Sensations of the Lost

The poem and painting I will be analyzing together is A monk by the Sea by Casper David Friedrich and William Wordsworth’s Expostulation and Reply.

To begin, I feel as though when looking at the painting it seems to be a blur or swipe of colors. Or it’s truly just a cluster of angry clouds, being swept violently aside. Personally I feel like the clouds over the ocean, maybe it’s the combination of the power of the ocean waves and the violent clouds together looks so strong. It’s one thing to see clouds over a forest perhaps, or a vast open space much like the Merced landscape. To me that puts it in perspective. But this blur of moving darkness that is the ocean and the combination of the clouds gives it a feeling of greatness and of real ominous power. And this power is alluring.

The sense of something alluring is also what I get when reading the poem by Wordsworth. It’s like this sensation not of the mind but of the body. Of the body in a passive, thought-less, instinctual sense even. He says, “Our bodies feel, where’re they be, Against, or with our will.” I think it speaks for itself but this just puts the person into perspective from the painting. It’s as though he, all alone, was drawn to the raging power of the storm. And even in the last lines of the poem “I sit upon this old grey stone, And dream my time away.” It’s as though he’s not only been physically drawn, but even his mind is lost to it. He as a whole has succumbed to the raging alluring power of the sea.

This is how the poem and the painting connect to me. I was looking for other poems, but honestly kept coming back to this one because it felt so lost, yet so applicable to anyone. It wasn’t a person, or a story, it was the mere sensation of body in the wake of something so intense and over-powering like nature. I suppose you could say this idea of sensation is something rather linked to Romantic work because it so focuses and hones in on these feelings that are sometimes just overwhelming and un-explainable. Maybe I should zoom in and try to take apart some minute detail, but that seems to take something away from this. What I’m met with with the painting is a feeling, and the words to describe the overall feeling are found within the poem. They are linked by their ambiguity, their allure, and their almost heeding notion to lose oneself. Maybe I should tear something apart, but I think I’m actually pretty content just being lost within them.

-Chloe Ray


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