Poetic Styles of Bryant versus Whitman
The poetry of the 19th century fireside poets is a traditional representation of American verse of the time. But the 1800s also saw revolutionary, innovative works from poets like Walt Whitman. This paper will explore the similarities and the differences between the poetry of William Cullen Bryant and Whitman.
Bryant's poem, “The Yellow Violet,” is a prime example of the traditional rhythm that he employs in his works. The poem is written in conventional iambic tetrameter, or with four beats in every line. Tetrameter works in the poem to provide a classic pattern and flow. structure of the poem itself is elegant; each of the eight stanzas are four lines long, and every other line is roughly symmetrical in length. There is also an unmistakeable rhyme scheme in “The Yellow Violet” that solidifies its place among the great traditional 19th century poetry. The first and third lines rhyme with one another, as do the second and fourth lines:
“Of all her train, the hands of Spring/ First plant thee in the watery mould,/ And I have seen the blossoming/ Besides the snow-bank's edges cold”(9-12).
Bryant also employs a blank verse in some of his work. In “Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood,” there are no separated stanzas or rhyme scheme, but there is a pentameter, or five beats per line. Pentameter is the most commonly used meter in English poetry, and as Bryant's structure of poetry is traditional it hearkens back to classic English verse in form.
Whitman, however, has less of a conventional approach to poetry. Quite possibly the most immediately obvious of the differences between Whitman's poems and Bryant's are the sheer length. Whitman's “Song of Myself” goes on for several pages broken into 52 sections. The length of the lines vary between each section of the work, but the majority of this poem and many others by Whitman are written in breath-length lines – meaning that they are written the...