“The first that died was little Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain,
And then she went away.”
“So in the church-yard she was laid,
And all the summer dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.”
The painting The Abbey in the Oakwood (1810) by Caspar David Friedrich depicts a broken down church that is used as a grave yard surrounded by oak trees. This painting is significant to the poem from the Lyrical Ballads titled We Are Seven by William Wordsworth, in the sense, that the painting’s imagery, color, and form gives the reader a depiction of the poem.
The colors used in the painting are not the most vivid, but these colors create a desired effect of death, sadness, and a bit of mystery. These traits then give the impression of a grave yard as talked about in the poem. But what the colors in this painting really do that helps it reveal a Romantic theme is that these colors helps bring emotion into the painting. Emotion is one of the characteristics in Romanticism. The use of the color black in the painting to substitute ‘shadows’ creates mystery as the viewer can’t really see what exactly is going on, but can get the sense that there are shadowy figures around a grave (church) yard the same way as in the poem ‘So in the church-yard she was laid’.
The broken down church is a symbol which stands out in the painting, but this is also significant to the theme of death in the poem. When someone looks at the structure in the painting they notice that it is a broken down church opening. In the poem, the little girl argues that her dead siblings still count as part of her family, and the broken down church signifies that the building, regardless of its status, still stands. It may be a broken down church, but it still holds significance as people still leave their fallen to rest at the broken down church. The oak tree also holds significance to the painting and poem. Although, the oak trees may look broken down and simply tree bark they are nonetheless still a forest of oak trees. So, although, the little girl’s siblings may be dead they still belong to the family.
“But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!”
‘Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, “Nay, we are seven!
In the painting, people are seen standing around different graves throughout the forest. This is significant to Romanticism and the poem because its means that the living still care about the dead as if they were alive. The little girl is told by the man that since her brothers are no longer living they don’t count as her family, but the girl is persistent in the idea that they still belong to her family. Her replies are always ‘we are seven’. The girl seems reasonable in her argument as she also states that she eats her meals next to the graves as if she were eating a meal with her siblings. The setting in the painting of people visiting the dead creates the theme of life after death, and if the dead are truly gone from this world.