Melancholy Views

Caspar David Friedrich captures a very dark scene in his painting, “The Monk by the Sea.” The sky is brighter than the sea, but there is a gloomy and melancholy view to the scene. This painting reminded me of Coleridge’s “The Nightingale.” The monk standing by the sea reminded me of this scene in “The Nightingale”:

“In nature there is nothing melancholy.

–But some night-wandering Man, whose heart was pierc’d

With the remembrance of a grievous wrong,

Or slow distemper or neglected love”

The man in the image looks like he is grieving. He is wearing what appears to be a dark cloak that matches the sea in front of him. It is interesting to also see that when I zoomed in to the image of the man, it looks like his body is swaying with the waves of the sea. He is:

“surrendering his whole spirit, of his song

And of his fame forgetful! so his fame

Should share in nature’s immortality,

A venerable thing!”

With half his cloak being lost with the sea, the other half can be seen against the ground. He is slowly surrendering himself to the sea and to his grief, similarly to the monk in the poem. When reading the poem I was reminded of the mood of this image, which was dark and gloomy. The colors in the painting are not too strong to suggest anger, but rather melancholy colors that suggest a stormy and depressing day. The color of the sky gradually gets darker the closer to the sea it is. This can also be seen as the monk surrendering himself to the darkness in his life.

-Natalia Alvarado


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