Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Natasha Tate

English 2223 V

Instructor Duncan


A literary time period began in 1800. During this time, short stories, poetry, and novels were read and written frequently. This period was known as the Romantic Period. This period birthed the Fireside Poets, which included William Cullen Bryant and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Both Bryant and Longfellow express three common themes relating to death. The themes that they share are life goes on after death, death is inescapable, and live a meaningful life while here.

After death, life does cannot be put on hold. Life will continue as usual because death is a part of life. In Henry Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life,” he explains how the continuation of everyone else’s life after someone’s is the future and death should be left in the past. For example, this theme is represented by the statement “Let the dead Past bury its dead! Act,-act in the living Present!” in “A Psalm of Life, by Longfellow. In Bryant’s “Thanatopsis,” he expresses this theme by the statement “Earth, that nouris’d thee, shall claim, Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again; And, lost each human trace, surrend'ring up, Thine individual being, shalt thou go To mix forever with the elements, To be a brother to th' insensible rock And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain Turns with his share, and treads upon.”

Death in unavoidable. Death can happen to anyone at any given time. Death is an aspect of life that is guaranteed. The statement “Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, is our destined end or way; But to act, that each to-morrow Find us farther than to-day” from Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life” displays the said theme. Bryant also exemplified this theme in “Thanatopsis,” which can be represented by the statement “So live, that when thy summons comes to join The innumerable caravan, that moves To the pale realms of shade, 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 sustain'd and sooth'd By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave, Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.”

The last common theme shared by the two writers is that life should be lived meaningful and to the fullest while you are here. The time you get here on earth varies from person to person. Since the time frame is unknown, you should make the best of everyday. In Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life,” he express this by stating, “Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us Footprints in the sands of time.” Bryant expresses the same thing, but his example is a little more in depth. He goes to further that explain that you should live a life worth dying before your time runs out. He expresses this in the statement “As the long train of ages glide away, the sons of men,

The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes in the full strength of years, matron, and maid,

The bow'd with age, the infant in the smiles And beauty of its innocent age cut off,-- Shall one by one be gathered to thy side, By those, who in their turn shall follow them, ” which is from “Thanatopsis.”

Though Longfellow and Bryant go a different route in expressing these themes, they poems reach a mutual agreement on the idea of death. The mutual agreement is that death is inevitable. Death is part of life’s natural cycle. Henry Longfellow’s poem explains how life should be lived to the fullest. If you do not make your life relevant while here, you will be forgotten and life will continue. On the other hand, William Bryant’s poem explains that you should live your life how you please without worrying yourself with the fear of death. In the end, both poems come to the conclusion that everyone will one day die.