Romantic writers find beauty and authenticity in the supernatural realm. William Cullen Bryant and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow provide excellent samples of works of Romantic poetry with their poems, "Thanatopsis" and "The Cross of Snow." In "Thanatopsis," Bryant attempts to describe the ways in which life after death is superior to life on Earth. In Longfellow's poem, he mourns the lost of his wife. Although both poems treat the subject of death as the main idea, they convey differences and similarities in their use of poetic elements. Both poems convey correspondence in their use of imagery, Romantic ideas, and theme.
"Thanatopsis" and "The Cross of Snow," first of all, reveal likeness in their use of imagery. The two poems both recognize features of nature when using imagery, everything from the ground up to the sky. The two poems also exhibit similitude in the Romantic ideas which they convey. "Thanatopsis" reflects the ideas of Romanticism because it explains that when people die, everyone goes back to the Earth and becomes a part of it. The Romantics were incredibly attuned to nature, so it would make sense that Bryant believed that people returned to nature after death. Likewise, in "The Cross of Snow," aspects of nature are utilized as a means for expressing emotions that are probably too painful to express directly.
Both poems, finally, coincide in placing an emphasis on death. "Thanatopsis" is more welcoming of death. It does not view death as a solemn event as in "The Cross of Snow." Both poems display divergence in their use of tone, structure, and imagery. "Thanatopsis" and "The Cross of Snow," to begin with, lack congruity in their use of tone. For example, the tone in "Thanatopsis" is more hopeful and more joyful than the tone in "The Cross of Snow," in which the tone is more serious. The two poems additionally show evidence of dissimilarity in their use of structure and organization.
A rhyme scheme does not exist in "Thanatopsis." However, "The Cross of Snow" is an Italian sonnet, having fourteen lines of ten syllables each divided into two groups. The octave is composed of the first eight lines, and the last six lines are called the sestet. Finally, both poems differ in their use of imagery. In "Thanatopsis," language is used to illustrates images of just about everything found in warm or cool, natural settings, such as flowers, meadows, oceans, and woods. "The Cross of Snow," on the other hand, paints mental images of nature in a cold setting, such as mountains and obviously, snow.
After comparing both literary works, there were a handful of striking differences that distinguished both poems from one another, while the main idea remained the subject of death. The most relevant poetic elements are the theme, the tone, and the structure and organization. The most appealing poem out of the two may be "Thanatopsis" since Bryant tactfully gave examples of the excellence of life after death. "Thanatopsis" can help readers see the positive aspects about death, understand what death really means and how everyone is simply a part of Earth and will eventually return to nature. It is the whole idea of the circle of life, and how it is never-ending.