Rime of the Young Reaper

The Rime of the Young Reaper [Rime of the Ancient Mariner]

Sailor went to sit down and relax down at the bar,

And listen to the old man’s tale,

His drunken eyes brightened under circular lens,

His skinny hand tightly gripped on his fifth ale.

 

He declares he was once a sheriff of sorts,

A man of law, nicknamed Grimm,

For all who crossed the law,

Would speak their last words to him.

 

One particular day, he says,

A young man moved into the house next door,

After an odd series of events,

The family of four was found dead on the floor.

 

The sheriff kindly greeted the man,

Who silently nodded at the welcome,

But never spoke, his lips only parted,

To whistle an odd hum.

 

So the young man and the sheriff lived along one another,

A friendly relation began, without needing to speak,

As it turned out the young man had sharp interest,

For the justice of authority he seemed to seek.

 

The young man accompanied the sheriff,

Later employed as his lawful companion,

Together in his patrol car they rode,

To catch all the criminals on the run.

 

Grimm one day was forced to fire,

One day he was forced to kill,

Rapist and murderer of three,

His bloodlust was yet to fill.

 

So Grimm did as he always did,

With the scum of the world in his sight,

Attempting to flee and continue his acts,

Grimm had to do what was right.

 

Once more, twice more, and yet another,

Soon the fiend fell under,

And his lifeless eyes rolled back,

Grimm had only began to wonder.

 

It was only now he noticed,

The young man next to him began to speak,

His eyes fixed upon the fatal wound,

That from which blood continued to leak.

 

Grimm asked if he was a being of faith,

A prayer is what he might be chanting,

But Grimm was wrong, and now in tears of the memory,

In sadness of the events that have led to his current ranting.

 

The young man denied Grimm’s judgement,

And told him nothing more than the following:

“I am only here to follow your acts,

All these lives to someone are oweing.”

 

“And who might that someone be?”

Grimm asked in confusion,

But the young man refused to continue,

And left the sheriff in exclusion.

 

A few days later, Grimm’s child fell sick,

A cancer, ravaging her poor life,

The family was devastated, drowned in tears,

But most of all, the sheriff’s wife.

 

The mother who had so happily birthed,

The first daughter, her first daughter,

But now illness had come to take away,

And her happiness was for death to slaughter.

 

The young man came to the sheriff’s home,

To leave his silent blessings with the girl,

Or at least, this is what the sheriff assumed,

For he trusted this man with his beloved daughter Pearl.

 

When the doctors came to give their final note,

The sheriff and his wife were torn apart,

With only weeks to share with little Pearl,

A girl whose life has only begun to start.

 

In her last days, the young man stayed by her side,

Murmuring his inaudible word,

Grimm had allowed it as a way to keep peace,

Until days later, he finally heard.

 

Grimm pushed away the young man,

Violently picking him from below,

What was it he heard?

“You can die now, no need to be slow.”

 

Grimm cried out in anger, what could this mean?

To which the young man answered, “I am the Reaper,”

For days and weeks your daughter has fought,

A war on illness that will never stop for her.”

 

Grimm paused, took a moment to see,

His daughters feeble hand straining to reach,

Their hands met and with a saddened look she said,

“Daddy, Reaper has a lot to teach.”

 

“He told me some people die because they are fools,

Others die because they were victims to fools,

But me, I’m special you see,

Now is my time to be free,

I’m in pain, it’s really bad,

But I’ll be ok soon, I love you Dad.”

 

The old man’s story was soon interrupted,

As his eyes widened and he grabbed his chest,

He fell to the floor and coughed and wheezed,

And soon fell dead to join his daughter’s rest.

 

The sailor looked around for help,

Only to see a young skinny man by the window,

But from his lips the sailor could swear,

He could hear hum ever so low.

 

“Lawful, evil, innocent and guilty,

All will be met with the end of a life so cruel,

Evil men can no longer act, young little girls no longer suffer,

I am your saint, your deaths are for me to rule.”

 

“I will take my leave, but soon you too shall grieve, as all men should.”

 

In writing my own creative work, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and write a ballad, something I have very little experience with. I tried telling a story while attending to the system of ABCB quatrains, and likewise involved death as the main subject of the poem. Just as Coleridge, there was a moment in which I broke from this system. I was heavily influenced by my own interpretation of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, one that was somber, saddening, and even intimidating – I felt unsettled by the tale. And as such, I tried to mimic that feeling whilst adding my own personal touch regarding the plot. Instead of the mariner spinning the tale, a sailor must listen to the words of a drunken sheriff, beginning off as odd and bewildering and later becoming more sentimental, dark.

What I did change about the ballad was how death and supernatural forces may be depicted, instead of massive powers capable of raising the dead, I aimed for a simpler rendition of death. My Reaper was simply a man that allowed the dead to cross the bridge from life to death, but at the same time I aimed to keep a certain abnormal air about death. Death is silent and ignored until things like illness or fatal injury comes, only then do we remember death, and only then does it begin to speak to us.

I wish I had more space to continue the ballad, and I think my inexperience may have been the most difficult part about its creation – I’m much more used to writing longer works, and feel that shorter creative assignments are my weakness. Even so, I’m somewhat pleased with how it ultimately came out. This story isn’t something meant to please or give a comforting ending: Grimm dies before he even finishes his tale, as the Reaper gifts him death as he pities the once prideful sheriff to reunite him with his daughter. It’s not a particularly happy ending, but death in itself is not a happy ending, and I think I accurately depicted my interpretation from what I felt from the original.

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

Lake County, 2017

For my poem, I decided to pull inspiration from William Blake’s “London.” However, I decided to take it a step further and not only use his poem as a source of inspiration, but also recycle some of his words themselves. This style of recycling an author’s words is coined “found poetry” and is a contemporary way to pay homage to both past and present authors. While some say found poetry isn’t truly found poetry unless every single word comes from the original author, I think what’s truly important is pulling out key words and phrases (like we often do in class when making our word clouds). The words and phrases I am recycling will appear in bold. This poem is also non-traditional because it is written as a prose poem, which is my favorite form of poetry. Furthermore, it’s in the second person, which is also a less commonly seen speaker perspective choice.

The place I have chosen to write about is Lake County, where I am from. It’s a tiny place with big problems, especially with people struggling in terms of alcohol, drugs, unemployment and welfare. For those of you that don’t know, I go home every other weekend and these are kind of the emotions I go through and the pressure I have from family to come back home, despite how awful it is there.

 

Lake County, 2017

You wander down uncharted streets, pot-hole riddled, like the faces you see flickering above the flame of lighters, hard at work boiling chemicals. It’s half past midnight and you’re in the bad part of town, but it could be 2pm on Main Street when you see the man covered in marks of weakness, who shrinks away from you in fear. You sigh. You know he was youthful, hopeful, like you once, but those days are gone for him, like so many of the others you pass by, plagued by the blights of missed opportunities.  It seems like everyone here bares marks of woe. Scratching away at scabbed faces, they stoop on the steps of churches, feet blackened, praying they don’t come down from the high before they can find another fix. You sigh. You know (like maybe they do too) that every fix is only temporary. Like this place. Like this time. Where reality is measured by the grade of meth coursing through their systems. Where paranoia plagues their minds, keeps them bound by the manacles of delusion. They don’t look you in the eyes. They can’t. Their blood runs cold. It flows slow, thick, and vile, like their voices as they echo through the empty palace of your heart. It appalls you. They appall you. You, so hardened, so coarse, have no heart for them. For the harlots. For the hypocrites. For the hapless hordes of people who remind you of who you never wanted to be. But you can’t deny where you’re from. Joined in marriage with the madness though you groomed yourself for better. Forever you bare the curse of acquaintance, of association. Their reflections show in your face as you stare into the lowly lake, poisonous and patronizing. The lake, so long forsaken, longs to love you, you who left to drown your sorrows elsewhere, in the pages of poetry and leaves of literature. In a school, so far, far, away. A place, they say, of harlots, of hypocrites, of the hapless hordes of people they say you’ll never be. Prodigal son, the lake cries, tears of mercury, of murky memories once your own, Know your place. Come home.

Elle Lammouchi

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

The Mad Monk’s Mother By the Sea

The Monk by the Sea, by Caspar David Friedrich is easily and readily comparable to The Mad Mother. At the surface level, the description and image of the Mad Mother herself, standing atop the crag, paralyzed in loneliness, looking down at the rock and cliff and sea below her is immediately reminiscent of The Monk by the Sea, who is also looking down, paralyzed in loneliness, at the rock and cliff and sea below the Monk. The powerful whitecaps of the monk’s sea echo the “leaping torrents” of The Mad Mother line 46. The broken rock beneath the monk’s feet demands comparison to the Mad Mother’s “high crag” and her “sea-rock’s edge.”

Furthermore, the scope of the pair of pieces share certain similarities. While both the painting of the monk and the poem about the mother have a human protagonist in the title, both painting and poem are truly about the natural world in which the two exist in. The poem describes much standing atop rocks, and gazing out at the power of the sea, and all manner of natural obstacles her travels have created for her. Similarly, the eponymous monk is but a speck against the vastness of the oceanic landscape before the monk. While both appear humanist at first glance, and both appear humanist in title, both pieces show the fury and power and gargantuan scope of nature in the face of a single protagonist.

Finally, and perhaps most interestingly on the subject of comparing these works is the general sense of clarity and space that is presented to the reader and presented to the viewer. Riffing on the idea that the mother is carrying around her dead and decaying child discussed during Wednesday’s class, it is of interest to note that this theme of death and life is all but hidden within the bowels of the text. There is a lack of clarity and concreteness that leaves the poem open to interpretation. Similarly, the painting works in this nondescript, sort of hidden form. The sky in the background has strange shadows encroaching, the cliff-face the monk is standing on is ill defined. It could be a beach, or a cliff, and the whitecaps might not even be water. In both pieces there is uncertainty at the forefront.

-Ross Koppel

Who is Brother Jim?

In We are Seven the narrator is caught in a paradoxical conversation with a little girl; what appeared to be about death. This dilemma begins when the narrator reiterates the little girl’s words “You say that two at Conway dwell,/ And two are gone to sea,/ Yet you are seven; I pray you tell/ Sweet Maid how this may be?” (ll. 25-9). Only to get an irritating response “‘Seven girls and boys are we;/ Two of us in the church-yard lie,/ beneath the church-yard tree’” as if proposing a riddle like a sphinx proposed to Oedipus (31-2). Except, the narrator does not know the little girl’s reason for believing that they are still seven even despite all his attempt to explain that they are not seven anymore if her siblings are dead. This paradox seem to be carried even beyond the narrators and the little girl’s conversation when we ask ourselves: who is Brother Jim?

Jim is only mentioned once in the poem; and that is at the beginning when the narrator begins to speak “ A simple child, dear brother Jim” as if writing a letter in a sort of distorted, backward way. It seems that this poem takes place in the narrator’s mind. A paradoxical moment that he seem to always come back to only in thought in a place that also brings back those memories. That is why I propose, that Caspar’s 1809 painting The Monk by the Sea fits the actual description of the poem. In the painting the sky an overwhelming sky scenery of the sky which seems to be in the midst of twilight. Then is split in the middle horizontally with a “black sea” followed by a monk in the center left hand side of the painting, overlooking the open sea and sky. This eerie representation depicts the way in which the poem opens up, in thought and conversation with another person, except, there is no response, only in his thoughts he can hear the replies from the little girl that would not budge from admiting in words, that her siblings had passed away.

romantic-image-3The poem of the monk depict similar themes of self reflection. Yet, we are still in thought, about who in the world is Jim. In the context of the poem, the narrator refers to Jim as a “brother.” This also adds another parallel theme about family. Nonetheless, Death is the biggest topic that connects all of the themes especially the topic about family and self reflection. Could the narrator be experiencing a reflection about how he treated his family and reflecting on how different and innocent the little girl viewed her own siblings despite them being deadthough it seems that she does not seem to be delusional about death because she describes how both her siblings died “the first that died was little Jane” (l 49). In the end the poem as a whole offers the perspective that the narrator too has lost his brother and is reflecting on the paradoxical thinking the girl had in his recollection of a memory perhaps, and perhaps through this reference of memory he may reach some sort of spiritual enlightenment to reconnect with his Brother Jim like the little girl so seemingly easy she made it seem. Leaving the speaker in a frustrated and may I say, skeptical state of mind

“‘But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!’
‘Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have he’r will,
And said, ‘Nay, we are seven!”

Enrique Ramos

Thin Line Between Romanticism and Death

romantic-image-2

The painting  titled, The Abby in the Oakwood(1808-1810) by Caspar David Friedrich can serve as a visual representation for the poem “The Thorn”(103). The poem begins stating that there is a thorn that is described as very old, after that it is described as “Not higher than a two years’ child” which automatically brings in the image of a small child that the narrator (maybe a women) would have had. It then proceeds to describe the thorn as “t stands erect this aged thorn” at this point it related to the photo because there are many tree that are standing up straight as described. Perhaps the most relevant aspect of the photo is the graves that appear in that gloomy photo. In those graves there could be a grave of a child that is being described in the poem as a thorn.  A grave that perhaps has a small child buried underneath.  In the second like of the second stanza it states “and hung  with heavy tufts of moss” which can mean that the mother hung her child.

Essentially this can be a description of the way she sees her child now that the child is dead and buried. She described the thorn with such compassion that it seems as if she admired it before with can have a connection to the dead child. The fact that the picture seems to be a haunted cemetery adds more to the comparison with the poem because it can mean that the mother feels bad about what she did and does not want to visit the child now that the child is buried.  The last line of the second stanza states “To bury this poor thorn forever”  which then seems as if she is addressing her child as a “poor thing” which alright emphasize the fact that she felt bad and potentially killed the child as stated earlier. The use of a thorn in order to describe the child relates to romanticism because it is describing the beauty of nature even when it is dead.

On stanza five there is a play of the use of colors and that is stated in the first line of the stanza which is ” “Ah me! what lovely tints are there! Of olive green and scarlet bright…Green, red and pearly white” although in the painting there  are no such colors there is fog that obstructs the view form anything beyond the cemetery yard which forces us to focus on the beauty that once was rather than on the beauty that is. Which is the same with literature, we are focus on analyzing these poems which are the modern form of literature involving romanticism.

-Luz Zepeda

Life After Death

“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.

-Benjamin Montes