Bryant, William Cullen

Bryant, William Cullen

Bryant, William Cullen (brīˈənt), 1794–1878, American poet and newspaper editor, b. Cummington, Mass. The son of a learned and highly respected physician, Bryant was exposed to English poetry in his father's vast library. As a boy he became devoted to the New England countryside and was a keen observer of nature. In his early poems such as “Thanatopsis,” “To a Waterfowl,” “Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood,” and “The Yellow Violet,” all written before he was 21, he celebrated the majesty of nature in a style that was influenced by the English romantics but also reflected a personal simplicity and dignity. Admitted to the bar in 1815 after a year at Williams and private study, Bryant practiced law in Great Barrington, Mass., until 1825, when he went to New York City. By that time he was already known as a poet and critic. He became associate editor of the New York Evening Post in 1826, and from 1829 to his death he was part owner and editor in chief. An industrious and forthright editor of a highly literate paper, he was a defender of human rights and an advocate of free trade, abolition of slavery, and other reforms. He also holds an important place in literature as the earliest American theorist of poetry. In his Lectures on Poetry (delivered 1825; published 1884) and other critical essays he stressed the values of simplicity, original imagination, and morality. During his later career Bryant traveled widely, made many public speeches, and continued to write a few poems (e.g., “The Death of the Flowers,” “To the Fringed Gentian,” and “The Battle-Field”). His blank verse translation of the Iliad appeared in 1870, that of the Odyssey in 1872.


See biographies by P. Godwin (2 vol., 1883; repr. 1967), J. Bigelow (1890, repr. 1970), H. H. Peckham (1950, repr. 1971), and C. H. Brown (1971).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Bryant, William Cullen


Born Nov. 3, 1794, in Cummington; died June 12, 1878, in New York. American poet. One of the initiators of the romantic movement in American literature. Son of a doctor.

Bryant began to publish at age 13. The collection Poems (1821) was influenced by the “cemetery” poetry of E. Young and T. Gray and the lyrics of W. Wordsworth (the poem “Thanatopsis,” 1821; the stanzas “To a Waterfowl,” 1815). Bryant created beautiful pictures of American nature and village life in verse meditations in traditional form. In the poem “The Ages” (1821) the poet expressed his dream of the coming golden age.

Bryant hailed national liberation struggles in Greece, Spain, and Italy, supported the struggle of workers against capitalism, and demanded an end to slavery in the USA. He published Letters of a Traveler (1850). Bryant was one of the best English translators of Homer.


The Complete Poems. New York, [1894].
In Russian translation:
In Zenkevich, M. Iz amerikanskikh poetov. Moscow, 1946.


Istoriia amerikanskoi literatury, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1947.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Bryant, William Cullen

(1794–1878) poet, editor; born in Cummington, Mass. He attended Williams College (1810–11), studied law (1811–15), and practiced in Great Barrington, Mass., (1816–25), before settling in New York City and Long Island (1843). An editor of the Evening Post (1829–78), he was an opponent of slavery and helped to establish the new Republican Party. During his long years as both a lawyer and editor he continued to write poetry such as "Thanatopsis" (written in 1811, revised in 1821) and "To a Waterfowl" (1821) that gained him the reputation as America's first major poet. He also translated new editions of the Illiad (1870) and the Odyssey (1871–72).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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Thanatopsis Poem by Bryant, William Cullen , published in the North American Review in 1817 and then revised for the author's Poems (1821).