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Mariana in the Moated Grange -- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

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!"
-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
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.


[Minstrels Links]

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

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

25 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Juliet Heath said...

I really like this poem and when I saw that
there wasn't much said about it, I
thought I'd offer my opinon! On the one
hand, you could say it shows the
need for women to have sexual fulfillment.
But it also shows a woman who's life is
completley dominated by an absent
man. Mariana cannot find some kind
of satsifaction on her own.

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