Name: Martin Meany Number: 0885223 Module: EH4006 Victorian Texts Lecturers: Patricia Moran/Jason King Tutor
: Patricia Moran Date: 25 March 2011 Title: Close reading of Alfred, Lord Tennyson¶s Mariana.
In this essay I shall perform a close reading of Alfred, Lord Tennyson¶s poem ³Mariana´. I will extract meaning from the piece based on imagery, other works of literature related, historical events and technical tools such as rhyming schemes, meter and sound effects. I will conclude by giving what I bel ieve to be the predominant overall meaning of the poem. Question 1. The central character of the poem, a forlorn woman by the name of Mariana , spends her day gazing through a window, dreaming of her lost love. ³Mariana´ contains dark imagery, giving an impression of gloom. In the opening line, Mariana describes flower pots with the ³blackest moss´ (1). Such a forbidding assessment , in the opening line, sets the tone for the rest of the piece, and a similar situation occurs when describing the ³blackened waters´ (38). Mariana¶s continued grim assessment shows an unwillingness to see any good in the world anymore. Moss should be described as green or dark green, and water as blue or grey, but instead her loss of love has le d to her seeing no colour in life . When Mariana describesthe ³rusted nails [falling] from knots (3), she is relating the nails to her own life , comparing herself to the nails, not as aesthetically pleasing or useful as they on ce were,
before continuing her grim assessment of the her surroundings, with ³broken sheds [which] looked sad and strange´ (5). Mariana¶s valuation of her surroundings also displays how much time is passing, not just night and day, but enough time for her to witness ³marish mosses [creeping]´ (40). Question 2. Mariana can be related to two other works ; Shakespeare¶s play Measure for Measure and T.S Eliot¶s ³East Coker´ in Four Quartets. The significance of the latter seems at first to be fleeting. However Eliot wrote ³East Coker´ as a continuation of a preceding piece in the quartet, ³Burnt Norton´, which is interpreted to put emphasis on time and that the past cannot be changed and that the present is all that truly matters. When we consider this in relation to ³Mariana´, the significance becomes apparent. Marian a is letting herself wither away with the past, with no desire to co nsider a future. ³East Coker´, believed to represent the inability of science to save mankind, instead conveys sciences tendency to lead to war, displaying Eliot¶s belief that Mariana¶s lo ver may have been lost in a war , but also that she is unable to act repair the situation. Mariana originates in Shakespeare¶s playMeasure for Measure . Shakespeare¶s Mariana suffers a similar fate; her proposed marriage to Lord Angelo is cancelled as Mariana loses her dowry during a shipwreck, however there is a noteworthy contrast. Mariana is surrounded by her peers, and taking action to right wrongs, while Tennyson¶s Mariana waits hopelessly for her lost love to return. Kn owledge of Shakespeare¶s work enlightens the audience to the unlikelihood that Tennyson ¶s Mariana¶s lover will return. Understanding of Shakespeare¶s works, also brings knowledge that he often utilised animals to portray chaos and anarchy throughout a mult itude of works, most notably in Macbeth. Mariana is perceived to see nothing strange in the animals, as the ³cock [sings] out an hour ere light´, is completely natural (27) .Tennyson uses Mariana¶s observations to make this evident.
Furthermore, the tranquillity of the sceneaccentuates the inner torment that Mariana is suffering, while the rest of the world continues without a further thought for her. Question 3. Tennyson wrote this piece of literature in 1830, which coincides with Queen Isabella II of Spai n¶s birth, although possibly a link to Measure for Measure ¶s, Isabella (often regarded as a parallel to Mariana¶s character ,it is likely nothing more than coincidenc e. More significant was Tennyson¶s trip to the Pyrenees in the same year, where his experie nces with Spanish rebels induced a desire to support their cause. The desire to support the rebels implies that Tennyson has seen many deaths during the fighting, supporting the possibility that Mariana has in fact seen her lover travel to fight in the Fre nch Revolution, thus never truly knowing whether he will be killed or return home safely someday. Mariana then waits by the window, as portrayed in many unrelated pieces, for one of two things; her lover ¶s return, or word of his demise. Such a stance by th e window explains why she has a grim outlook , as the prospect of her lover returning is slim. Question 4. ³Mariana¶s´ rhyming scheme assists Tennyson¶s attempts to embody the lead character¶s mind set. The scheme of ABABCDDCEFEF, displays the instability o f Mariana¶s thoughts. The second quartet differing from the first and third quartet breaks up the reader¶s rhythm, forcing the audience to concentrate more. This achieves the desires of Tennyson, to portray Mariana scattered thoughts, while keeping the poe m in a conversation style. The repetition of similar if not identical lines concluding each stanza creates a µchanting¶ effect, when coupled with the passing of time seen through ³Upon the middle of the night/Waking she heard the night -foul crow; we see that Mariana¶s life has been consumed by her lovers leaving. Mariana goes so far as to wish that ³[she] were dead´. In the second stanza Tennyson employs eye rhyming with the effect of emphasising the failure of Mariana to ³look on the sweet heaven´ (15). Rh ythm is utilised again to stress the degree of passing time in
the latter part of the poem. As seen earlier it is Mariana¶s vivid description of a seemingly non important item, ³the slow clock ticking, and the sound, which to the wooing wind aloof´, contains evidence to support a further interpretation (75). The line is a spondee, and it¶s positioning when the clock is mentioned, implies that time for Mariana feels like a moment is an eternity, expanding further into her description of the outside world. Th is is due to assonance from the broad vowels included in the words. Question 5. Tennyson portrays Mariana as a woman lost in life, due to a lover leaving, made apparent through her constant repetition, ³he cometh not´, through the c losing lines of each stanza. Such repetition also supports the fact Mariana is sufferingeveryday, bridging to her ³sleep [as] she seemed to walk forlorn´ (30). More evidence to support this argument is the recurring reference to the ³lonely moated grange´ (8, 32). Marianais not insane however, thus introducing the tragedy of the tale. She has an acute mind, and is very observant of the world, to a degree of great accuracy, always lacking ambiguity. The loss or disappearance of her lover has left her mental state derelict, and void of any compassion for life
Tennyson, Lord A. Mariana. New York: Woodstock Books, 1830.