William Cullen Bryant's "The Gladness of Nature"

Updated on April 7, 2018
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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

Source

Introduction and Text of Poem, "The Gladness of Nature"

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 spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

The Gladness of Nature

Is this a time to be cloudy and sad,
When our mother Nature laughs around;
When even the deep blue heavens look glad,
And gladness breathes from the blossoming ground?

There are notes of joy from the hang-bird and wren,
And the gossip of swallows through all the sky;
The ground-squirrel gaily chirps by his den,
And the wilding bee hums merrily by.

The clouds are at play in the azure space
And their shadows at play on the bright-green vale,
And here they stretch to the frolic chase,
And there they roll on the easy gale.

There’s a dance of leaves in that aspen bower,
There’s a titter of winds in that beechen tree,
There’s a smile on the fruit, and a smile on the flower,
And a laugh from the brook that runs to the sea.

And look at the broad-faced sun, how he smiles
On the dewy earth that smiles in his ray,
On the leaping waters and gay young isles;
Ay, look, and he’ll smile thy gloom away.

Reading of "The Gladness of Nature"

Commentary

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.

First Quatrain: Rhetorical Question of Gladness

Is this a time to be cloudy and sad,
When our mother Nature laughs around;
When even the deep blue heavens look glad,
And gladness breathes from the blossoming ground?

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: Piles of Example of Good Cheer

There are notes of joy from the hang-bird and wren,
And the gossip of swallows through all the sky;
The ground-squirrel gaily chirps by his den,
And the wilding bee hums merrily by.

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: Figures in the Clouds

The clouds are at play in the azure space
And their shadows at play on the bright-green vale,
And here they stretch to the frolic chase,
And there they roll on the easy gale.

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: All of Nature Smiles

There’s a dance of leaves in that aspen bower,
There’s a titter of winds in that beechen tree,
There’s a smile on the fruit, and a smile on the flower,
And a laugh from the brook that runs to the sea.

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: The Smiling Sun

And look at the broad-faced sun, how he smiles
On the dewy earth that smiles in his ray,
On the leaping waters and gay young isles;
Ay, look, and he’ll smile thy gloom away.

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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