Author: William Cullen Bryant


William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878) was born in Cummington, Massachusetts. At the young age of 13, Bryant penned the poem “Embargo,” in which he blasted President Thomas Jefferson’s policies. He attended Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and then studied law in the towns of Worthington and Bridgewater, Massachusetts, before his admittance to the bar in 1815. At the age of 17, he wrote his most noted work, “Thanatopsis,” which was published in the North American Review. Not only was Bryant recognized as America’s leading poet in the early 19th century, he also was a notable editor and journalist of the era, serving as editor in chief of the New York Evening Post for a half century, from 1828 to 1878. His literary works concentrate on the theme of nature and are recognized for their graceful and contemplative style. In his later years, Bryant’s energies were concentrated on translating Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.

The Antiquity of Freedom

William Cullen Bryant

Thinking well about Independence Day requires thinking about freedom—where it comes from and how it is preserved. A moving invitation to such reflection is this 1842 poem by America’s first great poet William Cullen Bryant.