The Letters of William Cullen Bryant - Vol. 1

By William Cullen Bryant II; Thomas G. Voss et al. | Go to book overview
Save to active project

VII
Proud Old World
1834-1836
(LETTERS 288 TO 314)

. . . These dim vaults, These winding aisles, of human pomp or pride Report not. . . . This mighty oak-- By whose immovable stem I stand and seem Almost annihilated-not a prince, In all that proud old world beyond the deep, E'er wore his crown as loftily as he. . . .

-- "A Forest Hymn," 1825.

BRIANT'S RELIEF AT SAILING FOR EUROPE in June 1834 was evident in earlier remarks to Dana. "I am sick of the strife of politics," he wrote in April; "If I have any talents, they are talents for other things." He hoped while abroad to tackle "some literary enterprise of a kind in which I shall take some satisfaction." But it was soon apparent that the occasional poems he sent to the New- York Mirror could not alone provide such satisfaction. After six months in France and Italy he was still "occupied with nothing of importance," he told Horatio Greenough; he was simply trying "to recover what 1 nearly unlearned in the course of several years, thinking and writing on political subjects; namely, the modes of thought and mechanism of languages which belong to poetry." He missed the stimulus of his countrymen's applause, and wondered what he was doing so far from home.

Almost the only poems of note Bryant composed in Europe, such as "Seventy-Six," or "Catterskill Falls," embraced American themes or scenes. He tried, with meager success, to versify local legends, as in "The Knight's Epitapli" and "The Strange Lady." The one or two poems with a European coloring to which he managed to give some vitality concerned external nature "Earth's Children Cleave to Earth" and "Earth." Even here, his thoughts turned homeward:

. . . Oh thou, Who sittest far beyond the Atlantic deep, Among the sources of thy glorious streams, My native Land of Groves! a newer page In the great record of the world is thine, Shall it be fairer?

But if the Old World offered little poetic inspiration, it heightened Bryant's awareness of social states, and led him to examine closely the people through whose villages he passed, or in whose cities he settled down. He watched their behavior under their peculiar moral and political imperatives. He saw everywhere the persistence of old customs and the "vestiges of power and magnificence which have passed away." He noted wonders of ancient archi

-409-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Letters of William Cullen Bryant - Vol. 1
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 506

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?