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.