More Homework

I miss New York City. I miss the city, the sites, the food, the music. Mostly I just miss the people I left there.

In my American Literature History class, I signed up to present one of the historic figures we’re studying this week, William Cullen Bryant. The paper is due Wednesday. Here is the park in New York City that bears his name. This shot is eastward, across the north side. Bryant’s statue (not shown) stands just behind the Library:

Specifically, I get to analyze and offer thoughts on his most famous poem, “Thanatopsis.” He was 17 or 18 when he wrote it, and upon first read (this morning), it’s gorgeous.  It was a blind reading; I knew nothing of the poem or its history. All I knew is Bryant was a poet, and his park is in one of my favorite cities.

The poem resonates entirely of eternal perspective, this side of mortality. Its lone focus is death (thus the title), but Bryant’s borrowed omniscience imbues the piece with hope and exhorts an attitude to live well, so we’re worthy to share a grave with those who have gone before, and sleep well. The last sentence:

“So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.”