Romanticism is a style of writing based in the late 19th century. It is characterized by nature, individual expression, emotion and imagination. Many writers in his time were part of the Romantic Movement and William Cullen Bryant was one of them. His poems are full of Romantic ideals such as the benevolence of Nature and the emphasis on emotion. Bryant is clearly a Romantic poet and his poems “Thanatopsis” and “To a Waterfowl” are clearly illustrations of this.
Nature is a big part of both “Thanatopsis” and “To a Waterfowl”. In “Thanatopsis”, Nature actually has a speaking part. The personified Nature teaches the reader to not fear death, but accept it as a part of life. Nature in this poem is very comforting. She is described in detail and is portrayed as calm and compassionate in her way of speaking.
In “To a Waterfowl”, nature is also important and in this poem, it is more concrete than the Nature in “Thanatopsis”. Bryant is talking about a lone waterfowl that is flying through the air. The waterfowl is part of nature and he questions it as if it would answer. In Romantic poetry, it would answer, as in Thanatopsis, where nature actually speaks to the reader. This also shows the freedom and the mystical aspect in his writing.
Idealism is also a big romantic characteristic in these poems. In Thanatopsis, realism would consider death a dark and horrible thing. However, the idealistic Bryant portrayed it as a part of life and that dying would bring you back to the divine Nature. In “To a Waterfowl”, the bird is solitary because he is a freethinking spirit and is flying free from other’s conventional ideas. This appeals to the radical and the idealistic Romantic in him.
This poetry by William Cullen Bryant is clearly of the Romantic style. He uses nature in his poetry in an aesthetic way, stating it as a kind being. Idealism is used in a romantic manner, glorifying death and showing the freedom of life in its natural form. His poetry is full of content and emotion with forgiveness and love. Bryant’s “Thanatopsis” and “To a Waterfowl” are two excellent examples of Romantic poetry because they use Romantic ideas of freedom, idealism, and benevolence of nature.