William Cullen Bryant wrote many influential poems throughout his lifetime that fit well into the Romanticism movement. His poems were about everything from politics to the beauty in nature, and therefore they touched many lives. Many things could have influenced his writings, but the places he went in his life affected them most. One poem in particular was a great example of the way that the Romantic poets incorporated life lessons into poems devoted to their love of nature. “A Walk at Sunset” by William Cullen Bryant is one such poem that not only displayed many characteristics of Romanticism but also was heavily influenced by the places he went in his life.

“A Walk at Sunset” is a lovely poem describing the narrator’s journey through a wild area as the sun goes down on a particular evening (Bryant). The author first spends time describing the woodland area and the past that it holds. He vividly describes the way that the sunshine has looked down upon generations in that particular area, including: before the area was settled, when the Indians wildly roamed the area, and then in the more present time now that the natives of the past are gone. He remarks about how the sun’s beautiful colors as it sets are a lovely setting for the graveyard of people long ago that it truly is (Bryant). This reflects Romanticism in that it “romanticizes” something sad by depicting the beauty that can be found within it. In the way that the author describes the woods as a grave site for the dead as a beautiful place, he takes away some of the sadness.

Another way that the poem depicts Romanticism is in the way it reveals universal truths. Through the story of the woodland the poem shows the way that nature is steadfast throughout generations (Bryant). No matter what has come to pass in the area, the sun has still steadily shown down upon the woodland and will continue to do so forever. This steadiness and constancy portrays nature as a pillar of strength in an unpredictable world. Through this it proves the Romantic idea that nature is the source of all strength and wisdom in the world (Bryant).

William Cullen Bryant’s writing was most impacted by the places he went. The forests of the East Coast mountains near where he was raised in Cummington, Massachusetts, were said to be the most important of his influences (Huff). Wandering through these forests ignited his imagination and most inspired the great way that nature impacted his writing. “Thanatopsis”, specifically, was said to be influenced by his journeys through these particular woods. Eventually Bryant moved to the city, and this venturing outside of where he was most comfortable also inspired such poems as “Hymn to the City.” He was a well-traveled man who also studied plants wherever he went and then wrote detailed poems about them, such as “Robert of Lincoln” and “The Yellow Violet.” Although his father was interested in literature and involving his children in it, the places he traveled and wandered prove to be the most influential and important parts of what made William Cullen Bryant the strong Romanticism writer he was (Huff).

Bryant wrote many works throughout his lifetime, and he published many books of poetry (Huff). His earlier works were his most influential, however. When he was a young boy he published works about politics, such as a particularly notable attack on the Jefferson administration (Huff). This political piece obviously differed greatly from the purely natural theme found in “A Walk at Sunset.” The older he got the more his works seemed to flow along in that general theme. “Thanatopsis,” arguably his most famous work, is a work wholly about the idea of nature, and it is very similar to “A Walk at Sunset” in that it is also a poem talking centered around nature that also discusses a major world theme (Huff). In fact its world theme is very close to that of “A Walk at Sunset” because it discusses the fact that the whole world is in fact just a beautiful tomb for those who have already passed on, while “A Walk at Sunset” discusses the way that the woodland is a home for not only the bodies but also the spirits and memories of the Indians who once roamed the area. Many of Bryant’s poems were themed in this manner, and therefore many of them were very similar (Huff).

“A Walk at Sunset” greatly differs from “A Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe, however. While “A Walk at Sunset” is a perfect example of the ideas of Romanticism, “A Cask of Amontillado” shifts towards the darker side of the genre and fits into the category of Dark Romanticism. While “A Walk at Sunset” takes a sad thing and makes it beautiful, “A Cask of Amontillado” takes the idea of a human’s burning need for revenge and reveals all the horrible details that can go along with it. William Cullen Bryant clearly displays his optimistic view towards the world and humanity while Poe shows his pessimistic ideas, both with stunning effectiveness and detail.

“A Walk at Sunset” by William Cullen Bryant is a beautiful poem about the steadfastness of nature, and it was greatly influenced by the journeys in Bryant’s life. It clearly displays Romanticism in both literal and figurative meaning, and it is therefore a classic example of the genre. Not only is it a beautiful poem but it also leaves the reader with a sunny, optimistic view of even the darkest points of life. Through this poem Bryant proves himself to be one of the greatest writers of his time and genre.

Works Cited
Bryant, William Cullen. "A Walk at Sunset." (1855). Litscape.com. The Bitmill, Inc. Web. 8 Dec. 2010. <http://www.litscape.com/author/William_Cullen_Bryant/A_Walk_At_Sunset.html>.

Huff, Randall. "Bryant, William Cullen." The Facts On File Companion to American Poetry, vol. 1. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= CPAP0061&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 7, 2010).