Dungeon Reprise

 The Dungeon Reprise

 

This is the place of opportunity?

The place that our fathers fought for

A beast now

They fought for this, sacrificed the blood that runs in their veins for this,

For the right to stand alone and empowered, our land is a beast

What has it become, telling its brother it hates him?

Looking at him, seeing himself, and turning away

Rearing its head to hate, to injustice,

Our land in unrecognizable, the face of every injustice committed,

Laid bare on the flesh of cheeks and spread across palms,

Every time dark skin was a crime, or the feminine, or love,

I know this wasn’t how it was supposed to be

But it’s cold, now, too late, too close to the end

The evil cuts our breath short, silences

Grinding shrieks are a world controlled by capitalism and fueled by fear

Afraid of what we don’t know, afraid of a veiled face but not a gun,

We are so afraid so angry

So we try to cover it up, so we blame, so we don’t look at each other

We are trapped,

 There is only justice through the pure

 the innocence of what cannot be blamed

the unblemished face of nature

 Nature, be like fire, burning away

 things that make this world a dungeon, set afire

 the darkness in our hearts

 the corrupt nature of our very being

 nature, pristine in its hearth, set atop as on pedestals

 to understand the deep connection of man as nature

 as pieces, as atoms, as roots and stardust

 as free flowing eternity is to escape our dungeon

 

-Cait Grabill

 

A letter to my readers,

My initial love of the poem “The Dungeon”, a lyrical ballad, came from the way in which it captured critically, a world of evil and corruption, but also almost in paradox, presented this solution of sorts. The beauty and perfection of nature as a sort of link to original man, and to a sort of savior and rebirth. I found this idea both inspiring and transcendent. Staring off, I knew I wanted to write a poem which gave nods to these themes outright. I wanted to give nod to the Romantic era theme which captured that disdain over the ever-growing industrialization poisoning the world, as well as that nostalgic admiration of nature. I wrote my poem with this theme in mind, but instead pointed by critique, at the injustice and inequality which hampers our world today, and how that incredible human link with nature, of us as a part of nature, is so transcendent that it surpasses the evils and transgressions of this world.

Stylistically, I did mimic the poem’s structure of 19 and 11 lines for the two stanzas respectively. I also noticed the lack of true and hard rhyme or structure. The lines flowed without barrier and is the message was meant to be hard hitting and direct. I wrote with the same sort of varying line length and wrote in a way that when read sounds less structured and more of an impassioned cry or prayer. I felt that this was what the original poem was intending to sound like. A sort of cry to the world and to nature. I also noted the use of alliteration in sounds, or first letters to add emphasis. As a nod to this, I also used alliteration but uses parallel sentence frames instead. By this I mean instead of saying “Smooth, Seared…” I used This … This…” I thought personally this would sound similar but give my poem a unique touch.

I also noticed the imagery in the first half of the poem being that critical, sort of personifies and complicated picture of the land, while the second became a sort of call for help to nature. The images in the first stanza were dark in comparison to the beautiful nature images in the second stanza. I mimicked this in my own version of this poem and created by own sort of personified “beast” and “savior” nature. I did intend also to keep my images also relating to the themes of evil, poverty, injustice, as the original poem did. I also tried to reflect the way in which the images are obscure but loaded with deeper context. I tried to highlight different issues in our society through subtle but daring images.

I felt overall that this project opened by eyes to the amount of detail it requires to craft a poem so striking and poignant. Every element points to a theme or to a larger image in a sort of totalitarian writing style. Every word is chosen so carefully and comes packed with little meaning that so differently can affect interpretation. This assignment has really exposed me to the tedious details that it takes to create this sort of art.

Flight of the Drunken Airliner

It is a flight attendant
And he questioned one of three
“By your chipper smile and charismatic voice
Now what for do you accost me?

The airlock doors swung wide open
And I am next to leave
The bags are got, I soon must jet
I hear the bag carousel weave and weave

But still he holds the passenger
There was a flight, said he
“Hey! If you’ve got a funny story,
Attendant! Come walk with me

The attendant speaks of a day past
Where the attendant lost his cool
A passenger was acting unruly
Truly seemed one great fool.

The attendant strolled the aisles
With the cart of goodies tall
Asking, “Would you like some nuts?”
For one man and the rest of all.

His day seemed to be going well
About as good as it could be
Some turbulence over Ohio
But blue, white skies to be seen

The attendant took his seat
When all his work was done
“What is that out on the wing?”
Is someone having a bit of fun!?

He peers through the porthole window
To catch a little glimpse
A strange figure runs from view
“Great… time to pass out the chips.”
A customer in row two said,
“Hey, brah? I want a beer.”
The attendant dawns a smile,
Trying hard to conceal the fear.

“What was that on the wing?”
The question panged his head.
He hands out the Coca-Cola.
While many passengers simply read.

“I must be going mad,”
The attendant quietly said.
He strolled off to the bathroom,
To cleanse his bowels instead.

He walked off to the stall,
Closed the door with a “clank.”
“This job…. It’s shearing out my soul
But, at least it’s money in the bank.”

The attendant cleans his hands
Suddenly—hears a strange sound
“Okay, what the fuck is going on.”
He searches the source like a hound.

He peers down the sink,
And, boy, what does he see.
A little green demon scurries down
The attendant is scared as can be.

The flight is soon to land
They’ve passed the Great Lakes
The attendant wants to leave,
He’ll do whatever it takes.

Some rough air as the liner falls
Through the open air
Some people suddenly awaken
Look out? The attendant doesn’t dare.
“I thought this job was easy…”
The attendant solemnly thought
Customer service was impossible
When in his mind fears were wrought

As JetBlue Flight 1052
Descended to the ground,
The attendants brow was furrowed.
His face: it possessed a frown.

“If anything else goes wrong,
Today will be my last.”
The future did not look rosy,
And certainly not the past.

The plane taxied to the terminal,
And a passenger got up too soon.
“Miss, could you please sit down?”
The phrase, it meant his doom.

She accosted him madly,
Trying to grab her bag.
“Miss, you’re breaking the rules….”
SHUT UP YOU NAGGING FAG!

The attendant was at wits end,
For a damned good reason.
He made his mind up now,
Because madness was in season.

He grabbed two cans of Coors,
For the jolly road.
He pulled the emergency exit,
And shouted with a goad:

“I quit, I quit, I quit.
I thought that you show know:
This flight has been the worst,
So, now, enjoy the show!”
He slid down the chute,
And ran from the terminal gate.
He sure had a blast,
But criminal charges soon await.

 

“Flight of the Drunken Airliner” is a parodic rendition of “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” using the trope of a forewarning tale, themes of travel, and questions of sanity. While my parody lacks much of the Romantic quality of Coleridge’s original work, I’ve decided to use the generic plot as a skeletal structure to outline critiques of modern capitalism. The poem is intended to be a hybrid of antiquated and modern diction, with colloquial dialogue that punctuates the regular flow of poetic language and poetic rhyme pattern. I’ve used the same rhymed stanza format to tell the story, but, instead of being divided into parts, it is a simple long-form prose poem.

The narrative is a hybrid between the “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” episode of Twilight Zone and the news story of JetBlue Flight 1052. By combining both fiction and fact, I expound on two stories which represent the anxieties of post-war capitalism. In the Twilight Zone episode, William Shatner’s character Robert Wilson takes a flight where he experiences psychological trauma, and, in the JetBlue flight, flight attendant Steven Slater claims to face emotional abuse from a passenger, causing him to quit his job in a hilarious flare of commercial rebellion. By layering these two stories on top of one another, obscuring the differences between the two, I hope to represent the insanity of commercialism, technological fetishization, and the soul crushing nature of customer service work.

To some extent, I believe that humorizing the poem has done away with much of its historical, literary bite, but I’d argue that situating the poetry within a contemporary context is a useful act in and of itself. Where “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is wholly a ghastly story of naturalistic revenge within the context of a moralistic tale, “Flight of the Drunken Airliner” is meant to be far less proselytizing. With the modernity of the rendition comes the indeterminacy of a moral lesson, and I hope that I’ve left enough for the reader to digest and make their mind up for themselves.

Peace

—Nathaniel Schwass

Don’t Get Wor(l)d(l)y With Me!

For my creative assignment, I decided to work with Samuel Johnson’s “Preface” to The Dictionary of The English Language, with an emphasis for the way in which Johnson write the preface. Instead of channeling his work and writing a version of it that would applicable today (a new preface for the OED or something of that nature), I decided to do a parody of his work. With this thought in mind, I borrowed the tone of Samuel Johnson and reworked him into my character, Dr. Johnson, who is a linguist professor teaching in the 21st century. I decided to do this because I feel as though there are many people in academia who still practice the same sort of exclusionary methods of analyzing literature as Johnson did back in the romantic era. My second character is Mavis, Dr. Johnson’s child. Mavis represents the future generation of people to use the English language (which was Johnson’s target audience when making the Dictionary). In this play, Mavis questions his father’s ideas about the English language and its “proper” usage, bringing up many of the complaints and contradictions we have talked about in class while studying Johnson. I thought this would be a neat dynamic to focus on because Johnson’s preface really doesn’t have a rebuttal. It doesn’t leave any room for someone to respond or challenge his ideas. I thought it would be interesting to explore what the creation of Johnson’s Dictionary would have been like had it been more of a collaborative process. I chose to write this piece as a short play because not only is that my favorite medium to write in, but also because I thought it would be an interesting and creative way to talk about Johnson’s preface which comes across as so flat and one sided, given that plays are so vibrant and interactive.

DON’T GET WOR(L)D(L)Y WITH ME!

By Elle Lammouchi

Time: Present

Characters: Dr. Johnson – an English professor with an emphasis on linguistics

Mavis – Dr. Johnson’s 20th/21st century born child

Setting: Dr. Johnson’s office

At Rise: Dr. Johnson is banging on his laptop. Mavis is reclining in a chair, texting.

Dr. Johnson

God Damnit! The wi-fi is down again.

(shuts laptop)

Mavis

Hashtag, first world problems

Dr. Johnson

What… does… that… even… mean?!

Mavis

It means that you’re like totally privileged. Like, the only reason you can even think about this problem is because you’re not starving to death.

Dr. Johnson

I need a drink.

(starts rummaging for alcohol)

Mavis

First world problem number two….

Dr. Johnson

Why do I spend all this money to send you to an Ivy League school, to study English no less, for you to come home and talk with such lowly, savage, convoluted terms? It’s barbaric. You would think I didn’t bring you up to have a command over the English language.

Mavis

You totes need to calm down.

Dr. Johnson

DO NOT TELL ME TO CALM DOWN!

Mavis

Chillax, yo.

Dr. Johnson

I am not “chill.” In fact, quite the opposite, because my child, whom I have nurtured, formed and molded from the very beginning has thrust themselves headlong into the contemptible brambles of slang. Are you aware how uneducated you sound?

            (pause)

Mavis? MAVIS!

Mavis

             (texting)

 Huh? Oh, my bad, wa’sup?

Dr. Johnson

Have you been listening to a word I’ve been saying?

Mavis

            (Mimics the voice over from the Dos Equis commercials)

I hang on your every word, even the prepositions… You are the most literate man in the world… I don’t always use the proper English, but when I do, I prefer Samuel Johnson’s.

Dr. Johnson

What? Why? Why are you using an accent? That’s not even a real accent. Why won’t you just speak proper English? Oh, and by the way, Johnson is outdated. You should be using the Oxford English Dictionary now.

Mavis

No, you’re the one that’s outdated. You’re behind the times.

Dr. Johnson

Don’t get worldly with me!

Mavis

Well, don’t get wordy with me! What’s it matter to you if I use slang with my mates? You think they don’t understand me? Honestly, they probably understand me better. I think you’re just jelly because you don’t know what’s hip and happening. You can’t just bury your nose in books and not look around you. The world is changing. It’s reviving and thriving and being destroyed, being restored all at once. You know, you just…

Dr. Johnson

Mavis, that’s quite enough…

Mavis

No, it’s not enough. It’s never going to be enough. You can’t contain and maintain a language so vibrant and alive. Don’t you see how making everyone speak the same is just another form microaggression? Acting like it’s better for everyone… Who’s it really better for? Why don’t you pop in your wayback machine and go ask Johnson over tea if his little exclusionary process made a safe space for the English language to flourish… Do you want to see what I was tweeting right now? While you were blabbin’ away? You want me to ping you on this post? I could tag you, you know.

Dr. Johnson

I don’t know.

Mavis

You’re right you don’t know and that’s exactly what I’m tweeting here, on social media, for all the world to read.

(reading)

Your voice matters. Speak your own words. #GetLit.

Dr. Johnson

Get lit… as in, literature?

Mavis

Yeah, as in why don’t you get fired up about that?

(exits, defiantly)

Dr. Johnson

            (sits at the desk, astonished, and downs the Bourbon, grimacing; picks up dictionary and sets it aside, opens laptop and begins speaking as typing)

Google: First World Problems.

Martyrdom and the French Revolution

I am choosing to analyze The Harp of India by Henry Louis Vivian Derozio because to me this is the poem which most accurately describes the kind of “beautiful suffering” I was talking about in class after listening to the harp be played. The tone of this poem is remorseful. It beings, “Why hang’st thou lonely on yon withered bough?” Here we immediately see a longing for the past, unity and strength. This line is followed by, “Unstrung for ever, must thou there remain; / Thy music once was sweet – who hears it now?” Again, we have that deep nostalgic longing for the past. At this point the poem is very depressing, almost like talking about the end of an era. The speaker is questioning, how can we go on without you? How can we go on without your “sweet” “music” which guided us for generations? It continues, “Why doth the breeze sigh over thee in vain? / Silence hath bound thee with her fatal chain.” Here, we see that the tone of the poem has shifted. Here we see a conflict between the natural order of things. The question is asked of why the “breeze” (nature) “sighs” in “vain,” which shows that this state of silence is not natural, but a reflection of oppression. By using the active choice of diction in “silence has bound thee” we see here that the agency of the poem is being attributed to an outside force. It is not the harp of the Irish/Indian people who has the agency here, but those who act upon it and “chain” the harp, and therefore the people. It continues to describe the treatment of the harp/people, “Neglected, mute, and desolate art thou, Like ruined monument on desert plain.” It continues, “O! Many a hand more worthy far than mine / Once thy harmonious chords to sweetness gave.” Here we see the frustration of the speaker, that desire to have agency and to act, but feeling incapable, unworthy. This echoes the sort of sadness and sorrow of individuals being overcome by the daunting task of fighting for freedom and thinking, “It couldn’t possibly be up to me. I can’t do this.” Immediately after, therefore, there is a call for unity, in the lines, “And many a wreath for them did fame entwine / of flowers still blooming on the minstrel’s grave.” Not only has the concept switched to that of unity and being entwine in the music or calling of the culture, but there is now a thread of fate or destiny (which removes the pressure of personal agency). It continues, “Those hands are cold – but if thy notes divine / May be by mortal wakened once again.” Here we see a call to the heavens in “if thy notes divine.” This poem has turned into a prayer, not necessary for strength, but for use. By saying, “May be by mortal wakened once again,” the speaker is asking to be used by fate, to be chosen to do what they cannot do, to overcome the impossible task before them of reviving a culture. It concludes, “Harp of my country, let me strike the strain!” Here we finally see the passion of the speaker and come to that rift of “beautiful suffering” I was talking about in class. The speaker is crying out to be used, to be empowered. This is the only time in the whole poem that the speaker takes accountability for anything. By saying, “let me strike the strain!” this is the speaker being moved to action. It is not a call to action, but a succumbing to action, an embracing of the suffering and hardship. This complicates the story of the French Revolution because, like I mentioned in class, other countries (like India and Ireland) did not have this sort of elevated anarchic call to revolution like the French experienced. Their experiences were far more organic, or earth/root based. They were spurred on by preservation, not progress. They were an acceptance and embracement of suffering, not a blaze of passion. These counties represent the martyrdom of the French Revolution and impact it had on other countries during the romantic era. In my opinion, the harp has the same sort of cultural significance as the cross. It is both a symbol of hope and of perseverance. It embodies “beautiful suffering.”

Elle Lammouchi

Open Sea

The darkness seen in the painting with the monk is simple yet powerful. It is an intimidating picture to see as the raw power of the ocean is no match for one person and their prayer. To me, it almost looks as if a tidal wave or tsunami is forming with the shape of the clouds. It looks as if the monk is going to be swallowed up regardless of his religious belief. The way we heard Iron Maiden play the Ryme of the Ancient Mariner, it kind of seems aggressive as well as if it is going to wreak havoc among whoever interferes. We then know, with a change of thought and belief, that everything somehow doesn’t turn out as permanent as thought, and a second chance is given to the mariner. So maybe, in a way, the monk by praying, or his presence alone, signifies that there is light behind those massive clouds.

Deathly is the sound of “his bones were black with many a crack (Ancient Mariner line 181). I imagine the wave delivering crushing force, delivering a blow that crushes us until a black carbon form, our most simple element of remnants. Perhaps that is what our mind wants us to think. What if we, for some miraculous reason are able to persevere and defeat all odds?

I leave it with “Still as a slave before his Lord” (line 419) to signify the humbleness of our composition. For the mighty ocean to spare us, and give us another opportunity in teaching and learning is miraculous. For us to realize and learn from an experience is so profound. I do not take it lightly in the lessons I experience on a daily basis. I always carry some sort of regret in the sense of how could I have been a better person. How could I have made things different if I were to be the last person on Earth. Reflection, and the multiple prayers addressed in this reading remind us to be our best selves every day.

 

-Daniel Estrada

Exoticism of the Lower Class through Wordsworth’s “We are Seven”

The Romantic era sought beauty in the natural world as a way of responding to the industrial boom that modernized the western world. However, it did not only mean that people were focused on looking toward the horizon for beauty, or searching for the meaning of life in a mountain range, it also meant that literature, art and beauty would be more democratic. It meant that there was a complexity to the lives of the poor working class, and they too were able to express themselves poetically. With that being said, William Wordsworth is one of the pioneers who tried to incorporate the connection poor people had to the world. In his poem, “We Are Seven” there are class markers that the speaker of the poem identifies in the first stanza that mark the subjects of the poem, and even exoticizes them. The first line of the poem sets the tone by beginning with “A simple child” and this signals images in the reader’s imagination immediately about how to understand the family and domestic quality in the poem. Another class marker is when the speaker describes the the little “cottage girl” in stanza two, and these markers help to put into perspective how the cryptic moments in the poem are inherently tied to the class status of the family.  The little girl seems to be confused about what the title of the poem suggests, which is that she believes there are seven people in her household when in fact some of the members have actually died. The speaker of the poem seems to be conflicted about the “cottage” girl’s blissful ignorance because of her “simple” way of understanding the world–which seems to exclude the idea of passing away.

The painting by David Caspar Friedrich, “The Abbey in the Oakwood” is a romantic era painting that embodies the idea of nature vs civilization, but it is also the negotiation between these two concepts in a coexisting manner. This reminds me of how the little girl says “two of us in the church-yard lie” in stanza six when she is referring to their grave sites, which are described as being “green” in stanza ten. This seems to be a deliberate way of assigning a lively color like green to a gravesite, which is obviously to keep the dead. There seems to be a duality here that is much like the painting where wee see a dead trees and an incomplete building because it has been abandoned. However, we still get the natural world working–the painting gives it life as a way of accepting the passing of things a part of the circularity. Although the painting is a little more cryptic, it definitely parallels the poem on how death seems to be in constant movement with nature, and ultimately man.

This duality of death and life looks kind of cryptic when it is attributed to the status of the poor. This could have something to do with the idea of not having tombstones adorned like aristocratic people did, as Wordsworth has alluded to in another poem, but it also has to do with the way in which the Romantics like Wordsworth and Coleridge looked to democratize the poor in conversation with the mainstream. In other words, they tried to de-marginalize the poor by including them in the center of their works. It is actually pretty marxist of them to do so, but it is also shows the gaze that is inevitable when people who do not belong to the working-class try to speak for them. To attribute death and its circularity to the working class shows more about Wordsworth’s gaze, than it might about poor working class people. The painting by Friedrich demonstrates a sort of othering that is attributed to these forgotten or “abandoned” people, as I have mentioned. By looking at this painting, it could be said that Wordworth looked at poor people in this way; he might have found them to be deserving of being brought into the mainstream of culture, but in a way he is also not one of them so he, in effect, has also exoticized them. romantic image 2

Cesar R

The Intertwining of Universal Chance

romantic-image-3

For my response, I propose to look at The Monk by the Sea (1809), by artist Caspar David Friedrich, and The Idiot Boy, by William Wordsworth (1800). I chose these two completely at random because I truly believe that all interpretations have merit, especially those which you allow to develop sporadically. To explain further, romanticism seems to be all about blending. It’s kind of a hot mess or art and literature that’s overlapping and colliding with one another to form this beautiful Hodge-podge of “savage” “normalcy.” Why can’t a story about an idiot boy be poetic? Why can’t a monk standing all alone by the sea be romantic? I would argue that anything (really, anything) can be both poetic and romantic. Therefore, these pieces were chosen at random and their intertwining is simply by the elements of universal chance.

To accomplish this close reading, I would like to direct your attention to page 247, lines 288 – 306, which read:

“And now she’s high upon the down, / Ad she can see a mile of road, / “Oh, cruel! I’m almost three-score; / Such night as this was ne’er before / There’s not a single soul abroad.” / She listens, but she cannot hear / The foot of horse, the voice of man; / The streams with softest sound are flowing, / The grass you almost hear it growing / You hear it now if e’er you can. / The owlets through the long blue night / Are shouting to each other still: / Fond lovers, yet not quite hob nob, / They lengthen out the tremulous sob, / That echoes far from hill to hill. / Poor Betty now has lost all hope, / Her thoughts are bent on deadly sin; / A green-grown pond she just has pass’d, / And from the brink she hurries fast, / Lest she should drown herself therein.”

In this section you can clearly see how this painting could be representing the scene depicted with “Poor Betty.” Firstly, Betty can see “a mile of road.” This implies that the world is still open, or stretched out in front of her. However, she remarks this sort of openness is actually mockingly “cruel” as there is “not a single soul abroad.” Not relying solely on her sight, “she listens” and yet she “cannot hear” any one either, further developing this sense of loneliness or isolation. Not only does she not hear “the voice of man,” but she also does not hear “the foot of horse.” This implies that not only is she removed from social society, but also the companionship of animals. Alas, she cannot even hear “grass” “growing,” even though in this moment of complete silence and isolation she should be able to “hear it now if e’er you can.” This depicts, like the painting, a further remove of loneliness and isolation. Just like in the image, even nature is barren and discomforting.

When at last Betty does hear something, it is the “shouting” of “owlets.” It’s interesting to note, she does not hear owls, but their younger, immature counterparts. This sets up the dynamic that even if Betty is able to reintegrate into society, she will be like a child, incapable of interacting in a mature and fully formed manner. This concept is continued in the lines “fond lovers, yet not quite hob nob.” This implies that the lovers are premature, not fully connected or familiar yet. Still, this implies distance, even between lovers, who should be the closest of companions and the cure to loneliness. The next sound heard is an imagined one of a sobbing so “tremulous” that it “echoes far from hill to hill.” This again points out the vastness of unoccupied space, as does the image, and drives home the singular nature of isolation.

In the final stanza, we find out what is the result of all this isolation: “Poor Betty now has lost all hope.” It goes on further to say, “Her thoughts are bent on deadly sin.” Although here, one may assume she is contemplating on past wrongs, it become obvious in the next few lines that her thoughts are actually “bent” towards a literally “deadly sin,” that of suicide. Just as in the image, Betty is faced with a “green-grown pond.” While in the poem, she “hurries fast” “from the brink,” the image captures the moment in which the decision to live has not yet been made. It captures the extreme levels of depression caused by isolation, and the desire to “drown herself therein.”

Like in the poem, the image seems to depict a very melancholy, almost inviting or accepting disposition. The lone monk and poor Betty do not seem frazzled, but calm, as though they have a deep-rooted desire “become one with nature” and thus leave behind the life of the living (the constraints and cruelty of society). In the painting, this idea of life and death being in balance, in a yin-yang type cycle, is depicted through the use of colors in the image. The monk’s head (or upper body) matches that of the sand (the lower portion of the image), whereas his robes match the water. This conveys the concept if only he would upend his life, and enter into death, then full unity could be achieved.

However, this concept of ultimate oneness, or inclusion through separation is such a terrifying thought not only for those living in the romantic era, but for people alive today that it’s not surprising that when confronted with the option of embracing death, poor Betty flees from the brink. The absoluteness of death, for many is a terrifying concept and I believes keeps many running in an endless cycle of desperation, past the brink, wishing perhaps to slip into the depths, but being too frighted and uncertain to drown themselves therein.

Elle Lammouchi

I chose the Monk by the Sea painting and the Nightingale poem from the book of poems. The two share thematic and aesthetic similarities under the umbrella of Romanticism.

The painting depicts a Monk staring wistfully out at the ocean. The colors are muted and the focus is on the bottom of the painting. The scene embodies darkness and lack of natural life. The horizontal strokes lengthen the feeling of the painting; it does not feel like an afterthought but thematically important.

The poem is guided by gothic undertones and a yearning overtone. It describes a bird singing late in the day and details how it reminds the author of the Philomea, a much older character who was famously raped. The poem is dark and of moderate length and sentence length is moderate. There is no flashy rhyming, the poem is to he point and not adorned with much but allusions.

Beauty in Darkest Places

Caspar David Friedrich painting, The Abby in the Oakwood, (1808-1810) depicts the wickedness of twisted trees in a clearing. There is a darkness that sweeps through the bottom half of the image as if making sure to shroud objects. Objects that from closer looking, seem like marked graves . In between the image stands a ruin of some sort as if a building had stood there many years ago. These trees and the ruin stand tall and extend to the top of the image but as the image goes up there is a clearing of color. The darkness subsides and light can be seen for there is beauty in darkness. From darkness comes a beauty that can never been seen unless the transition from light to dark is seen, the in-between that serves as that transition shows that there is difference in what they do. It is a change that envelopes the human soul and twists it just like the trees to change their nature, hopefully for the better, or at least become someone or something new. For you see, change is beautiful. For example in the poem “We Are Seven” by William Wordsworth tells the painful story of a child recounting the death of her siblings. She states that:

The first that died was sister Jane;

In bed she moaning lay,

Till God released her of her pain;

And then she went away
She seems to be retelling the stories in an effort to explain her situation of being in a gravesite and slowly the reader discovers more about the human soul. Jane may have died, a painting of sorrow and sadness with every death that comes. However in this tragedy lives a greater good, a freedom that comes to liberate when things are too rough. She was released of pain and yearning to actually want to live but the soul lives on. An enlightened ideal of wanting there to always be some smudge of good anywhere. The darkest situations always bring forth light even if they seem slightly fixed.
-Alexis Blanco

A Beautiful World of Ethereal Places and Ephemereal Wonders

Their colors are distinct as those of the sun and regularly and obviously blended, though less vivid, fine specimens may be found any night at the foot of the upper Yosemite fall, glowing gloriously amid the gloomy shadows and thundering waters, whenever there is plenty of moonlight and spray.

– John Muir

Dear my fellow venerable peers and aspiring scholars, I present to you a plea.

Awaken your slumbering reverence of nature within. This world that we share asks for our appreciation now more than ever. The strength of a movement is determined by the collection of the will of its individuals. Wordsworth intuitively composed his poetry at a time of boiling industrial forthcoming, but do not hesitate to relate its antiquity to the pertinence it has in a world of modern environmental peril. Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads is as contemporary to our present problematic endeavors with Earth as you could possibly imagine. Their words continue to speak for a voiceless mother Earth, the most beautiful of all planets we have ever encountered. As students of the University of California, Merced, we are granted an opportunity to embrace a pioneering spirit that has fueled and characterized the United States of America for centuries. Considering our proximity to the greatest wilderness of them all, Yosemite, we are living embodiments of Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis, which spoke to the roaring passion for Western expansion and human inquisitiveness. Go forth and revel within the temples of awful (awe-inspiring) natural wonder, avoid the temptation and distractions of modernity, as they serve no true purpose to your free-spirited soul.

Wordsworth and Coleridge have me lost in a world of beauty and pain. Romanticism speaks to me like a siren-wailing fire truck calls to a lonesome canine to howl incessantly. I’m enamored by this imaginative prose, delicate as a rose, insinuating thoughts of philosophical scorn, like an unforgiving thorn. I have literally and figuratively lost myself in the forests of the Sierra Nevada, blanketed by chilling darkness, but it was then, that I had ever felt more alive. I was young then, and my eyes scrambled in the twilight in fear of black bears. I know now, that these lovable bears in comparison to fearsome grizzlies of the north or population dwindling from receding landscapes of polar bears, are not to be feared. Fresh mountain wind,  towering sequoias revived me from my past loathsome troubles that lay insidious within my mind for so long. The landscapes of this breathtaking mountain range lay etched in my thoughts even with my eyes closed, and are now ingrained in me for the rest of my existence.

The painting “Buttermere Lake: A Shower”, instills moody thoughts in a gloomy overcast. I initially see a bleak landscape of melancholy, that speaks of a desolate past. The rainbow from the painting reminds me of Lower Yosemite Fall’s moonbows. We are within 2 hours of North America’s tallest waterfall. An exciting thought to contemplate itself. I look within these dark clouds of anguish and uncertainty, however, and I find hope. Just as I once lost my wallet and my keys in Yosemite and panicked for my life, I would eventually calm down and see that they were exactly where I had placed, underneath a pile of my belongings. There is always hope even in death and absolute remorse. Even if you cannot see it, there is always light somewhere within or somewhere far beyond the twilight zone. It is only in darkness that light truly shines. Be courageous in the face of overwhelming odds. Fight on until your last dying breath, and submit to no oppressive force. I reference another poem that carries my sentiments. “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” – Dylan Thomas

Buttermere Lake, with Part of Cromackwater, Cumberland, a Shower exhibited 1798 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Joseph William Turner’s painting carries multiple aspects of Romanticism within its frame. It is an encapsulation of the feelings and emotions of The Lyrical Ballads. Expostulation and Reply discusses enjoying nature even if its morals and lessons taught are not as direct as a lecture of philosophy or a laboratory session of science.

"You look round on your Mother Earth,
          As if she for no purpose bore you; 
          As if you were her first-born birth,
          And none had lived before you!"

William is expostulated by Matthew. Why does he seem to mindless observe the world with his mind adrift in solitary rumination?

"Nor less I deem that there are Powers
          Which of themselves our minds impress;
          That we can feed this mind of ours
          In a wise passiveness.

William explains his penchant for wonderful Mother Earth. He feels that he assimilates notions of patience and lessons of wisdom in the stillness of meditation and deep contemplation.

Landscapes like the one Turner paints and the ones that you can come across after hiking to a viewpoint are so powerful, that you can’t help but lay speechless. I recall the times I’ve been such amazing views like Glacier Point and Angel’s Landing, and I sat startled and comforted by the immense grandeur for hours.

I make one last reference to another one of Wordsworth’s poems. I ask that you consider your lifestyle and your attachments to materials, just like Wordsworth attempts to convey the contempt of materialism. A life is meant to be fulfilled with experience, and not meaningless objects.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers
.

The World is Too Much With Us

William Wordsworth

Earth day is on April 22. Also, National Park Week is April 15-23. On April 15 and 16 and again on April 22 and 23 you can visit any national park in the country free of charge. As the heavy snowfall from this year’s dramatic winter begins to recede in the Sierra Nevada, I encourage you to take part in experiencing our world within its raw natural boundaries, rather than dwelling within unsatisfying cities. The following link is a website that has been instrumental in my transition from childhood to young adulthood. It has guided me with a knowledgeable content of incredible hikes in Yosemite and also carries a comedic and informative style of prose. Check it out! http://www.yosemitehikes.com/hikes.htm

One last note. Last winter I explored Zion National Park, and after embarking on a notoriously scary but enjoyable hike, I found a drone sitting atop Angel’s Landing. Flying drones are strictly prohibited in these National Parks, and I felt obligated to find the owner before a ranger confiscated it. I’ve been looking for the owner ever since. After a considerable amount of time debating with myself internally over ethical matters, I decided to examine the footage of nature. I was absolutely blown away, and I feel compelled to share. I hope that everyone has the desire to embark on their own expeditions. I recommend the HD setting for enhanced theatrics.

 

Sincerely,

Thomas Pham