What makes William Cullen Bryants' "Thanatopsis" special and/or important?
Bryant's poem is fairly important because of what it attempted to do and the location of where it was being done. As an American poet, "Thanatopsis" is reminiscent of the British Romantic poems in both form and theme. The opening of the poem is like Wordsworth, with an elaborate and profound appeal to nature and a sense of the natural world being the seat of all understanding. The themes of death, the democracy element of mortality, and the idea of embracing the notion of dying as part of a larger cycle of life that envelops all living things are very Romantic in nature. The fact that an American poet was experimenting with these themes and in the form he does was uniquely distinctive. It showed the strength of American poets and that there was a level of collaboration and healthy competition that could be undertaken with British poets. While Cullen does write about American themes, the notion of writing about death, maturation, and nature was radical because such a triad of topics were ones undertaken by British writers. For Cullen to do that proved that American intellectual thought possessed merit and validity in the bazaar of world ideas.