The Romantic Literary Period
The Romantic Literary Period was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that occurred from the end of the eighteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century. Major characteristics of this period included that it opposed the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial revolution. The Romantic Period focused on the harmony with nature and escaping civilization. Famous authors that were involved in the Romantic Era were William Cullen Bryant, James Russell Lowell, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. These authors were also known as Fireside Poets because their stories were told beside the fire as the family entertainment.
In their poems of “Thanatopsis” by William Cullen Bryant, “The First Snowfall” by James Russell Lowell, and ” The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, they share a the theme of death despite their views on death are different.The poem “Thanatopsis” by William Cullen Bryant expresses the sorrow of death. The poem describes death to be an unpleasant experience. Bryant explains the undesirable state when he says, “the dead reign there alone” (Bryant 57). Bryant conveys that death will be a lonely miserable phase of life. Furthermore, Bryant expresses to his audience that death is inevitable.
Bryant’s expression of this is shown when he says, “all that breathe/ will share thy destiny” (Bryant 60-61). Bryant states that everyone will eventually join the depressing state known as death. Also Bryant expresses life to be lived to the fullest. This is shown when Bryant says, “so live” (Bryant 73). Bryant signifies that death is not something to look forward to, and that life should be something that is enjoyed to its limits. Bryant’s purpose of writing this poem is to advise his readers to live a life worth living before they fall into the eternal sleep of death.
The poem “The First Snowfall” by James Russell Lowell also has the theme of death. In the poem “Snowfall”, Lowell expresses that death is a sad part of life. Lowell’s sorrow is shown when he says, “that arched o’er our first great sorrow” (Lowell 27). Lowell expresses that death is a very mournful experience. Lowell shows that death is depressing and it is hard to forget the lost ones. The sorrow is shown when Lowell says, “that my kiss was given to her sister/ folded close under deepening snow” (Lowell 39-40).
Lowell’s character gave a kiss to her daughter, but meant it for the daughter that had passed away which shows the sorrow of death. Lowell also expresses that death is a depressing part of life that needs to be accepted. Lowell shows this when he says, “flake by flake, healing and hiding/ the scar that renewed our woe” (Lowell 31-32). Lowell is saying that it is hard to forget the death of loved ones, but slowly the depression is overcome. Lowell’s perspective on death is that it is a melancholy part of life that needs to be accepted and that life will continue.
The poem “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also concentrates on the subject of death. Longfellow’s view on death is that it is a part of life. Longfellow expresses this idea when he says, “the tide rises, the tide falls” (Longfellow 1). The tides in the poem represent the birth and death, and in the quote Longfellow expresses that birth and death is a continuous cycle that will occur for eternity. Longfellow also expresses the idea of new beginnings throughout life.
This idea is expressed when Longfellow says, “the little waves, with their soft white hands, / efface the footprints in the sands” (Longfellow 8-9). Longfellow states that every action that someone does will eventually fade away and create new beginnings for new people. Longfellow’s thoughts express that life will continue forever. Longfellow’s idea is conveyed when he says, “but nevermore returns the traveler to the shore,/ and the tide rises, the tide falls” (Longfellow 13-15). Life continues even though death occurs. Longfellow views death as a part of the cycle of life.
In conclusion, the Fireside Poets have different views on the inevitable occurrence of death. Bryant believes that life should be enjoyed before death approaches and summons everyone into an eternal sleep. Lowell views death as a sad part of life that is hard to forget. Longfellow’s perspective on death is that death is continuous occurrence that happens, but life will continue to proceed. A theme that can be learned from the authors’ poems is that life should be filled with joy and that death is a depressing, unstoppable incident, but life will continue.Work CitedBryant, William Cullen.
“Thanatopsis.” Elements of Literature Fifth Course. Holt, Rinehart, Winston. Atlanta: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1997. 171-172. Print.
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls.” Poems and Poets. Poetry Foundation. Web.
9 Jan 2014.<http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173917>.Lowell, James Russell.
“The First Snowfall.” An American Anthology. Bartley.com. Web. 9 Jan 2014.<http://www.bartleby.com/248/351.html>.