William Cullen Bryant Examines Nature
Length: 786 words (2.2 double-spaced pages)
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William Cullen Bryant can very easily be linked to the Transcendentalists. Most of his themes in his writings are concerning the nature of life and the nature of nature. "The Yellow Violet" is an example of a poem about the nature of life. "The Prairies," on the other hand, is an example of the nature of nature. Though these two poems of Bryant's are both about the beautiful world of trees, flowers, and fields, they take on a different perspective of nature itself.
"The Yellow Violet" vividly expresses the nature of life in a very simple way. Bryant takes the cycle of a yellow violet and uses it to describe the humanistic world around him. It is very clever, too, that when he does this, he uses personification. A "modest flower" (2674) pops out from the dark, damp leaves below and "[makes] the woods of April bright" (2675). While the rest of the forests and fields go on with their life cycle this tiny flower does itsí best to make things pretty and happy. The persona describes this sight as an "early smile" (2675) and that is what kept a smile on his own face. Even the various blooms and colors that surface in May are not as joyful because when the violet blooms, it is the first color you see after a long winter of gray. This modesty of the meek flower is compared to that of a person. It's usually the poorer, less known people in the world that are the ones who really cheer you up. They will never let you down. As the persona in the poem points out, "So they, who climb to wealth, forget" (2675). This is the most important line of the entire poem. It is basically saying that those who are wrapped up in material things are just th...wrapped up. They are not dependable. Thus, the yellow violet is the modest person, which are far and few, who you can always count on to stand by you in the end and brighten up your day. This is the illustration of the nature of life.
"The Prairies," however, takes on a little bit of a different perspective. Instead of using nature as a morality lesson, "The Prairies" is more of an account of the way of nature.
It simply tells how nature acts. The persona describes the ocean as having an "encircling vastness" that stretches "far away" as if it "stood still" (2677). This is a familiar sight as we know that when looking upon the ocean it does look as if it were still because it is so huge. "The clouds/Sweep over with their shadows" (2678) and the prairie-hawk...flaps his broad wings" (2678) are just a few examples of how the persona is seeing things. He says that "Man hath no power in all this glorious work" (2678) and this could only be referring to God and His wondrous works, which shows that God was a theme of Bryant's. There is comparisons between the flowers and the constellations. Later in the poem, Bryant goes into how generations have gone by but the surroundings in nature have never changed. Buildings have been built and torn down, languages have been spoken only to be lost forever, "swarming cities" have occupied land and now all that is left are "piles of earth" (2679). Insects, birds, and animals such as the "graceful deer" and even "man" (2680) have once occupied these lands that the persona is exploring. Generations of children have played on the grass and laughed about. Through all of this, the trees, flowers, sun, ocean, and wind have always stayed the same.
All of a sudden, "a fresher wind sweeps by" (2680) and the persona realizes that he is all alone. His imagination had run wild and he pictured himself in different times and places. He imagined all of the other things that had once lived on the earth that he now walked upon. This poem is a perfect demonstration of the nature of nature. The wonders of nature never change. They simply repeat themselves.
Bryant was a very clever guy. Whether he meant to illustrate the nature of life and the nature of nature or not, he sure came up with some pretty amazing points. Here are two amazing, beautiful poems about the world God made for us and Bryant ends up making some important points about life. His main point for the nature of life is basically that life is tough and true friends are hard to find. His main point about the nature of nature is that while lifestyles and cultures change and die away, nature will remain the same throughout eternity.