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Bryant, William Cullen, 1794-1878

Poet; born in Cummington, Mass., Nov. 3, 1794. He communicated rhymes to the county newspaper before he was ten years of age. His father was a distinguished physician and man of letters, and took great pains in the instruction of his son. His poem on The embargo, written at the age of thirteen, evinced great precocity of intellect. Young Bryant called the embargo act a “terrapin policy” --the policy designed by it of shutting up the nation in its own shell, as it were, like the terrapin with its head. In that poem he violently assailed President Jefferson. and revealed the intensity of the opposition to him and his policy in New England, which made even boys bitter politicians. Alluding to Jefferson's narrow escape from capture by Tarleton in 1781, his zeal for the French, and his scientific researches, young Bryant wrote:

And thou, the scorn of every patriot name, Thy country's ruin, and her council's shame!
Poor, servile thing! derision of the brave!
Who erst from Tarleton fled to Carter's cave ;
Thou, who, when menaced by perfidious Gaul,
Didst prostrate to her whisker'd minion fall;
And when our cash his empty bags supplied,
Did meanly strive the foul disgrace to hide.
Go, wretch, resign the Presidential chair,
Disclose thy secret measures, foul or fair;
Go. search with curious eye for horned frogs
'Mid the wild wastes of Louisiana bogs, [430]
Or, where Ohio rolls his turbid stream,
Dig for huge bones, thy glory and thy theme.

He wrote the poem Thanatopsis when he was in his nineteenth year. In 1810 he entered Williams College, but did not graduate. He was admitted to the bar in 1815, and practised some time in western Massachusetts. His first collection of poems was published in 1821, and this volume caused his immediate recognition as a poet of great merit. In 1825 Mr. Bryant became an associate editor of the New York Review. In 1826 he became connected with the New York Evening post, and continued its editor until his

William Cullen Bryant.

death. Meanwhile he contributed to literary publications. He made visits to Europe in 1834, 1845, 1849, and 1858-59, and in the intervals visited much of his own country from Maine to Florida. On the completion of his seventieth year. in 1864, his birthday was celebrated by a festival at the Century Club by prominent literary men. His translations of Homer into English blank verse were commended as the best rendering of the Epics in his native tongue ever made. His occasional speeches and more formal orations are models of stately style, sometimes enlivened by quiet humor. In prose composition Mr. Bryant was equally happy as in poetry in the choice of pure and elegant English words, with great delicacy of fancy pervading the whole. His last poem was published in the Sunday-School Times, Philadelphia, Feb. 22, 1878, on the subject of Washington, and written at the request of the editor of that paper. At the time of his death he was engaged with Sydney Howard Gay in the preparation of a History of the United States. He had also just completed, with the assistance of the late Evart A. Duykinck, a new and carefully annotated edition of Shakespeare's works. He died in New York City, June 12. 1878.

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