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PRINCIPAL EDITIONS OF THE POEMS.
1808. The Embargo, or Sketches of the Times; | A | Satire. By a Youth of Thirteen. Boston: Printed for the Purchasers. | 1808. Title and pp. 3–12.
1809. The Embargo; or Sketches of the Times. A Satire. The second edition corrected and enlarged. Together with the Spanish Revolution | and Other Poems. | By William Cullen Bryant. | Boston : Printed for the author, by E. G. House, / No. 5, Court Street. | 1809. Collation: Title as above. Certificate of Copyright on verso,
p. 2, viz. : District of Massachusetts. Be it remembered, that on the eighth day of February, in the thirty-third year of the independence of the United States of America, Peter Bryant, of the said district, has deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof he claims as proprietor, in the words following, to wit, The Embargo, or Sketches of the Times; a Satire. The second edition corrected and enlarged; together with The Spanish Revolution; and other Poems,
by William Cullen Bryant, etc. Advertisement, p. 3, viz. :
A DOUBT having been intimated in the Monthly Anthology of June last, whether a youth of thirteen years could have been the author of this poem-in justice to his merits the friends of the writer feel obliged to certify the fact from their personal knowledge of himself and his family, as well as his literary improvement and extraordinary talents. They would premise, that they do not come uncalled before the public, to bear this testimony—they would prefer that he should be judged by his works, without favour or affection. As the doubt has been suggested, they deem it merely an act of justice to remove it-after which they leave him a candidate for favour in common with other literary adventurers. They, therefore, assure the public, that Mr. Bryant, the
author, is a native of Cummington, in the County of Hampshire, and in the month of November last arrived at the age of fourteen years. The facts can be authenticated by many of the inhabitants of that place, as well as by several of his friends who give this notice; and if it be deemed worthy of further inquiry, the printer is enabled to
disclose their names and places of residence. February, 1809. Preface, pp. 5–6, viz. :
The first sketch of the following poem was written, when the terrapin policy of our Administration, in imposing the Embargo, exbibited undeniable evidence of its hostility to Commerce, and proof positive, that its political character was deeply tinctured with an unwarrant
able partiality for France. &c., &c. Text, pp. 7–36. The Embargo, pp. 7–20. The Spanish Revo
lution, pp. 21–26. Ode to Connecticut River, pp. 27–29. The Reward of Literary Merit, pp. 29–31. Enigmas,
The Contented Ploughman, pp. 33–35. Drought, p. 35. Translation from Horace, Lib. 1, Car. xxii, p. 36.
1821. Poems | by | William Cullen Bryant. | Cambridge: Printed by Hilliard and Metcalf. 1821. Collation: 12mo, pp. 44. Brown paper boards with title as
above. Title as above. Verso blank. Advertisement. The first poem in this collection was delivered before a literary association. Some of the others have appeared before, in different periodi
cal publications, and are now by permission, inserted in this volume. Text, pp. 7–44. Sub-title, The Ages. Poem, The Ages, pp. 7
, 24. Sub-title, To a Waterfowl. Poem, To a Waterfowl, pp. 27–28. Translation of a Fragment of Simonides, pp. 29–30. Inscription for the Entrance into a Wood, pp. 31-32. The Yellow Violet, pp. 33–34. Song, p. 35. Green River, pp. 36–38. Sub-title, Thanatopsis. Poem,
Thanatopsis, pp. 41-44. Mr. Godwin, in the two-volume edition of the poems, published in 1883, says of the date when Thanatopsis was written:
Mr. Bryant was himself for a while somewhat uncertain as to the precise time in which this poem was written. In answer
to a gentleman, Mr. S. N. Holliday, who put the question to him, he wrote, under date of New York, March 15, 1855, as follows:
I cannot give you any information of the occasion which suggested to my mind the idea of my poem Thanatopsis. It was written when I was seventeen or eighteen years old-I have not now at hand the memorandums which would enable me to be precise—and I believe it was composed in my solitary rambles in the woods. As it was first committed to paper, it began with the half-line—“Yet a few days, and thee ”—and ended with the beginning of another line with the words—"And make their bed with thee.” The rest of the poem-the introduction and the close—was added some years afterward, in 1821, when I published a little collection of my poems at Cambridge."
He was seventeen years old November 3, 1811, and he wrote the poem shortly after he left Williams College, in the summer of that year. It was put away with others for revision, when his father found it, and procured it to be published in The North American Review of 1817. As this poem occupies so prominent a position in the history of American literature, I reproduce it here as it was originally written and printed. The reader will easily discover the changes made in it by the author between that time and 1821, when it was first given to the public in its present shape. It is needless to say that the four rhymed stanzas prefixed to it were not intended to accompany it, but, as they were found in the same package with Thanatopsis, they were mistakenly supposed to be an introduction.-EDITOR.
Not that from life and all its woes
The hand of death shall set me free;
In the low vale most peacefully.
Ah, when I touch time's farthest brink,
A kinder solace must attend;
On that dread hour when life must end.
In vain the flattering verse may breathe
Of ease from pain and rest from strife,
There is a sacred dread of death
Inwoven with the strings of life.
This bitter cup at first was given
Justice frowned severe;
That man must view the grave with fear.
-Yet a few days, and thee
Or lose thyself in the continuous woods
Since the edition of 1821, certain lines have been further changed. Thus, page 15, line 7:
-The Barcan desert pierce, has been written :
-traverse Barca's desert sands, and then :
-pierce the Barcan wilderness. Page 15, line 14, was originally:
-and what if thou shouldst fall, Unnoticed, by the livingPage 15, lines 25 and 26, stood in 1821 :
The bowed with age, the infant in the smile
And beauty of its innocent age cut off. Page 16, line 3:
To that mysterious realmread in 1821 : To the pale realms of shade
1832. Poems | by | William Cullen Bryant. | An American. | Edited by | Washington Irving. | London: J. Andrews, 167, New Bond Street. | MDCCCXXXII. Collation: 8vo, pp. xii-235. Title as above. Verso; London:
J. Moyes, Castle Street, Leicester Square. Dedication