Tennyson’s Poetry



Summary “Mariana”

The refrain of the poem functions like an incantation, which contributes to the atmosphere of enchantment. The abandoned grange seems to be under a spell or curse; Mariana is locked in a state of perpetual, introverted brooding. Her consciousness paces a cell of melancholy; she can perceive the world only through her dejection. Thus, all of the poet’s descriptions of the physical world serve as primarily psychological categories; it is not the grange, but the person, who has been abandoned—so, too, has this woman’s mind been abandoned by her sense. This is an example of the “pathetic fallacy.” Coined by the nineteenth-century writer John Ruskin, this phrase refers to our tendency to attribute our emotional and psychological states to the natural world. Thus, because Mariana is so forlorn, her farmhouse, too, although obviously incapable of emotion, seems dejected, depressed; when the narrator describes her walls he is seeing not the indifferent white of the paint, but rather focuses on the dark shadows there. While Ruskin considered the excessive use of the fallacy to be the mark of an inferior poet, later poets (such as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound) would use the pathetic fallacy liberally and to great effect. Arguably, Tennyson here also uses the method to create great emotional force.