It’s a Mad World

In “The Mad Mother” by Wordsworth, the poem depicts a mother who is admittedly on the brink of insanity. Her only saving grace is the purity and love of her baby. Her husband is not attentive, if present at all, and she is considered mad by all those around her. The poem reads with a heavy air of isolation and depression, though every statement about her sun is like a little light of hope. Joseph William Turner’s “Buttermere Lake: A Shower” uses dark and muted colors for most of his painting. The dark theme is not eerie but rather dreary. There is a lone figure in the lake and in one of the further focal points of the piece, the artist utilizes light and depth with a soft arc ascending from around the lake’s bend. I think this painting is a good visual representation for the woman’s dark mentality. I would go as far as to say that the woman may have suffered mental illnesses in this piece. Depression, PTSD, or perhaps schizophrenia (when she speaks of the “wicked faces” and “fire once in [her] brain”) may be involved in her life.The way she speaks about how she was happy once, scorned at other times and has lost much joy by the time her son is born speaks volumes about potential depressive episodes she may have encountered through her life. The discord she suffers through is recurring, enough to have her labeled as mad and inconvenient enough to push others away. The romanticism, I think, is found in the way that this baby is enough to cease the madness, if only for a while. As mental illnesses are still not fully understood to this day, the era in which this was written would have been a strong romanticism thing. Clearly, she is an outcast but the romance theme of it all is strength in solitude, strength as a woman, and the love and emotions of a mother and her child.

-Asia Reyna

Necessary Darkness

I used Joseph William Turner’s work, Buttermere Lake : A Shower, as a lens for William Wordsworth’s “We Are Seven”. The painting is a very dark work with one single streak or center of light, which could be described as a rainbow. There is what seems to be a man on a boat in a vast lake, seeming to go toward the light. The poem tells of an encounter between what I would believe to be an older man and a young cottage girl. The conversation revolves around the number of siblings the girl has. When she divulges two have passed, the man states that there are only five than and she still adamantly states that in total there are seven. The first stanza of the poem begins quite shakily,

A simple Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels it’s life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

In the painting we get a sense of mystery and trepidation of what is to come. Something very similar can be felt while reading the first stanza. The very first line is incomplete, almost like as if the narrator took a breath between stanzas. Was he convincing himself that the small child was not to be feared, that she was the light within the darkness that is death? I believe so, it almost seemed that the child left him in shock. He also described her as rustic and had very fair eyes. Much like the man in the boat, it almost seems that narrator took a moment to embrace the lightness the little maid had within her.
The poem is set in a graveyard, a place that can generally be considered dark and sad. Turner’s painting is quite dark, although not sad, it feels quite serious. The beacon of light, or rainbow is what seems to give the man in the boat a purpose and or hope; and it gives us the viewers a sense of tranquility.

Wordsworth’s poem is dark and serious, the little girl is physically alone, she has lost two of her siblings. Her mother is not present, she even foreshadows a possibility of her brother John having been murdered. Yet, her presence is light and happy, she seemingly embodies the ray of light that is in Turner’s art work. Although she is light, she has required of that darkness to be who she is, that is why she embraces her siblings and refers to them as being present. The light in Buttermere Lake would not be as beautiful or as valued if it was not surrrounded by the darkness in the painting.

Sabrina Vazquez

Written in Early Spring


For this post, I decided to use the poem “Lines Written in early Spring” by William Wordsworth to accompany Théodore Gericault’s painting, “Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct.” For this interpretation, I decided to make the narrator the figure that is sitting down on the rocks, as the second line of the poem states “While in a grove I sate reclined, /”. I had many different interpretations of this poem but the one that stood out the most and made more sense with the painting was the one that stated that early spring was a time to reflect on the experiences we had just passed in the year before that. It was a time where nature was barely blossoming and therefore would enlighten the narrator on some aspect of life. Each line had lots of imagery that went with the painting. Such as the first line, “I heard a thousand blended notes,/” from a musical perspective “blended notes” must sound very beautiful, it means everything comes together to sound very peaceful and put together. Which is what I can imagine when it comes to the painting. The painting also gives off a nostalgic feeling when I look at it, which also goes with the line in the poem “In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts/ Bring sad thoughts to the mind./” I interpreted this as the day is finally ending, and even though one is still having fun, and the light is still out, soon the darkness will take over and one must be ready to face those bad thoughts that will come right after. It’s a very beautiful play that describes the beauty of nature that many people don’t care or know about.

-Laura Mateo Gallegos

The poem “At Evening” on page 133 of the text version of Lyrical Ballads is a poem easily compared to the image titled Buttermere Lake.

The creator of the painting, Joseph Mallord William Turner, creates an image that evokes so much curiosity. When compared to the poem previously mentioned one can find several connections between the two.

At one point in the poem the author writes:

“And see how dark the backward stream!

A little moment past, so smiling!”

Which is a line clearly reflected in the image created by Turner as we witness what looks like a couple rowing their boat on a river away from the darkness and toward a large ray of light. The painting also includes a very clear division between the darkness and the light just like the poem. The poem relies heavily on positivity in the face of uncertainty, or darkness, and the painting does the same. The couple rowing on Buttermere lake is an illustration of the couple written about on Lake Thames. The topic of death is introduced in the poem adding an extra layer of darkness and uncertainty but in the end the author basically asks for the present moment to never end which is what I imagine the painting to be a moment of clarity – a moment one wishes could last forever. Image result for Buttermere Lake, with Part of Cromackwater, Cumberland, a Shower by Joseph Mallord William Turner

  • Maricruz Rivas

Harmony and Grace in Romantic Landscapes – or not?

Samantha Shapiro

Buttermere Lake, with Part of Cromackwater, Cumberland, a Shower by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851).

Joseph Mallord William Turner’s (J. M. W. Turner/Turner) Buttermere Lake, with Part of Cromackwater, Cumberland, a Shower (Buttermere Lake) develops a mysterious parallel with the structure of William Wordsworth’s poem “Lines Written with a pencil upon a stone in the wall of the House (an Out-house) on the Island at Grasmere” (or “The Island at Grasmere” for short), which reveals Romantic characteristics such as elements of the supernatural and ambiguity to enhance the reading of the poem. Through this, ambiguous language is highlighted in order to question deeply held perspectives on self-reflection.

Within the painting’s form, both the dichotomy of light and dark and choice in brush strokes in Turner painting Buttermere Lake showcases mysterious themes to help Wordsworth figuratively set the mood of his poetry on the poet’s journey to the island. The lighter tones in the middle of Turner’s painting contrasts interestingly with the dark elements, blending together in ripple-like strokes (1). The oil on the canvas paints a picture of a water-like sky in the middle section, blending them together yet at the same time, with the distinctness of the light, keeps the colors apart. The way Turner chose to paint the sky through mist-like strokes conveys a mysterious tone to the piece, which can be used a lens to see Wordsworth’s own “Poet” in his poem, “The Island at Grasmere,” when he traveled to a “Hermitage” – images of the man travelling to an abandoned shack on an island to find shelter, one where animals like lambs and heifers come for shelter on a “Pinnace, a small vagrant Barge” (92). All of these are capitalized, indicating them as proper nouns or at least important signifiers, making this appear to be more than what meets the eye: a “hypothetical” poet wouldn’t come here just for any reason. Not only this, but Turner’s choice to paint Buttermere Lake in this manner helps the reader to see the unique form of Wordsworth’s poetry – unlike previous choices to stick to rhyme and syntax, he chooses to write free-form starting on page 91, which indicates a different type of ambiguous, thoughtful mood, one with mysterious intention (why wouldn’t he just stick to rhyming throughout?). I see this choice as reversal, or commentary on the content within his poem – when he chooses to question critiquing aestheticism on page 91 with the section,

“Rude is this Edifice, and Thou hast seen

Buildings, albeit rude, that have maintain’d

Proportions more harmonious, and approach’d

To somewhat of a closer fellowship

With the ideal grace.” (pg 91)

it appears as though he already made up his mind on harmony and grace. This is seen with his refusal to use any of the traditional elements associated with standard rhyming poetry, with a train of thought narrative guiding him like the poet on the lake.

Perspective and setting help to not only contextualize the painting’s location but also show similarities to the scenery and inspiration for “The Island of Grasmere” around Wordsworth. Turner’s Buttermere Lake and Wordsworth’s “The Island of Grasmere” both find their settings in England’s lake district, the two areas in question a quiet 47 minute drive from each other. Here, Turner’s Buttermere Lake appears to have a few houses in the background, similar to an image of Grasmere Lake’s island.

In this, the poem helps to contextualize the piece by showing everything but the house itself; the painting in showing the lake, town, and even person rowing on the lake, doesn’t show a clear view of where that person is going or coming from – a lake where abandoned sheep with an “unshorn…burthen of their wool Lie round him” in a hermit’s home. The two works are able to blend together to showcase elements surrounding the mysterious “Out-house) on the Island at Grasmere” and add depth to Wordsworth’s poetry by implying questioning even his own desire for “Creations lovely as the work of sleep, Fair sights, and visions of romantic joy.”

A Stunning Image Brings about a Romantic Feeling

“How rich the wave, in front, imprest, with evening-twilight’s summer hues, while, facing thus the crimson west.” One can already imagine different images with these few lines. In “Lines written near Richmond, upon the Thames, at evening,” we get a decent description of the setting. Somewhere near an ocean, lake, or pond on an early summer morning. The sun is beaming but barely enough to peek through whatever crack or corner it can find. A “crimson west” indicates there is not only colour in the sky but passion as well. What other colour is more passionate than a specific red hue that inclines to purple.

In Théodore Gericault’s “Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct” (1818), we can clearly see an almost miraculous breathtaking image. Different structures built upon mountains and hills near an area of water. It has a balance of lively energetic nature views that contrast with a specific gloomy undertone in certain areas of the painting.  On the left, there are trees with bountiful amounts of leaves and green that are flaunted by the bright exposure of the sunrise while on the bottom right, there is a significantly smaller tree with few branches almost hidden in the murky shadows. This painting helps viewers and readers see the intentions of Romantic poetry such as the one mentioned above.

“Such views the youthful bard allure, but, heedless of the following gloom, he deems their colours shall endure ‘till peace go with him to the tomb.” This alludes to a sight so beautiful and remarkable, how shame it is that some will be distracted by outside forces to take in such a sight. The painting itself is quite stunning, no question about it, but how does it accomplish such triumph? The realistic features in the painting such as trees and hills help viewers comprehend a sight that can be true. The colours and hues are bright and dense which leaves a warm sensation across admirers because of the genuine choice of paint and tint.

Overall, the image is honest and pure. It’s a portrait of a calm area and the artist’s choices of colours and objects to be included in the painting help reveal Romantic themes such as loving nature and having a profound feeling or awareness of life.

-Abe Alvarez


Death and Taxes

Dead trees on top of gravestones, with a degrading abbey parting the painting in the middle. That is; Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), The Abbey in the Oakwood, 1808-1810. Just like the little cottage girl’s dead siblings, the headstones are in front of the church;

“Seven boys and girls are we;

Two of us in the church-yard lie,

Beneath the church-yard tree.”

Friedrich’s painting showcases headstones in front of the church.

Now that’s the most obvious comparison, let’s dig deeper. The girl’s ‘rustic, woodland air’ can also be used to describe the painting. It looks like its right next to the forest, but a bomb went off. The smell of the dead trees, the wood overtakes everything. “Till God released her of her Pain”, the painting shows an abbey, where the monks and nuns live and congregate. Of course there is a graveyard, cause where do people go after they die? To heaven, with God. Of course the child negates this, and well believes that her siblings are still alive.

“———A simple Child,

That lightly draws its breath,

And feels its life in every limb,

What should it know of death? “

I found the first stanza possibly the most hard hitting from the poem. What does a child possibly know of death, they are so small, so minuscule, so full of life, how could they know of death. The painting shows a broken down abbey, dead trees, and among them the bodies of the dead. The painting is death incarnate, with the people being processed in the middle. Are us adults any different than children? What do we know about death, anymore than a child does. An adult praying for the soul of deceased family member is no different than a child playing along the tombstones where their sibling is buried. The quote out there exists that you die twice, once when you die, and the other time when your name is last mentioned. Keeping the memories of our deceased, is keeping them alive, with us.

The painting highlights our human understanding of death, the basics, the crude rituals, and it confines it to a small space. The vast, almost limitless top half mocks the bottom half for how claustrophobic it is. Maybe it casts a dark shade over the humans, for their lack of understanding, and their ability to never truly see above the trees into the light. Nature could also be the true winner here, as the abbey (probably once very beautiful) now looks very similar to the trees. Nature laughs at us, and sees our futile attempts to outlive it with buildings and tombstones. Isn’t crazy that the painting is split in half, like how still water gives off a reflection. Do we humans need to reflect on our understanding of death? Of life? Of religion?. Is the painting reflecting the tombstones into the sky? Does heaven exist? Only two things are certain, death and taxes


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

Day N’ Night

A word is worth one thousand pictures. The Lyrical Ballad of Love can be different to anyone who chooses to interpret it. Everyone shares different perspectives and ideals when it comes to the concept of Love. Love itself can be represented as an emotion, amongst many others. It can paint way more than what it lets on. In the painting above you see light and darkness split in two. You see darkness standing over light as it wears bright and vibrant colors. The further away you stand from this painting the more you lose focus on the two individuals shown in the painting. The more you stand further away from the painting the more you see the world in which these two individuals live in. The beauty, the sky as it intertwines with the brightest yellows and the lightest oranges. As Love begins, the speaker is illustrated sitting near some ruins. The individual in this painting sits in darkness on some rocks.

As the ballad goes on the speaker is seen to be sharing a particular story with his lover. In the painting, the individual seen on the left seems to be sharing or informing (based on the hand gestures being shown off in the painting) their significant other. The speaker shares the narrative of a Knight who was heartbroken for a long period of time. That heartbreak slowly came to an end when the Knight saved the woman and she fell in love with him because of it. Through this narrative I see that the speaker was attempting to make the reference of love being one of the best feelings in the world and also the worst. Throughout his many years of being heartbroken the Knight finally looked love in the eyes. This word is worth a thousand pictures. Love is the thing that keeps you up at night. As shown in the painting it can bring you as high as you’ve ever been, build you, complete, or it can tear you apart, destroy you, and make you question everything you know.

You’re split between light and dark. You’re split between the good and the bad. Everything good that comes with love can be overshadowed by the bad, by darkness. The Knight stayed up all night wondering what went wrong for years. Love is sacrifice, it’s respect and selflessness, love is the thing that makes your world worthwhile. Your days without them seem so much longer and your years with them seem so much shorter. The colors being used in the painting symbolize romanticism. Everything that is further away from both individuals are out of focus while everything closest to them is bold and significant. In a way it shows their travels and how far they’ve come from the past as two separate individuals joining as one to clean up the mess they’d left behind without context. Both in the poem and in the painting we find two individuals coming together after a long time of self reflection. Both the ballad and the painting share the isolation between both individuals represented in both pieces.

by rosalinda flores

How NOT to Destroy Nature with Romance

“Lines Written in Early Spring” although brief, encapsulates a broad aspect of the romantic movement in the final two lines of the first stanza with the narrator’s claim that while reclining in a grove, “In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts bring sad thoughts to mind”. With the final two lines of the subsequent stanza echoing “And much it griev’d my heart to think what man has made of man”, an emphasis on the picturesque nature that is the grove is accompanied by a bittersweet lamentation of what man’s impact on the natural landscape is. The idea that “pleasant thoughts bring sad thoughts to mind” is possibly rooted in the narrator’s anxieties at the capacity for man to manipulate nature and the conflict that may arise from it. When examining the poem through the lens of the painting Evening: Landscape with an Aqueduct, made by Théodore Gericault in 1818, during the romantic movement, we are exposed to a unique perspective. The colors are muted with old ruin like structures blocking the primary source of light from the sun, and this in itself can present a bleak introspection on how humanity eventually succumbs to nature with the roots encapsulating and attempting to reabsorb the old structures. Although prominent, this is not the center focus of the painting. Rather the focus is the aqueduct itself, and although the palette is muted, the aqueduct is bathed in a bright hue and has a strange warmth to it. The setting itself is tranquil and serene, which actually represents an integral aspect of romanticism; that the movement itself is not centered entirely upon the conflict between humans and nature, but it also encapsulates how humans can responsibly enjoy nature. The aqueduct, although somewhat obstructive, does not disturb the tranquility of the scene. The aqueduct, a product made by man that represents what the narrator grieves about, a work of man that has the capacity to distort or even destroy nature, can actually survive harmoniously in tandem with nature as opposed to being in direct contrast to it.

-Kevin Martinez