An old classmate and I
were reminiscing the other night about our school days, and one of the memories
revived was how often we were expected to memorize lines of poetry in those
days. To my amusement, my friend stood and theatrically recited the last verse
of William Cullen Bryant’s Thanatopsis by heart:
So live, that when thy
summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan,
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.
Thanatopsis was formed
from two Greek words – thanatos
(θάνατος) death, and opsis
(ὄψις), sight or view. It signifies a meditation on death. In modern times, the
thanato- combining form is
rarely used, but it was responsible for some interesting words over the years.
- thanatognomonic: indicative or characteristic
- thanatography: an account of a person's
- thanatomantic: of or pertaining to
divination concerning death.
- thanatophilia: an undue fascination with
- thanatophobia: morbid fear of death.
- thanatophoric: death-bringing
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