William Cullen Bryant's "The Gladness of Nature"

Updated on September 29, 2017
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After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

William Cullen Bryant


Reading of Bryant's "The Gladness of Nature"


One of the most cheerful poems ever written, "The Gladness of Nature," paints smiles on the faces of fruit and flowers and allows the sunshine to chase away all gloom.

William Cullen Bryant's "The Gladness of Nature," dramatizes the joy that nature can engender in the individual who observes with an open mind and willing heart. The poem features five rimed quatrains, with the rime scheme, ABAB.

(Please note: The incorrect spelling, "rhyme," was erroneously introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson. For my explanation for using only the correct form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

First Quatrain: "Is this a time to be cloudy and sad"
The speaker begins with a question, "Is this a time to be cloudy and sad . . .?" The full text of the question includes the answer as it insists that "our mother Nature laughs," "the deep blue heavens look glad," and "gladness breathes from the blossoming ground[.]" Thus, his rhetorical question emphasizes how definite it is that this is a time to be exceedingly glad because all of nature is glad.

Second Quatrain: "There are notes of joy from the hang-bird and wren"
The rest of the poem piles example on example, supporting the claim that no human being could be "cloudy and sad" while the earth's environment is dramatizing such beauty, cheer, and joy. He says, "there are notes of joy from the hang-bird and wren, / And the gossip of swallows through all the sky."

He is offering auditory images that cheer the ear. Continuing with the auditory imagery, he claims, "The ground-squirrel gaily chirps by his den, / And the wilding bee hums merrily by." The jolly little noises made by these charming creatures enhances his painting of a fine, bright day.

Third Quatrain: "The clouds are at play in the azure space"
The speaker then points his listener's attention to the sky, where "the clouds are at play in the azure space." But he also brings the eye back to earth, pointing to the cloud's "shadows at play on the bright-green vale."

Staying with the motion of the clouds, he fancies that they "stretch to the frolic chase / And there they role in the easy gale." He figuratively transforms the fleecy clouds into animals, perhaps, sheep, gamboling in the meadow.

Fourth Quatrain: "There's a dance of leaves in that aspen bower"
The speaker points to the "leaves in that aspen bower" that are dancing, while there is "a titter of winds in that beechen tree." He observes "smiles" on the faces of "fruit," and there is also "a smile on the flower." All of nature seems to come together in one gigantic burst of happy sunshine in which the speaker is blissfully luxuriating. He even hears "the brook" laughing as it "runs to the sea."

Fifth Quatrain: "And look at the broad-faced sun, how he smiles"
The speaker commands his listener to "look at the broad-faced sun, how he smiles / On the dewy earth." And the earth returns the smile, as the sun's rays play upon "the leaping waters and gay young isles." And the speaker makes his final optimistic declaration that the sun will "smile thy gloom away."

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes


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