Tuesday, August 31, 2010

William Cullen Bryant find

One thing I cannot wait to post about Mineral Point is my 'find' at the used bookstore. One of the shops in the old Cornish foundry is a used book store, which we perused one afternoon. Lots of local interest books, maps, etc. No literature section, though there was a comparatively extensive section on haiku(?).

In the poetry section, I found a hard cover edition of William Cullen Bryant's poetry. 1899 and in very good condition. It contains all his poems, and is filled with illustrations including a frontpiece of the author (complete with protective tissue paper). There are a few signatures up front with dates, which I find rather nice (though I wonder if a serious collector would approve of this).

Anyway, I love his famous poem Thanatopsis and have really enjoyed several others that I read with similar themes. His poetry, to me, is the literary equivalent of the Hudson River School of painters (with whom I believe he associated). There's a sense of celebration of the new country and its potential as well as the untamed wilderness, which I have always found appealing.  So I've been interested in reading more of his work. Plus, as part of the early American period of literature, he fits right into my proposed area of focus should I ever become a serious bibliophiliac. 

I paid $7 for the book. I haven't seen anything online that is an exact duplicate of my purchase, but I did see one that was very close going for $15. So I at least got a good buy, though I won't be featured on Antiques Roadshow any time soon. I have to say I'm a surprised Bryant isn't more well-regarded as a poet. I mean, his work is very 'of the period' with the rhymes and some of his Romanticist phrasing, but he is so utterly American in his subject matter and tone that you'd think he would be a bit more embraced within 'the Canon'. Plus he was a mentor to Walt Whitman, and you can see how he influence the poet behind Leaves of Grass.

Can't wait to read some of the works in here, especially those that were not included in the other Bryant edition I have! One other thing about his poetry that I like (and this probably is a result of Bryant's transcendentalist leanings), is a definite quality of zen philosophy in between the lines. I'm sure he wasn't into Zen, but he obviously had some moments of kensho relating to nature. So his work resonates for me that way, as well.

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