Abbey vs. Gravesite


This painting firstly is by a German artist, Caspar David Friedrich, post the time of the Napoleonic invasion of Germany. To understand this period, one has to understand the disillusionment that came with post-war Germany. This painting reflects that deeply felt sentiment of a great nation crumbling and decaying. The oak trees in this painting, which also Oak trees are the national tree of Germany and should live for up to 600 years are rotting away in sort of symbolic rotting away of Germany. The abbey in the middle reflects the interest in spirituality of the time, as something great and longstanding of culture. It too, rots with the trees. The painting serves as sort of desperate and sad representation of the decay of Germany. Broader, it is the decay of civilization and life. As the center crumbles all life around it shrivels and dies, something great silently dies in this picture. This thematic expression and understanding can be applied to understanding other romantic themed pieces. The poem “We Are Seven” takes a sort of twisted innocent look at death as understood by a child. The young girl in the poem will not accept the death of her siblings but chooses to reinvent her own sort of definition in death. Her siblings are dead and yet she can interact with them.
“My stockings there I often knit,

My kerchief there I hem;

And there upon the ground I sit,

And sing a song to them. “


She goes on to be with them as if they were alive, making death seem something deeper than death, but more a second life just separate from our own world. Though dead, she believes her siblings still need to me spent time with and sung too. She literally sees that “better place” that people will say people go to. Applying the theme of decay that we understand in the painting as comparing the gravestone of siblings to the abbey, they decay in such different ways.  The abbey is alone and crumbling while the grave of the young girl’s siblings is green and she is always visiting. The memory site of these great lives are commemorated in such strikingly different ways that when compared it serves to only add deeper meaning. To the German painter, it is sad to see a great society crumble from within and the horizon is bleak, but to this innocent child the memory of life at all is cherished and even when gone, she will remember them as alive.


-Cait Grabill


11 thoughts on “Abbey vs. Gravesite

  1. Pingback: In-class blog comments | English Literature of the Long Eighteenth Century (1660-1837) Gone Global

  2. Fantastic analysis on the painting. I believe your most original idea was the interpretation of the river in the painting and how it is a reflection of the spirituality during that time period. This is something I had not thought about until you illuminated this. One thing you can improve on is condensing your work to more direct points. Awesome work!
    -Anthony Miller

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Cait, I really appreciate that you put this painting into historical context for us. In this case, it really matters, and I think you gave a great historically accurate interpretation! If you were going to turn this into a paper, I would spend more time working on interpreting the poem. You have more information on the art than the poem, which is totally great for this assignment, nice work.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. First off, well done. Your attention to the language and history of the poem`s correspondence with the painting is analyzed very well. After reading your post I was very well informed. The most interesting idea presented here is death seen as a separate life or realm away from the traditional concept of life. I would say that the only thing that may need some improvement would be the lack of a detailed description of certain areas of the painting to accompany your close reading of it. – Kamani Morrow

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I loved that you provided background information of the historical period of the painting. Along with this, I also learned the historical significance of the rotting trees, which I would have not known if you hadn’t mentioned it. Having this information in mind, the significance of the painting completely changes for me. The poem Seven also has these elements of death, and I think you provided good textual evidence to support how both the poem and painting parallel each other. Your most original idea is also centered on how they differ when you say: ” To the German painter, it is sad to see a great society crumble from within and the horizon is bleak, but to this innocent child the memory of life at all is cherished and even when gone, she will remember them as alive”. Anyway, great blog.

    -Beya Bautista

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I believe Caits’s most original idea is when she compares the death of oak trees to the fall of Germany and the crumbled but still tall abbey representing German cultures legacy. I believe the post could be improved by adding more quotes that show deeper connections between the paitinging and the poem.


  7. Reblogged this on enriqueramoswri1portofolio and commented:

    The most original idea is the one about decaying, whether it is something physical or the decaying person life or the memory of a person who has passed away. I think you could go a little further in talking about how this decaying idea fits in with the girls view of her siblngs. Maybe she wants to keep their memory perserve and the only way she can do that is if she keeps doing certain activities she use to do when they were still alive. The idea that you have proposed is very interesting over all.


  8. Cait! Interesting idease going on in your post. I think your approach to use a painting to sorr of create a binary in which you compare the two meanings of “decay.” I think your post could be improved if you spend more time on the elements of both works. In addition, I wanted to ask you: Which piece is more Romantic? What parts of these works make them more broader?

    -Israel Alonso

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “…death seem something deeper than death, but more a second life just separate from our own world.” I thought this idea was dope, because I could see that reflected in the poem. Though I’m not too sure if negligence to their death is the best description as to why the girl might have interpreted it as the quote I’ve pulled from this post. Or maybe like, there’s more than just her negligence to their death. I can’t even put my finger on it.

    -Luz Palacios


  10. It is nice to see you make a comparison to a historical event. You mention the poem taking on a twisted innocent look at death through the lens of a child, which I think is an interesting way of looking at it. I might not say it is twisted, but maybe optimistic view of death. She does not linger on the death of her sibling and in the painting, her views could be correlated with the window in the abbey as death surrounding her.


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