William Cullen Bryant was born on November 3, 1794 in the rugged hill country of western Massachusetts. From the time he entered this world he showed remarkable powers of mind. He could read by the time he was two years old, wrote verses at nine, and when barely eighteen wrote his most noted poem, “Thanatopsis,” now one of the world’s classics.
Bryant studied law in Massachusetts and was admitted to the bar in 1815. On January 11, 1821, Bryant, still striving to build a legal career, married Frances Fairchild. He relocated to New York, where in 1825 he followed his passion for writing and became editor of the Evening Post. Within two years, he was Editor-in-Chief and a part owner. He remained the Editor-in-Chief for half a century (1828–78). Eventually, the Evening-Post became not only the foundation of his fortune but also the means by which he exercised considerable political power in his city, state, and nation.
While much time was spent building up one of America’s largest newspapers, Bryant still found time to study nature and to write so many poems that we now think of him as a poet, not as an editor. He chose American subjects taken from his own surroundings: the scenes of his boyhood, the flowers, birds, and hills of his old New England home. He found pleasure in the simplest things, and he wrote about this pleasure in the simplest way. “The Yellow Violet” is one example.
THE YELLOW VIOLET
When beechen buds begin to swell,
And woods the bluebird’s warble know,
The yellow violet’s modest bell
Peeps from the last year’s leaves below.
Ere russet fields their green resume,
Sweet flower, I love, in forest bare,
To meet thee, when thy faint perfume;
Alone is in the virgin air.
Of all her train, the hands of Spring
First plant thee in the watery mold;
And I have seen thee blossoming
Beside the snow-bank’s edges cold.
Thy parent sun, who bade thee view
Dale-skies, and chilling moisture sip,
Has bathed thee in his own bright hue,
And streaked with jet thy glowing lip.
Yet slight thy form, and low thy seat,
And earthward bent thy gentle eye,
Unapt the passing view to meet,
When loftier flowers are flaunting nigh.
Oft, in the sunless April day,
Thy early smile has stayed my walk,
But ‘midst the gorgeous blooms of May
I passed thee on thy humble stalk.
So they who climb to wealth forget
The friends in darker fortunes tried.
I copied them but I regret
That I should ape the ways of pride.
And when again the genial hour
Awakes the painted tribes of light,
I’ll not o’erlook the modest flower
That made the weds of April bright.
Bryant died in 1878 of complications from an accidental fall in Central Park.
Poetical Works of William Cullen Bryant (Free Download)
William Cullen Bryant Mini Book (Free Mini Book to Download)
Record what you learn about William Cullen Bryant on:
Recite and/or memorize the poem:
Practice handwriting skills with:
Analyze “The Yellow Violet” using:
For a tea time treat make: