Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Tennyson's "Mariana": notes on recently discussed AO1 and AO2 Terms

It is a poem in which very little happens - but Mariana's rising emotional intensity.

The subject of this poem is drawn from a line in Shakespeare's play "Measure for Measure": "Mariana in the moated grange." This line describes a young woman waiting for her lover Angelo, who has abandoned her upon the loss of her dowry. Just as the epigraph from Shakespeare contains no verb, the poem, too, lacks all action or narrative movement. Instead, the entire poem serves as an extended visual depiction of melancholy isolation.

Some lexis

'athwart - archaic and sets a tone

'marrish-mosses' - marshy mosses - again an archaic usage, rather like 'cometh' earlier - helps create tone and atmostphere.

archaic – a word no longer in use – used long ago

'casement' – an archaic word for window

Remember that the choice of form and changes within it affects emotion in poetry (D. H. Lawrence )

Tetrameter - eight syllables a line

Trimeter - six syllables a line

A Refrain – repeated lines or stanzas

Melancholy often achieved through adjectives and imagery applied to the senses, e.g. sound.

Anaphora is a rhetorical device and it can be seen in the repetition in the way lines in one stanza begins with  “Old . . .”

“Old . . .”
“Old . . .” (Stanza Six, “Mariana” )
Epizeuxis -“aweary, aweary” ( “Mariana”) (Repeated words on the same line.)
Ekphrasis – detailed description that enables readers to picture what is described.

A spondee - the line’s rhythm is slowed down to emphasise how time has become elongated for Mariana in the final stanza of the poem with “Slow Clock”
The theme of home – isolation and abandonment in “Mariana”
“Mariana” was written when Alfred Tennyson was only 21, shortly after the death of his friend Arthur Hallem.

Is it a psychological poem? The study of psychology was only just beginning – Sleep-walking, the rising intensity of Mariana’s despair. In 1802, French physiologist Pierre Cabanis helped to pioneer   biological psychology with his essay Rapports du physique et du moral de l'homme (On the relations between the physical and moral aspects of man). Cabanis interpreted the mind in light of his previous studies of biology, arguing that sensibility and soul are properties of the nervous system

Is the poem influenced by then fashionable Gothic? Gothic novels were rising in popularity. “Frankenstein” and “The Castle of Otranto” have nightmare scenarios that are highly atmospheric.

Medieval - the Victorians thought up the idea that this period was  "the middles ages" and that they, of course, lived in the modern age
Form ( AO2 )
"Mariana" takes the form of seven twelve-line stanzas, each of which is divided into three four-line rhyme units according to the pattern ABAB CDDC EFEF. The lines ending in E and F remain essentially the same in every stanza and thus serve as a bewitching, chant-like refrain throughout the poem. All of the poem's lines fall into iambic tetrameter, with the exception of the trimeter of the tenth and twelfth lines. The form helps emphasise the frustrating tedium of Mariana’s nightmarish existence as she awaits a lover who appears to have abandoned her.

Third person with direct speech from Mariana.

Structurally, the poem’s time-frame is over an evening, night and morning.

One of the most important symbols in the poem is the poplar tree described in the fourth and fifth stanzas. On one level, the poplar can be interpreted as a kind of phallic symbol. It certainly adds to the poem's gothic atmosphere in the way the shadow of the tree falls across Mariana's bed.

Practice Essay Question

Several Poems in John Wain’s “Anthology” focus on home as a place of grief or loss.

Compare and contrast the poets’ presentation of grief or loss in two poems from the “Anthology”.


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About Me

I teach Film, Media and English Lit.