Guest poem submitted by Anustup Datta:
(Poem #852) Mariana in the Moated Grange
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!"
Just read "Now sleeps the crimson petal ..." after a long time and remembered what a favourite Tennyson was when I was just beginning to discover the magic of poetry. Poetry is meant to be read aloud, and Tennyson's melody and construction made an immediate impression at that admittedly impressionable age - who could forget the babbling of The Brook, or resist the delicious pathos of Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead? As a special treat, our English teacher read aloud selections from 'Maud' - and for days on end, the class was hypnotically chanting 'Come into the garden' at the slightest provocation. With critical faculties more developed in later years, one began to understand Tennyson's failings: ultra-conservatism (what else could one expect of a Victorian Poet Laureate?), the conscious abandonment of reason for rhyme, and the tendency towards over-dramatisation; but one had to still admit that his genius was far from commonplace - the perfect word at the perfect place, the metre and the melody, and his superb creation of 'atmosphere', all add up to a wonderful audio-visual experience. In my anthology of a hundred great poems to be read aloud, Tennyson and Walter de la Mare would occupy the first ten slots. I feel that Tennyson's gifts were ideal for the creation of fragments of beauty - a scene, a turn of the kaleidoscope, a moment of wonder. He is definitely not at his best in longer poems - take Maud, for example, which taken as a whole is decidedly a feverish poem about an over-dramatic hero. But there too exists snippets of almost unbearable beauty like the scene with the flowers in the garden. Creating sustained dramatic tension and irony was beyond Tennyson - for that one has to turn to Browning, a contemporary at the other end of the spectrum, both difficult and obscure, but rich with the subtlety of minute shades of human emotion and passions. I am attaching two great Tennysons [we'll run the other one some other day - t.] that were among the first I read at school - and they showcase his particular talents admirably. The first is an old favourite that alludes to Mariana in Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure" - and is chiefly remarkable for the use of language. Take the first few lines (which incidentally were used by Professor Higgins to improve Eliza's diction) - "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...". How skilfully is the picture of the lonely manor woven, and the lament of Mariana in the final lines of each stanza provide the perfect counterpoint. It is wonderfully tactile, you can feel the disused manor in your bones. Anustup. [Minstrels Links] Tennyson: Poem #15, The Eagle (a fragment) Poem #31, Break, break, break Poem #80, The Brook (excerpt) Poem #121, Ulysses Poem #355, Charge of the Light Brigade Poem #653, Ring Out, Wild Bells Poem #825, Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal, Now the White Browning: Poem #65, Home Thoughts From Abroad Poem #104, My Last Duchess Poem #130, The Lost Leader Poem #133, Song, from Pippa Passes Poem #242, The Pied Piper of Hamelin Poem #352, My Star Poem #364, The Patriot Poem #425, Memorabilia Poem #526, A Toccata of Galuppi's Poem #635, Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister Poem #778, Incident of the French Camp Poem #814, Parting at Morning de le Mare: Poem #2, The Listeners Poem #272, Napoleon Poem #483, Brueghel's Winter Poem #725, Silver