To a Waterfowl The poem "To a Waterfowl" emphasizes the idea of God guiding man through various perils in life using the example of a migrating bird undertaking a risky journey. The waterfowl uses its natural migratory instincts to travel from north to south without any help, trusting just its guts…
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The power which inculcated the natural instinct in it guides it through every dilemma like the hot desert, cold atmosphere and aching wings. The price of this painful journey is a warm and comfortable land where the bird can rest peacefully along with many other fellow birds in its nest. Bryant not only depicts the American scenery with extreme details, but combines it with a universal moral in this poem (Rudland and Malcolm). The instinct which the bird follows is God. If the bird follows it without getting misled by the various dangers and serene scenes it its way, it will reach the ultimate destination. Every man starts his journey just like the wandering bird. But, he is not lost as there is a purpose in his life. The man reaches the next stage of life gathering ample experiences from each stage in his life. These experiences make him wise and ultimately leads him to a final stage of life where he can rest peacefully satisfied with the beauty he has observed in his path and content that he had made the right decision trusting in God. William Cullen Bryant's poem "To a Waterfowl" is an eclectic mix of Romanticism and Naturalism in the American literature. The poet compares the flight of a bird to the life of a man, describing the various sceneries it passes below and the untold dangers in its path. The poem emphasizes the risk every living creature has to endure to live in this planet and lists the countless joys presented by the nature in the course of the journey, which makes the enduring to live worthy. The poet saw a solitary duck flying during a sunset when he was walking from Cummington to Plainfield to work as a lawyer. The poet identified the bird as a soul similar to himself as it was migrating for a better life just like the poet himself. The 21 year old Bryant composed "To a Waterfowl" the very same December evening in 1815 (Perry, 1918). The bird or waterfowl is never alone though it undertakes a solitary flight for a long distance. The higher power or God is watching over it at every step of its life. The bird here is a symbol of nature. Everything in nature is controlled by God's invisible hands. The poet sees himself parallel to the bird. He is confident he will find his way through the arduous journey of life and rest in peace at the end just like the Waterfowl. The bird is able to see many things from the flowers eye to the crimson sky. These scenes are charming as well as misleading just like the many vanities in man's life. The bird flies across marshy pools, the weedy lake, scales the margins of the huge rivers and the mighty ocean. The different forms of water bodies depict the various types of lands the bird crosses indicating the various phases a man has to cross in his life. They also indicate the mightiness and the variety present in the nature. The bird flying in the sky can be confused by the various sceneries below it easily. It should be capable enough to distinguish the right from the wrong by listening to its inner self. Bryant passionately believes the inner voice “teaches thy way along that pathless coast” and all man has to do is listen with faith. Man does not have the power to determine most of the events occurring in his life. But, he always has the faith that that the circumstances can be changed for better and takes various steps to improve the same. Each bird flies through the limitless sky trusting just its instincts for direction. Similarly, man hopes his ventures prove fruitful and yield him the best
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