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Tennyson’s Poetry

Alfred Lord Tennyson

“Mariana”

Themes, Motifs and Symbols

“Mariana”, page 2

page 1 of 3

Complete Text

       ‘Mariana in the moated grange.’
               —Measure for Measure.

With blackest moss the flower-plots
   Were thickly crusted, one and all:
The rusted nails fell from the knots
   That held the pear to the gable-wall.
The broken sheds look’d sad and strange:
   Unlifted was the clinking latch;
   Weeded and worn the ancient thatch
Upon the lonely moated grange.
       She only said, ‘My life is dreary,
           He cometh not,’ she said;
       She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
           I would that I were dead!’
Her tears fell with the dews at even;
   Her tears fell ere the dews were dried;
She could not look on the sweet heaven,
   Either at morn or eventide.
After the flitting of the bats,
   When thickest dark did trance the sky,
   She drew her casement-curtain by,
And glanced athwart the glooming flats.
       She only said, ‘The night is dreary,
           He cometh not,’ she said;
       She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
           I would that I were dead!’
Upon the middle of the night,
   Waking she heard the night-fowl crow:
The cock sung out an hour ere light:
   From the dark fen the oxen’s low
Came to her: without hope of change,
   In sleep she seem’d to walk forlorn,
   Till cold winds woke the gray-eyed morn
About the lonely moated grange.
       She only said, ‘The day is dreary,
           He cometh not,’ she said;
       She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
           I would that I were dead!’
About a stone-cast from the wall
   A sluice with blacken’d waters slept,
And o’er it many, round and small,
   The cluster’d marish-mosses crept.
Hard by a poplar shook alway,
   All silver-green with gnarled bark:
   For leagues no other tree did mark
The level waste, the rounding gray.
       She only said, ‘My life is dreary,
           He cometh not,’ she said;
       She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
           I would that I were dead!’
And ever when the moon was low,
   And the shrill winds were up and away,
In the white curtain, to and fro,
   She saw the gusty shadow sway.
But when the moon was very low,
   And wild winds bound within their cell,
   The shadow of the poplar fell
Upon her bed, across her brow.
       She only said, ‘The night is dreary,
           He cometh not,’ she said;
       She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
           I would that I were dead!’
All day within the dreamy house,
   The doors upon their hinges creak’d;
The blue fly sung in the pane; the mouse
   Behind the mouldering wainscot shriek’d,
Or from the crevice peer’d about.
   Old faces glimmer’d thro’ the doors,
   Old footsteps trod the upper floors,
Old voices called her from without.
       She only said, ‘My life is dreary,
           He cometh not,’ she said;
       She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
           I would that I were dead!’
The sparrow’s chirrup on the roof,
   The slow clock ticking, and the sound
Which to the wooing wind aloof
   The poplar made, did all confound
Her sense; but most she loathed the hour
   When the thick-moted sunbeam lay
   Athwart the chambers, and the day
Was sloping toward his western bower.
       Then, said she, ‘I am very dreary,
           He will not come,’ she said;
       She wept, ‘I am aweary, aweary,
           Oh God, that I were dead!’

Summary

This poem begins with the description of an abandoned farmhouse, or grange, in which the flower-pots are covered in overgrown moss and an ornamental pear tree hangs from rusty nails on the wall. The sheds stand abandoned and broken, and the straw (“thatch”) covering the roof of the farmhouse is worn and full of weeds. A woman, presumably standing in the vicinity of the farmhouse, is described in a four-line refrain that recurs—with slight modifications—as the last lines of each of the poem’s stanzas: “She only said, ‘My life is dreary / He cometh not,’ she said; / She said, ‘I am aweary, aweary, / I would that I were dead!’”

The woman’s tears fall with the dew in the evening and then fall again in the morning, before the dew has dispersed. In both the morning and the evening, she is unable to look to the “sweet heaven.” At night, when the bats have come and gone, and the sky is dark, she opens her window curtain and looks out at the expanse of land. She comments that “The night is dreary” and repeats her death-wish refrain.

In the middle of the night, the woman wakes up to the sound of the crow, and stays up until the cock calls out an hour before dawn. She hears the lowing of the oxen and seemingly walks in her sleep until the cold winds of the morning come. She repeats the death-wish refrain exactly as in the first stanza, except that this time it is “the day” and not “my life” that is dreary.

Within a stone’s throw from the wall lies an artificial passage for water filled with black waters and lumps of moss. A silver-green poplar tree shakes back and forth and serves as the only break in an otherwise flat, level, gray landscape. The woman repeats the refrain of the first stanza.

When the moon lies low at night, the woman looks to her white window curtain, where she sees the shadow of the poplar swaying in the wind. But when the moon is very low and the winds exceptionally strong, the shadow of the poplar falls not on the curtain but on her bed and across her forehead. The woman says that “the night is dreary” and wishes once again that she were dead.

During the day, the doors creak on their hinges, the fly sings in the window pane, and the mouse cries out or peers from behind the lining of the wall. The farmhouse is haunted by old faces, old footsteps, and old voices, and the woman repeats the refrain exactly as it appears in the first and fourth stanzas.

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Tennyson's Poetry

by marnie94, April 11, 2013

This essay provides a close reading of Tennyson. (Look for it towards the end of the essay.) I wrote this in my first year at uni.

http://marnielangeroodiblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/poetry-makes-nothing-happen/

Good luck, and follow the blog too!

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5 out of 8 people found this helpful

Slight Corrections

by Authoclaese_Feldspar, August 19, 2013

Part IV is 6 stanzas in length (not 5 stanzas as stated here) and the "Shalott/Camelot" rhyme is deviated from twice in Part III - 'Lancelot' is the first B rhyme of the first stanza and the second B rhyme of the fourth stanza. It's all about the detail!

Nature, red in tooth and claw Tennyson

by crosswords1, October 17, 2013

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