post. In this poem, he describes the flight of an unidentified type of water bird. It begins as the evening falls with the speaker describing how the bird is flying alone; he mentions that a bird hunter might be the only one to harm the bird as it travels alone. The author questions whether the solitary bird is seeking shelter in a “weedy lake, or marge of river wake” or “on the chafed ocean-side?”
The author then describes the “Power” that guides the bird, referring to a divine presence that keeps the bird from harm and on course as it travels. This Power guides the bird’s path as it shelters in its hidden nest; the Power provides the bird with the innate knowledge that it needs to complete its solitary journey. In the final two lines of the poem, the speaker compares this to his own individual journey. He also feels that he will find his way in life through the intervention of Divine Providence. Because Bryant penned this poem when he was 21 years old, some believe he wrote about how his own life choices would follow their intended path.