William Cullen Bryant 1794–1878
American poet, editor, critic, travel sketch writer, translator, short story and sketch writer, satirist, and historian. INTRODUCTION
The most accomplished and popular American poet of the first half of the nineteenth century, Bryant also was the first American poet to receive substantial international acclaim. Bryant is considered an early proponent of Romanticism in American literature, and his work is often compared thematically and stylistically to that of English Romantic poet William Wordsworth. Opposing eighteenth-century poetic conventions and using experimental iam bic rhythms, Bryant's poetry usually meditates on nature and the transience of earthly things. Although its themes were few and its thought not profound, Bryant's verse possessed a simple dignity and an impeccable restrained style, most notably in "Thanatopsis" (1817) and "To a Waterfowl" (1821), the poems for which he is best remembered. Since Bryant also spent more than fifty years of his life as editor of the New York Evening Post, a career which ranks among the longest in American journalism, he never fully developed his poetic talents. However, Bryant's literary efforts make him an important, if somewhat overlooked, figure in American poetry. Biographical Information
Born November 3, 1794, at Cummington, Massachusetts, Bryant began to compose verses at age nine. His first poem to gain critical attention, The Embargo; or, Sketches of the Times, which satirized Thomas Jefferson's laws limiting free trade, appeared in 1808. Bryant entered Williams College at age sixteen, but left without graduating and returned home, where he studied law until he was admitted to the bar in 1815. For the next ten years Bryant practiced as an attorney, a profession he came to detest. Meanwhile, he continued to write poetry and published several essays of poetry criticism. Encouraged by the highly favorable critical response to the anonymous publication of an early version of...
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