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Dead men whose bones earth bosomed long ago.The reference is equally to certain themes and moods and unclassified details in poems written long after Thanatopsis, all of which, though so characteristically Bryant's, make us feel him as much closer to the eighteenth century tradition than any of his contemporaries, even than Holmes with his deference to “the steel-bright epigrams of Pope” ; so that we may appraise him much better by going forward from the moralizing, “nature” blank verse of Thomson, Cowper, Young, and Akenside, than backward from Wordsworth and Tennyson. In the eighteenth century tradition is the very preference for blank verse as the instrument for large and serious thought, and the lifelong preference itself for large and serious thought on Death, History, Destiny. The Biblical note too is of the former age. But the diction is, if anything, freer than the mature Wordsworth himself from eighteenth century poetic slang, and the peculiarities of this blank verse (to be mentioned later) have fewer cadences suggestive of Cowper than, perhaps, of the early poems of Southey, whose impression on those impressionable first years of Bryant's has apparently been overlooked.4 With this early romanticism we may connect the sentimental element in the appeal of innocent and happy savages, whether
2 Tennysonian blank-verse in Sella has been suggested-unconvincingly.
3 See Autobiographical Fragment for a partial list.
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