William Cullen Bryant

   The American poet and editor William Cullen Bryant was born on November 3, 1794, in Cummington, Massachusetts. His father was a doctor, who encouraged his son Cullen to write. When the boy was only 13, he published a long satirical poem, "The Em­bargo." He wrote his most famous poem, "Thanatopsis," a meditation on death, while he was a student at Williams College.
   Bryant had to leave college because he lacked funds to support himself. He was apprenticed to a lawyer and passed his bar examination before he was 20. After moving to Great Barrington, Massachusetts, he pursued a successful law career. In 1821 he married Frances Fairchild. He celebrated their ro­mance in "Oh Fairest of the Rural Maids."
   Bryant wrote sensitive descriptions of nature and the American landscape in such poems as "To a Waterfowl," "The Yellow Violet," and "Green River." Collections of his poems issued in 1821 and 1832 established Bryant as the leading American poet of his time.
   In 1825, Bryant moved to New York City to begin a new career in journalism. He rose to editor in chief on the New York Evening Post by 1829. He worked for the Post for over 50 years. On its editorial pages, Bryant supported such causes as abolition and the labor movement. He helped form the Republican Party and elect Abraham Lincoln.
   Bryant also continued to compose poems. In "The Flood of Years," he pondered life after death, and in "The Prairies," he described the vast American West. After his wife's death in 1865, Bryant began his popu­lar translation of the Iliad and of the Odyssey, published in 1870 and 1872. He lived an active life until his death on June 12,1878.