of 1811, on the bleak hills, he composed the first draft of Thanatopsis
He was seventeen, and he had been reading Blair
and the poems of the consumptive Henry Kirke White
He hid his verses in a drawer, and five years later his father found them, shed tears over them, and sent them to the North American review
, where they were published in September, 1817.
In the meantime the young man had studied law, though with dislike of it, and with the confession that he sometimes read The Lyrical ballads
when he might have been reading Blackstone
One December afternoon in 1815, he was walking from Cummington
— aged twenty-one, and looking for a place in which to settle as a lawyer.
Across the vivid sunset flew a black duck, as solitary and homeless as himself.
The bird seemed an image of his own soul, “lone wandering but not lost.”
Before he slept that night he had composed the poem To a Waterfowl
No more authentic inspiration ever visited a poet, and though Bryant
wrote verse for more than sixty years after that crimson sky had paled into chill December twilight, his lines never again vibrated with such communicative passion.
's ensuing career revealed the steady purpose,