Lines: Written on Nature’s Futile War Against Industrialism

Walking into the jungle of asphalt, faceless towers of steel overshadow the busybodies scurrying beneath them. The pavement is dull, as are the vapid gas-guzzlers that drudgingly drag themselves across it. Some wearisome clerk wipes the sweat from his brow as he hurries to catch a taxi down the street. He scurries past a woman worn with wrinkles and callouses who tightens her head scarf as she waits for the bus to take her to the bakery. Across the street, a man peddles his CDs to passerby’s and men and women say their “no thank you”’s or avoid his gaze altogether. They sidestep his advances, the way one arches their path when they spot vagrant lying against a building, smoke in hand, pleadingly asking for spare change, or the way a young woman moves to the opposite side when she sees a group of sagged-pant men whose eyes are glazed. They keep to themselves, with little regard for others, like ships that keep their distance from each other at sea afraid to bump. But if one moves past the corpses of indifference, the machine hum-drum, what would he come across?

From the rooftops of skyscrapers he can see just beyond the horizon; there, the body of blue comes down to kiss verdant fields. The wind dances through stalks of grass, and caresses the leaves. The flowers blossom and wither, their mortality renewing in a sublime cycle. A starling feeds its fledgling and the insects continue their everlasting symphony in a cacophonous song, rejoicing the new day. Here the Sun reigns with no interference. He casts himself against the sky’s canvas, creating a painting for all to see. He kisses the cheeks of Earth, commending her fair works, and with a timid smile she turns the seasons ‘round like the twirl of a gown. They dance together in a ceaseless waltz, the ephemeral gems of their love passing into the ground and sprouting from the ashes like a phoenix again and again. As the dome of the sky changes, for this season and the next, their love continues. Here where life begins and ends, the eternal lives. One day man’s castles will become dilapidated and crumble, a momentary blip in the books of time. But in its place a new one will rise, emulating the cycle nature first gave to us. With every passing year, Time watches anxiously for who will conquer whom.

And the one that watches from his tower,

Who knows that which lives in that sweet bower;

Surveys the land, for its rivers, trees, and valleys

Then nods with certain pride to his colleagues.

They will build a new cosmopolis out by that grove

By taking their machines to flatten and rove

In their vanity, their pride, and avarice

They ignorantly destroy without hint of malice.

The dance will end—Earth slave to her captors

Humiliated, barren, abused, and raptured.

And who will speak out against this plan,

When man cannot even speak out against man?

 

This creative project is inspired by the Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge, as an amalgamation of several poems. The most prevalent poem that served as my inspiration were “Lines: Written in Early Spring”. I chose this poem in particular to serve as the basis for my hypertext because I was interested in the Romanticism of the poem and the lamentation of nature being eclipsed by man and more importantly, by man’s condition. In “Lines: Written in Early Spring”, the speaker of the poem gives a imagery laden account of nature, which I attempted to replicate in the second paragraph of my creative project. I thought an effusive description of nature and the personification of the sun, the earth, and the wind did justice to the poem, as the speaker writes, “To her fair works did Nature link” (line 9). In addition, the tone of the poem signifies a certain awe and reverence towards nature, but these feelings are overshadowed by a great impending doom: the speaker writes, “And much it griev’d my heart to think / What man has made of man” (lines 11-12). These lines served as the inspiration for the first paragraph of my prose in which the condition of man is described as cold, callous, and indifferent. Of course, this harkens back to the themes of Romanticism, as I juxtapose man vs. nature. The final portion of my creative project imitates the poetry structure head on: it analyzes man’s greed and laments the fact that no man can speak for nature, since man can barely speak on behalf of others. In a world where we scarcely care for the wellbeing of others, how can we expect that there be an effort waged for preserving nature? Overall, although I took many artistic liberties, I believe that I sufficiently took the main idea of “Lines: Written in Early Spring”, Romanticism, and depicted it in a refreshing take.

-Sara Nuila-Chae

 

 

 

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Garcia’s Travel

Monday, April 8th

I had arrived early this Monday morning to meet with my teaching assistant Zakir to go over the lesson plan for Romanticism. After our meeting, we began walking to our classroom to view our school’s beautiful fountain. It was there that I first heard the ducks. Not that I had not heard them before, but that I really heard them this time. I understood every quack as I understood English and found it very difficult to listen to Zakir. I thought I was going insane and I was quick to dismiss this for my lack of sleep the night before and the accumulation of stress that naturally progresses as the semester drags on. Yet, the situation was much too odd for me to not pursue this further. Zakir brought back my attention to inform me that students were coming and that it was nearly 10:30. I decided to take one last look at the ducks, but they were silent.

 

Wednesday, April 10th

I arrived extra early this morning—alone this time. I sat there bundled up by the small man-built lake at UC Merced, waiting for the ducks to show up. The sun had barely began to rise and I wondered if the students (who were slowly beginning to awake and roam about) would find me strange to be here, but my fascination with the ducks overcame any insecurity about how I might be perceived; no one seemed to notice me anyways. Sure enough, a duck eventually flew down near me and I stared at it until it stared back and quacked. I was astounded. I understood it. It had asked what I was looking at and upon seeing my astonished look, it inquired if I could understand it. I said I could, but it just cocked its head and looked at me. I decided to try a new approach. I quacked back at it with the words I intended in my mind. This seemed to work well enough as the duck responded. My God…I was conversing with a duck!

 

Wednesday, May 1st

I have found this duck’s name to be Quackington. He is the leader duck of all the ducks to come to the Merced area. He had been flying to our school for some time now to find ways to get back at the humans for destroying the natural landscape. The more I spoke with Quackington, the more I sympathized and understood him. He has introduced me to other ducks since my initial contact with him. I have found myself finding more in common with the ducks than I have with other humans. I agree with their free lifestyle and their emphasis on the ecosystem. How I wish I could fly and be free; free of responsibility and materialistic humanity.

 

Wednesday, May 8th

I have had it! Today is the day I become one with the ducks. I have learned their language well enough these past few weeks. I find the ducks completely superior to my human counterparts and completely more intellectual. I feel no remorse leaving behind my human life here in Merced. Farewell Zakir, my students, and my colleagues! I will no longer be called Humberto. I will now and forever be known as Quackson Quackcia! I am off! Here I come Quackington!

—Quackson Quackcia (Formerly Humberto)

 

Wednesday, May 8th

Today was a weird day. My professor stripped off his shirt, shoes, socks, and ran into the water today before class. He was shouting many different quacks and different forms of the word. The whole situation was just so confusing, especially considering how much we like Garcia. The police were called, and he is being carted away now in an ambulance. He keeps shouting, “Long live the ducks! Be free, Quackington! Be free and end this human oppression!” I think Garcia took that Romanticism lecture a little too literally.

—Joseph Rojas

 

 

 

Creative Review

I hope it was apparent that I was making a parody of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Specifically, Gulliver’s fourth travel. Of course, instead of the horse people, I chose our normal, everyday ducks based here at UC Merced. This also works as my love letter to the class, as I use many references to parts of the class that happened. This is much more than me writing my professor’s descent into madness, but rather a simple parody with hints of Romanticism. It isn’t represented too strongly, but the main appeal was for Garcia to really get in touch with his natural side and favor the side of nature against humanity and industry. He sympathizes and relates to nature loving ducks and decides to side with them. The choice to use Garcia as my main character was more of my final love-letter-send-off for the semester. I respect my professor so much, and I appreciate his humor and for allowing me to be myself. This is my weird way of thanking him. He puts up with my antics for a semester, so naturally I write him in my story having a mental breakdown, stripping to his boxers and running into a lake quacking wildly.

I decided to use a journal-entry format for this to give my narrative structure, but to also make it more personalized and stylized. It documents the start of our Romanticism lecture, and leads up to the due date of this creative project. So, perhaps I am prophetic and this does come true. As of writing this post- review of my work, there is still time for Garcia to quack into the morning. Also, pay attention to the use of ducks and quack. No offense to Garcia, but I just thought the word and its absurdity fit the material.

P.S.

I will oddly miss this class. A lot of memorable moments and friendships made here. Thank you.

—Joseph Rojas

REJECT

A man from the stalking brown hills once told me;

“Rides the river an ocean of distance

‘Tween two banks in the grove that is a grotto

Down from the path’s turn at the path’s end.

Slight slant to the earth rushes clear ink

In a clean stream, cleaves erosion and carves motion

Into the rock. Sun’s shimmer on the surging surface,

Life’s breathes in the whistle of the wind

As it whispers through the grasses along the banks.

In profile; a long visage set in sediment

Sits, watches the water, weathers it’s wails

With ears waxed wet lichen and eyes winnowed hollow

Under a furrowed brow tousled porous

And knotted by bloodless cool contempt.

Nose upturned; stratification’s projection.

Lips folded in union, their earthen sculptor

With marred hands marked melancholy’s wrinkle

Within time’s vista. Given life, binds vise

Around the boulder, and like a boulder

It gets older, never moving and ever never aging.

Stale tears of pale moss down flat cheeks defaced

By splinters and supplication, by tears

And by tears,” claimed he, “And on the bank opposite;

Mirrored in despair in the deadened river;

Wreathed in kin; a tree. A most crooked tree!

Leering twisted, a bark-bitten beauty

Whose bole, long ago, was bisected.

A pair of arms hang, over the edge,

Across the jumping span, over pellucidity

And above the brow of the immobile stone;

Like fluttering fingers flicking mockingly,

Like frigid spume from the turgid maelstrom below,

Like licentious lover’s lilt, that last lifting touch,     

Like dancing askance afore the fires over the hills;

Branches in broken precision, draping all light,

Brokered into the skein of a scattered weave.

Slits revealed through the net; the skin of the sun                 

Scintillating, burning bright as the days as the days drag on.”

But another man, from the same green grass hills, told me thus;

“You see I saw with these eyes of mine;

Some little stream in the seam of the earth,

Inside this side of a broken bride’s dream,

Down where the path leaves the path’s end.

Earth’s shivering wine ever flows a-shimmer, a fluid feast flush

With silver flower-buds forever unblossomed

And undulating under water unburdened

As unbroken water under un-needed bridges.

A valley extended to mortal arm’s full extension,
Where one foot afore another’s affectations

Quickly effect’s end of the vista’s affections.

From my vantage – during the cricket sung-adage

Of day’s repose, when shadow spreads as a shawl,

And the moon casts pale glares through sun’s glaring death-mask –

I did see a tree. A most bereaved tree!

Bowing to boughs full-leaved and leaning,

Bole trunkless, breastless, and pair-armed,

Bare as the cloudless night, white as a beech bleached lunar

On the grass-stalked banked beach. Verdant dawn far off

But not forgotten – Nothing, at all, forgotten

By the lover of the tree; the rock.

A stolid fellow despite his cocked, concave eye.

As solid as a spine yet spineless despite height,

Relenting on a whim to what he had given

To win the heart of his heartless mirror;

His sight and his everything, across the river

And over his brow – where, writ in the land,

She stands, touching that brow upon it’s furrow

With naught but a single breadthless branch

To breach the breathless breath between them –

And a single sliver of pale bark falls between them,

Landing upon the feast’s silver plate reflected there. Between them.

And between them…how much cheese they had!”

The Ole’ U.S. of A., 2019

In the chair of our home

Sits the man deemed as unworthy.

And down a narrow road,

One only finds no mercy.

For our home has fallen

Into the grasp of another

Controlled and utilized

For a purpose unworthy.

Aye, the road ahead

Shows a slight glow’a hope,

From the cries of the innocent

Who seek justice for those who don’t.

Yet as the nights grow longer

And the years as well,

Our home lies in shreds,

From the man who still dwells.

(This sucks as a poem, I am so sorry your eyes were cursed to read this. I just can’t write poetry.)

-Jody Omlin

The Absoluteness of Death

In The Abbey in the Oakwood by Caspar David Friedrich illustrates a decrepit abbey. An abbey is a monastery that resides an independent community. However, despite its deteriorating condition, it is not abandoned as there are silhouettes shouldering a coffin, entering through the arch of the abbey. A cross representing a grave rests outside the abbey. Furthermore, the oakwood’s longevity is symbolic of life. However, in the illustration, the oakwoods are dead. Everything below the abbey’s window is shrouded in darkness. The illustration invokes death through contrasting the absence of light and life in normally life-affirming things – the abbey and the oakwood. The theme of death in Romanticism is regular because it is a subjective experience that every living being encounters. It is an absolute that is more resolute than life.

In We Are Seven, the rhyme scheme is abab, illustrating the simplicity of the “simple child” (1) conversing.

“Seven boys and girls are we;
“Two of us in the church-yard lie,
“Beneath the church-yard tree” (30-32).

We Are Seven demonstrates the theme of death, as the “little Maid’s” sister and brother are dead, and are buried underneath a tree in the church-yard. The absolute of death is unescapable, even in children, and despite the innocence of the “little Maiden” represented through her simplicity, she is aware of the subjective experience of death. Through reading We Are Seven by William Wordsworth, he illustrates the Romantic theme of death through the innocent child in order to demonstrate the absoluteness of death regardless of age, gender, race, class, etc.

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

A Spark of Light in a Sea of Darkness

The painting that I believe best resembles William Wordsworth’s poem, “We Are Seven,” would be Caspar David Friedrich’s painting, “The Monk by the Sea.” The girl in the poem is presented as a very lonely character, but tells the narrator multiple times that “How many? Seven in all,” and repeatedly states that her family consists of seven other people. Despite being separated from her siblings, with two of them dead, two at Conway, and two at sea, she insists that they are all together. I felt that the image of a monk standing by the sea and looking out at it represented the current state of the girl as a very isolated individual looking off towards the horizon and waiting for her family. The dark, cloudy horizon could be seen as representative of the death of her siblings, Jane and John. The mention from the girl that “Their graves are green, they may be seen,” may indicate not just that the graves are new, but that the poem is taking place in spring and given the details of the grass being dry when her sister Jane died and there was snow when her brother died, it can be assumed that they recently in autumn and winter. This detail of seasons could indicate that the girl could be the next in her family to die as the poem does describe her as,

“A simple Child,

That lightly draws its breath,

And feels its life in every limb,

What should it know of death?”

suggesting that she is frail or weakened. Perhaps then the small sliver of the sun appearing over the clouds in Friedrich’s painting along with the darker colors fading off away from the shore could be seen as the light of heaven coming to claim her. The painting doesn’t provide a strong sense of sadness to me, but rather provides a sense of anticipation for what could be on the horizon as the storm starts to move away. Though the monk is seen alone on the sandy, rocky shoreline, it isn’t known what is behind him and what that environment looks like, similar to the reader not knowing what the girl’s life is like away from this church other than that she lives with her mother in a small cottage. Though both the girl and the monk have survived recent events in their lives, with seemingly very little left for each of them besides their faith, the question of what happens next remains unknown.

-Ryan Bucher

Friedrich’s Romantic Art

After reading The Mad Mother, one could say that there is plenty to interpret. After first reading through the ballad, readers may be confused as to what the purpose of the work is, and what the meaning behind it is.

After reading The Mad Mother myself, I decided that the ballad’s topic was the idea of death, and how one’s death could push someone to an undeniable state of grief so terrible as to classify that person as “crazy” or “mad.” A few of the stanzas that stood out to me were Stanzas 70, 83, 89-90, and 98-100. Certain phrases such as “How pale and wan it [her son] else would be” (Stanza 70) and “My little babe! thy lips are still” (Stanza 83) give off the imagery that the woman’s baby boy is deceased, and that she is carrying around his corpse due to the fact that she is unable to overcome the truth that her son is dead, as well as her husband. “We’ll find thy father in the wood” (Stanza 98) helps the reader to believe that the woman’s lover had passed away and been buried in the woods; however, in her mind, he has run away into the woods, and it is her job to find him in order to fix their family.

The painting by Caspar David Friedrich portrays a sense of loneliness, much like the feelings of this mother having lost her family and being unable to properly grieve about it. The twisting of the trees symbolizes the mother’s unclear mind, or “craziness” as one may put it, tangled between what’s real and what is not.

– Jody Omlin

Written in Early Spring

image

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

Lonely

Romanticism relies on the spirituality and mystery that is evoked by nature itself (lecture notes #8). Both the paintings that we are presented with to choose from, and the book Lyrical Ballads 1798 and 1800 by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, present Romanticism at its height of introduction and it’s evocation of Romanticisms attributes of culture, nature, emotions, the author’s voice, and various other attributes attributed to Romanticism.

“The Convict” by William Wordsworth portrays these notions employed by romanticism like the mysteriousness of nature and author’s voice. In this case; the painting Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), The Abby in the Oakwood, 1808-1810 demonstrates aspects of romanticism through it’s own imagery and it’s possible relation to the poem. The poem is a poem of a Convicts need, and dream, of redemption that he may not necessarily have in this; their time of anguish. The poem opes with

“–On the slope a mountain I stood,

While the joy that precedes the calm season of rest

Rang loud through the meadow and wood (1-4)”

Interpreting this into the painting the convict being on a mountain, we can see the loudness describes through the poetic piece through the destruction of nature depicted in the painting. This evoking loneliness, mysteriousness, and destruction through the poetic piece and through the painting. The painting is like the poetry, with eery emotions being actively evoked, the imagery provided by both supports this. The painting shows this through the gate being alone, nature seemingly destroyed through the tree, also the lack of grass, and the employment of a broken building. In the poem it can be related to the image, and it evokes these emotions, through these direct stanzas for example:

“The thick-ribbed walls that o’ershadow the gate

Resound; and the dungeons unfold:

I pause; and at length, through the glimmering grate,

The outcast of pity behold (5-8).”

,In relation to the this imagery above by Friedrich, we can relate it to these stanzas due to the fact that we can see the solaceness through the description of the gate, and the wall. This in relation to evoking loneliness through the mysticism of nature through it’s seeming destruction of nature itself through the image. This being evoked through the stanzas by the “grate” due to its evocation of loneliness of the convict who is in awe of their loneliness in the meadows and woods. Their depiction of a dungeon as they relate to being a pitiful outcast can be translates to how the image evokes pity, sadness, and the destruction of nature. This can be further demonstrates by these last stanzas:

“When from the dark synod, or blood-reeking field,

To his chamber the monarchs is led,

All soothers of sense their soft virtue shall yield,

And quietness pillow his head (25-28).”

The field presented through the image can be imagined by the reader of this poem, or interpreter of the piece and image, as a lonesome and a possibly blood ridden field. In relation to these stanzas this image depicts loneliness, in which the convict can relate to, through the dark colors, imagery that is just dead trees, dead nature, and that of a destroyed building which stands a gate. This imagery adding to the sense of lost that the convict feels through their pain through aspects of romanticism that relied both on the mysticism of nature and authors voice. This being obvious in the poem and in the image. Lastly, all of this imagery can serve for the pain that the convict feels in wanting to desperately redeem himself through all of his loneliness and angish due to how sad, and lonely, the imagery is.

— Isabel P