Where The Color Green Fits Into Childhood and Murder at Sea

I wanted to put “The Echoing Green” by William Blake and “The Haunted Beach” by Mary Robinson in conversation with one another. Although both poems’ themes and ideas differ greatly from one another– with “The Echoing Green” focusing on the contrast between youth and growing old, and  “The Haunted Beach” focusing on a Fisherman’s guilt for committing a murder– both poems do have a key connection: the color green. 


Both poems use the color green as sanctuary from loneliness. In “The Haunted Beach” we are brought through the journey of a Fisherman’s guilt. It is a chaotic guilt that is described in each stanza, but every stanza but one end with the line “Where the green billows played”. This line tells the readers that all of this guilt and turmoil – along with the actual murder itself– takes place in front of the sea. As the moon reflects of the Ocean’s waves, the water looks green. This green is the only consistent thought that the Fisherman has. The ocean is an aspect of nature that the Fisherman is dependant on guiding him in his guilt. The Fisherman is isolated in complete solitude as he deals with his guilt alone. The repetition of the “green billows” displays the fact that nature provides sanctuary from loneliness. Although he cannot grasp fully what he has done, the one thing he can grasp is that this big aspect of nature lies in front of him, almost alive, as it is radiating the color green. This personification of the Ocean in describing it as “playing” is similar to the personification of nature in “The Echoing Green”. Both poems utilize green as this anchor point, a sort of symbol of consistency. The only thing that is consistent in both of these poems, despite everything else changing in the poem, is the color green. 


The echoing green is described as the land that the characters and animals are playing on. However, by putting both poems in conversation with one another, we can begin to understand this “echoing green” as nature as a whole. Similar to the Haunted Beach’s repetition of, “Where the green billows play!”, the Echoing Green’s repetition of “On the echoing green” at the end of each stanza produces the same affect of consistency and a sense of comfort for the speakers in the poems. 


I think the most significant place that this conversation impacts “The Echoing Green” is in the very last line, when the speaker says, “On the darkening green” instead of “On the echoing green”. As an individual poem, this line is understood as describing the grass at the end of the day, after the children have finished playing and the sun is slowly setting to cause the green to become darker. However, in conversation the the green in “The Haunted Beach”, this line emphasizes the human connection to nature as they grow old. This is brought out by comparing the way that the Fisherman utilizes the human connection to nature to guide him through the chaos of his guilt. The echoing green speaker uses nature to find comfort in the chaos of growing old. 


Viewing the “echoing green” as nature (as a whole) is saying that nature grows old with you. This emphasizes how the Earth is growing old alongside of the speaker. It represents the comfort by Nature against the loneliness of old age. This is shown by the lines, “Many sisters and brothers/ Like birds in their nest, / Are ready for rest,” Everyone around the speaker is ready to leave. Nature, although still growing old with the speaker, is still there. Despite Nature also growing old with you it will always remain green.

4 thoughts on “Where The Color Green Fits Into Childhood and Murder at Sea”

  1. I found this post to be really interesting! I never considered these two poems to have any connection to one another purely because of their thematic differences, but by homing in on the colour green as a common thread, it changed the game. I like that you talk about green as being the only sense of consistency between human actions and the reckoning of some sort of crisis, whether of murder or of growing up. The colour green tends to mean a lot when it comes to poetry, like jealousy or rebirth, and I feel that one could make the argument that the speakers are jealous of the nature surrounding them because it doesn’t change and is ever stagnant in its beauty; the speakers aren’t and have to reckon with change hence “the darkening green” in Blake’s poem.

  2. What an innovative connection! I would have never thought to compare these two poems to each other, but clearly, I’ve been missing out! What I find particularly interesting about the use of green in both is the personification you mentioned. How interesting that both usages of green almost characterize the color, making it as present in the story as an additional character might be. Even the shifting of tones suggests a level of development that, in my opinion, makes these poems all the more vibrant. I adore color study in poetry, this was a great blog post!

  3. This was a very interesting read, and something that I did not think of. Undoubtedly, the presence of patterns such as this one is usually significant, but for me, what makes this instance so interesting is that it is the color green: something symbolic of nature and the natural world. I think it is a very interesting point you bring up that green serves as a symbol of consistency, given the fact these are both romantic poets, and it is safe to say that anything in relation to nature is significant when referenced by a romantic poet. I also like your idea about how in “Echoing Green” nature is growing old alongside the narrator, as it contributes the a typical romantic concept of nature in reference to humanity.

  4. Dear orangejuice,
    it’s always a pleasure to read your posts. Your focus on the color green is truly fascinating and one I would not have thought of. Having thoroughly read this post, I somewhat agree with your claims about the symbolism of green in both poems but I would like to offer an expansion on your already detailed close reading. You state that the color green is “a sort of symbol of consistency” and “it represents the comfort by Nature against the loneliness of old age.” I would go further to say that green is also standing for youth in Blake’s poem and guilt in Robinson’s poem. I say this because, in Blake’s poem, green is mentioned with the young children who play while the older people watch on and reminisce. Meanwhile, green surrounds the old fisherman who has committed murder which reminds him of his sin and his guilt from this sin.

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