“Their graves are green”

Conservation in Wordsworth’s Epitaphic Ballads
  • Katey Castellano
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Cultures of Print book series (PERCP)


Like many of Wordsworth’s poems in the Lyrical Ballads (1798/1800), “We Are Seven” dramatizes an encounter between a middle-class traveler and the rural poor. The dialogic structure of the poem pits a little girl with a “rustic, woodland air” (LB 9), who is physically and emotionally attached to a local graveyard, against an adult male traveler who attempts to sever her attachment to her dead kin. The encounter begins as the traveler asks the girl how many brothers and sisters she has. She replies that there are seven in all. Seeing no other children with her, the traveler asks of her siblings’ whereabouts. She replies that two lie under a tree in the churchyard, two are in Conway, two are gone to sea, and she lives with her mother. The traveler immediately corrects the child’s reckoning, “If two are in the church-yard laid, / Then ye are only five” (35-6), thus arguing that the only family members who should be counted are those whose “limbs they are alive” (34). As the traveler repeatedly attempts to persuade the little girl to relinquish what he sees as her unreasonable attachment to the dead, she unequivocally replies, “Their graves are green, they may be seen” (37), and describes how she sits, sings, eats, and plays on their graves. Thus, while her brother and sister are no longer alive, she nevertheless continues to live with her kin and the past through her imagination, which is grounded in a localized environment “Twelve steps or more from my Mother’s door” (39).


Social Ecology Liberal Individualism Romantic Idealization Rural Depopulation Indigenous Tradition 
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Copyright information

© Katey Castellano 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katey Castellano
    • 1
  1. 1.James Madison UniversityUSA

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