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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Thanatopsis, written by William Cullen Bryant at the age of 17, is considered to be a masterpiece of American poetry. The title is from the Greek thanatos ("death") and the suffix -opsis (literally, "sight"); it has often been translated as "Meditation upon Death."

Due to the unusual quality of the verse and Bryant's age when first published in 1817 by the North American Review, Richard Henry Dana, then associate editor at the Review, initially doubted its authenticity, saying to another editor, "No one, on this side of the Atlantic, is capable of writing such verses." Although the bulk of the poem was written at age 16, Bryant added the introductory and concluding lines 10 years later in 1821. Thanatopsis remains a significant milestone in American literary history.

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