Garcia Gave me all the Answers. I did Nothing

Caspar David Friedrich’s painting The Abbey in the Oakwood is ominous, there is death in both nature and humanity, and the architecture looks dilapidated and frightening. The colors are just an awful, depressing shade and the dilapidated structure looks separated from the outside world. I compare this to Wordsworth’s poem The Convict. I read this as Wordsworth being highly against the conventions of prison, as prison is death and destruction of the soul.

The poem does not at all paint prison as a haven. Lines 13 -16 read, “His black matted head on his shoulder I bent, / And deep is the sigh of his breath, / And with stedfast dejection his eyes are intent/ On the fetters that link him to death”. The convict here is trapped as stated by the fetters but is also is next to death. By linked with the chains, the convict is also linked to death. The poem also points out that, “His bones are consumed, and his life-blood is dried” (l. 21). Again, there is reference to death, specifically pointing out that death is inevitable. There is no hint to life after prison or some sort of spiritual rejuvenation or correction for the convict, only death. There is a reference to a better alternative for convicts other than the systematic grouping of a dead-end life sentence. The last two lines read, “My care, if the arm of the mighty were mine, / Would plant thee where yet thou might’st blossom again” (ll. 51-52). According to the footnotes, the “blossoming again” is in reference to sending prisoners away rather than placing them in prison. The poem is explicit about prison being life draining and dead-end, but there seems to be virtue in being sent away to start again. There is no place for the darkness that is prison, but there is greatness to be experienced outside of inevitable death.

This relates to the painting as there is a clear presence of death in the painting. The dark tones in the painting reflect how prison is depicted. The graves and the church that are shown give an understanding of death, but also life after death or away from death that a convict being sent to Australia could possibly experience. The sentence that a person would receive would be a death sentence but having the opportunity to start over is a new beginning.

—Joseph Rojas

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