Monday, November 1, 2010

American Poets in the 19th Century

Early American poets often had a sonorous tone, and at times their poems were even a bit long-winded. In comparison, the form of poems written later by Walt Whitman, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Emily Dickinson have a lighter quality to them throughout. In Whitman's poem, "Song of Myself", the reader's spirit is uplifted merely by reading the first line: "I celebrate myself, and sing myself," (McMichael & Leonard, 2011). Along with the happier tones, these poets also had a more lyrical approach to penning their stanzas. 

For example, while reading Longfellow's poem "A Psalm of Life", one can almost imagine pairing the words with a song, "Tell me not, in mournful numbers/ Life is but an empty dream/ For the soul is dead that slumbers/ and things are not what they seem," (McMichaels & Leonards, 2011). Dickinson had similar playful tones in her poems, such as in "There is no Frigate like a Book", "There is no frigate like a book/ to take us lands away/ nor any coursers like a page/ of prancing poetry," (McMichael & Leonard, 2011).

To further explore Dickinson's poetry, the significant images found in her poems would be love, identity, nature, and death, like her poem "Because I Could Not Stop for Death". These images might represent her life experiences, or her lack thereof. Perhaps she longed to live a different life, one full of excitement and beauty. Instead, she wrote about wonderful, sad, and beautiful things.

McMichael, G. & Leonard, J. S. (2011). Concise anthology of american literature. (Eds.).
New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.

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