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American Literature:
 Glance At Colonial And Revolutionary Literature

 Literature At The Dawn Of The Century

 Charles Brockden Brown

 Washington Irving And The Knickerbocker Group

 William C. Bryant

 James Fenimore Cooper

 The Early Literary Magazines


 New England Literature


 Read More Articles About: American Literature

William C. Bryant

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), who in early youth wrote anonymously a political satire, "The Embargo," was the first American poet of note. His stately hymn in blank verse, "Thanatopsis," which appeared in the "North American Review" in 1817, was a wonderful masterpiece of precocity, and won him an audience in England. Wordsworth is said to have learned the poem by heart, and in dignity of verse and majesty of style it is certainly still to be recognized as one of the poetical masterpieces of this Century. Bryant, who was born in a little Massachusetts town, became America's great meditative poet of nature, fulfilling what Matthew Arnold asserts to be the peculiar office of modern poetry, and giving to nature its moral interpretation. His "Forest Hymn," "Blue Gentian," "Death of the Flowers," "Green River," "To a Water Fowl," "June," and "Evening Wind" belong to the great anthology of high American verse. Although a country lawyer before he came to New York in 1825, and a hard-worked journalist during his subsequent long career in that busy mart, his heart ever remained in New England, cradled in the Berkshire Hills, and the fruit of his ripe old age, such as "The Planting of the Apple Tree" and "The Flood of Years," is still rosy with the flush of the springtime of his youth. Or rather, we think of Autumnal bloom more than Spring blossom. "Bryant," remarks Prof. Beers, "is our poet of 'the melancholy days,' as Lowell is of June. . . He is, in especial, the poet of Autumn, of the American October and the New England Indian Summer, that season of 'dropping nuts' and 'smoky light.' " The majesty of "Thanatopsis" was reflected again in his "Battle Field," with its familiar stanza :

"Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again,
The eternal years of God are hers ;
Eut Error, wounded, writhes in pain,
And dies amid her worshipers."

In the last decade of Bryant's life appeared his blank verse translations of the "Iliad" and "Odyssey," constituting one of the best metrical versions of Homer in the English tongue.

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