Can a Poet ever be rich and famous?
Poetry Society of Oklahoma Website: http://www.angelfire.com/poetry/pso/
In high school my favorite subject was English literature and I still say a silent thank you to Mrs. Lipsey, who taught me to love William Cullen Bryant’s poetry.
Although writing poetry was Bryant’s first love, that could not financially sustain a family. From 1816 to 1825, he practiced law, and supplemented his income with such work as servicing the town’s hog pen. The sometimes absurd judgments pronounced by the courts gradually drove him to break with the legal profession.
Bryant wrote his most famous poem, Thanatopsis at the age of 17. Following are my favorite lines at the end of the poem:
So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.
And this excerpt from: To a Waterfowl
He, who, from zone to zone,
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must tread alone,
Will lead my steps aright.
Born in 1794, Bryant’s first book of poetry was published in 1821, though it earned him less than $15. He continued writing, building a national reputation as a “fireside poet,” while working to make ends meet. Eventually, he became editor-in-chief of the New York Evening Post, a post he held for 50 years. Though Bryant never made it rich and is not considered a great poet, his poems were much admired in his own time, and a number of them are eminently readable today.Thank you again, Mrs. Lipsey.