Both William Cullen Bryant’s “Thanatopsis” and Walt Whitman’s “A child said, What is the grass?” are very similar in both their perspective on death, writing style, and elements of Romanticism. In “Thanatopsis”, Bryant attempts to soothe readers’ concerns related to death while conveying his perspective on the topic by stating, “All that breathe / Will share thy destiny” (Bryant 60-61). The “destiny” Bryant is referring to is death, and he tells readers that death is just part of the static cycle of life. One should embrace and accept death, which has no bias and is inevitable regardless of social status or age.
Walt Whitman was an American poet and journalist born on May 31, 1819. Whitman was influenced by transcendentalism, which was an idea emphasizing that to understand nature, one must analyze the reasoning or process behind it. Whitman had done many writings throughout his life that had been inspirations for other poets. For example, in the spring of 1855, Whitman published “Leaves of Grass”, which was a collection of twelve unnamed poems. This writing was enticed by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who thought that the collection of poems were “the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom.”
Nineteenth century poet Walt Whitman lived and wrote in a fascinating time period and changed the literary world, all while experiencing a unique American war first hand. A humanitarian as well as a writer, Whitman volunteered as a nurse during the Civil War where he experienced the horrors of mortality, yet felt spiritually content afterwards as well. His frequent interactions with the wounded and sick would further alter his poetry and life, in a way where he would be able to cope with his time spent among the battle. Traumatized by the aftermath of the brutal war, Whitman used his writing as a reflection of his mind and life as his involvement in both the depravity and nobility of human existence absorbed into every aspect of his spirit.
American Transcendentalism was highly inspired by Romanticism, and therefore they have many similarities. However, there are some differences, especially in their ideas of religion and God. The American Transcendentalist period took place in the mid 19th century. It began around 1836 and lasted to roughly 1860. Romanticism occurred much earlier, around the end of the 18th century, but was mostly dominant around 1840.
I Want To Die First Everyone has thought of their own mortality before, their unavoidable death, but what people tend to avoid and repress is the death of their loved ones. In Dr. Olberding’s essay “Other People Die” she brings to light the distinct difference between eastern and western philosophies on death. Dr. Olberding also argues that it is equally important to come to terms with your own mortality and the mortality of your loved ones. The early Confucians take on death largely differed with Zhuangzi’s through their lavish and long-term bereavement process.
Throughout his poem, he constantly talks about the importance of coming together and merging. Whitman says, “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you” (Whitman 1). On the surface, this quote may appear to illustrate that Whitman thinks highly of himself, but it is more than this. The last part of this quote emphasizes that we are all connected and even though we are all individuals, we should not forget that we are connected to one another. Whitman also says, “Urge and urge and urge, Always the procreant urge of the world.
Whitman and Dickinson share the theme of death in their work, while Whitman decides to speak of death in a more realistic point of view, Dickinson speaks of the theme in a more conceptual one. In Whitman’s poems, he likes to have a more empathic view of individuals and their ways of living. For example, in Whitman’s “Song of Myself”, the poet talks about not just of himself, but all human beings, and of how mankind works into the world and the life of it. Even though the poem mostly talks about life and the happiness of it, Whitman describes also that life itself has its ending, and that is the theme of death. For Dickinson, she is the complete opposite of happiness.
Once a Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The soul comes from without into the human body, as into a temporary abode, and it goes out of it anew it passes into other habitations… It is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do not die, but only retire a little from sight and afterwards return again. Nothing is dead;… and there they stand looking out of the window, sound and well, in some strange new disguise." As Whitman was influenced by Transcendentalism, he believed in reincarnation which idea is permanent existence. The individual “soul comes into incarnation (birth) and withdraws from incarnation (death), cyclically to gain experience and evolve in consciousness, each time as a new personality” (“Evolution in Consciousness: Karma and Reincarnation” para 6), therefore, through lines 1288-1297 Whitman keep on referring to death and how he is not afraid of death.
It is common for a person to admire the stars in the sky. Their brightness and arrangement is a fascinating sight, of course. On the other hand, people tend to forget or plainly ignore what is right under their feet. In “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman focused on what he thought was truly important, details of the green grass. Whitman wrote, “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars” (663).
Walt Whitman’s “A Noiseless Patient Spider” was initially published in 1868, in London Magazine. Originally, it was the third section of a larger poem, entitle “Whispers of Heavenly Death.” In the poem, “A Noiseless Patient Spider” the speaker, Walt Whitman repeatedly emphasizes the connection between the spider and his soul. In this poem, the speaker observes a noiseless patient spider on a promontory leaving a mark on its vast surrounding by weaving its web. The main idea of this poem is to draw the comparison between the spider and the speaker’s soul.
He says that “The spirit of God is the brother of my own,” meaning that God, the divine creator, the person who stresses, ‘Love thy neighbor,” is his brother, and all people’s brother which indirectly suggests that everyone love each other and take care of each other because we are family. Whitman then goes on, saying that while America is great, life is not perfect, as everyone face challenges and tough times in our lives, “It is not upon you alone the dark patches fall/ The dark threw its patches down upon me also,” (Whitman 12). He discusses the fact that while America is an ideal society where people love each other, life is not so perfect, as the hardships we face are difficult to overcome.
And whether I come to my own to-day, or in ten thousand or ten million years, I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait” (406-411). Whitman brings light to death. He not only encourages those to embrace death, but to not shy away from it. Bringing individuals face-to-face with reality is where Whitman excelled, his writings were vividly personal, and left nothing to the imagination. Whitman truly inspired those of his time period to face life realities as they
“The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world” was a statement by Edgar Allan Poe. It is a very strong statement, for death, in the non-literary world, is not typically associated with anything poetical. In fact, many would argue that death is the opposite of poetical. If poetical means, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “having an imaginative or sensitive emotional style of expression”, then it can be said that death is unpoetical. Death is the end of one’s emotions, and in non-literal terms, death can be the lack of emotions.
In this grand poem, Whitman glorifies the unity of all people and life. He embraces the geographical diversity as well as the diversity of culture, work, as well as sexuality or beliefs. Whitman’s influence sets American dreams of freedom, independence, and self-fulfillment, and changes them for larger spiritual meaning. Whitman appreciates hard work as well as being simple and non-egotistical. His major ideas are things such as soul, good health, as well as the love of nature.