'Thanatopsis: A View of Death' by William Cullen Bryant

Updated on June 17, 2019
revmjm profile image

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.

Cemetery of headstones
Cemetery of headstones | Source

A Young Person's View of Death

When I was young I was afraid of death. I was afraid when someone died in my neighborhood. When I heard that someone had died I ran home, jumped in bed and covered my head because I did not want death to find me.

That was years ago and as an ordained minister, I now preach funerals, deliver eulogies and stand over coffins and commit bodies to the grave. I preached my own brother's funeral and took part in the services of both my parents as well and having preached the funeral of several extended family members and others.

What happened between then and now? What made the shift in my thoughts about death and dying? What got me to take another look at death and to understand that death is not contagious like the common cold? What made me see that because someone died in my neighborhood doesn't necessarily mean that I will die also?

Courses About Death

Now I know about death and dying. Now I know what the Bible clearly states will happen to us at the time we take our last breath. I have taught an Eschatology course many times where I have taken my students through the sequence of death and dying. For you see, everybody will live eternally at one place or the other where it is the place of bliss or the place of torment. Additionally, I teach the Book of Revelation so all our thoughts about death are biblically based.

I am no longer afraid of death because Jesus took the sting out of death. I am no longer afraid of dying because Jesus took the victory out of the grave. I am homesick for heaven because the Bible says that's the way all Christians should be. We should say every day, "Come Lord, Jesus" according to Revelation 22:20.

Meaning of "Thanatopsis"

I began seeing the shift in my thinking even before I became a minister and studied about what happens at the time of death. In college, I was an English major and required to take courses in English Literature, Romantic Literature, American Literature, Shakespeare, and Chaucer. It was during my American Literature class that I was introduced to the poet William Cullen Bryant who at the age of 17 wrote "Thanatopsis," a poem that people couldn't believe he wrote because of it deep and profound meaning.

"Thanatopsis" means "a view of death."The title comes from the Greek word "thanatos" meaning "death" and "opsis" meaning "sight." Some people translate it as "Meditation Upon Death." I like to call it "A View of Death." And to make it more personal, I refer to it as "My View of Death."

Famous Lines from "Thanatopsis"

Even though William Cullen Bryant wrote "Thanatopsis" when he was 17, he did not write the introduction and concluding lines until ten years later. In fact, I like those lines so much I'm requesting those lines to be put on my tombstone because they summarize my view of death.

William Cullen Bryant says we are to so live that when it is time for us to die, we should not fight it, but welcome it. We should not be afraid like a slave at night in a dungeon. Instead, we should be sustained and soothed with an unfaltering trust as we approach our grave like one who wraps the covers from his bed around him and lies down to pleasant dreams.

Like Bryant, I believe death should be a wonderful experience!

Last Lines of Thanatopsis

So live, that when thy summons comes to join

The innumerable caravan, which moves

To that mysterious realm, 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, sustained and soothed

By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave

Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch

About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

Are you afraid to die?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      8 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Stessily, thank you for having this conversation with me about "Thanatopsis." There are not many people who know about the poem and can relate to its deep theological meaning the way you did. I am glad I did not disappoint you by including the last nine lines. I hope some of my other hubs will warrant the same type of response from you.

    • profile image

      stessily 

      8 years ago

      "Thanatopsis" is one of many poems that I associate with my mother because I remember her quoting different lines at different times in my childhood. I immediately thought of William Cullen Bryant's poem when I saw the title of this hub, and I hoped that you would incorporate it into the hub. You did not disappoint me! I understand having those last nine lines on your tombstone. I've always liked the way the poem ends, by equating death with lying "down to pleasant dreams." Thank you for a lovely, inspiring hub that evokes wonderful thoughts and wonderful memories for me.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      8 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Dave: I too have chosen to be an organ donor. Thanks for sharing your story about this.

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 

      8 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      Having gone through so many different hardships at a very early time in my life, at 17 I decided to join the Canadian Army. While in there I received my driver's licence and my instructor told me that if I became an organ donor, that the Provincial Government would pay for the disposal of my remains, thus removing a big financial expense and burden from my family. I jumped at that opportunity and from that day, I have looked forward to the day I die. Of course I also knew that as a spiritual being, my real home was with God in heaven which made the decision even that much more meaningful.

      Just the thought of being an organ donor is like fulfilling a special scripture of Jesus, as He tells His followers the following: JOHN: 15: 13;"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend."

      As Christians, we MUST ALL realize that we, created in God's image are spirits, God Himself being a spirit, the spirit that embodies true love.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      8 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Betty, thank you for your comment. It is good to know you are also familiar with these last lines from Thanatopsis.

    • Betty Johansen profile image

      Betty Johansen 

      8 years ago

      It has been a long, long time since I read those lines from Thanatopsis. They are beautiful and wise. And so is this hub. Thank you for writing it!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, letterpile.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://letterpile.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)