Thanatopsis is a word that was coined by William Cullen Bryant, author of the poem Thanatopsis. When and where exactly He wrote the poem, and thus created the word thanatopsis are unclear, however it was published in 1817. Thanatopsis was created by combining the Greek term thanatos (death) with the term opsis (a view) and it’s quite a fitting one for many poets and their lyrical verses and musings on death, dying, and the deceased. I can think of so many poems that are thanatopsis – Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could Not Stop For Death“, Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain“, Longfellow’s “The Cross of Snow“, Mary Elizabeth Frye’s “Do Not Stand By My Grave and Weep“, almost anything by Edgar Allen Poe. You get the idea.
Thanatopsis Visions ~ The words in this image are taken from the last part of Bryant‘s poem Thanatopsis, which I highly recommend reading (just click the link and it’ll take you right to it!).
Death is something that is all around us since it goes hand-in-hand with life, and I think that poets tend to find a way to make it as beautiful and natural and precious as life is. That’s what thanatopsis is all about, making death less frightening and more acceptable, and soothing our fragile, human nerves about it. Thanatopsis is about understanding, exploring, and not being afraid to talk about death. What do you think?
Namaste ~ Ella
** If there’s a word you’d like to see added to the Word Nerd roster, please feel free to drop me a line or suggest it in the comments – I love feedback and recommendations!