Form: seven 12-line stanzas.
Meter: iambic tetrameter (lines 10 and 12 trimeter).
Rhyme scheme: ababcdcd efef.
First published in Poems, Chiefly Lyrical (1830).
1. The stanzas are a little more repetitive than indicated above. The last four lines are always the same (with a very slight variation in the last stanza), meaning that a third of the poem consists of repetitions of the same four lines. What is the effect of this repetition? Compare "The Lady of Shalott," where the repetition is limited to the last line of each stanza and the word "Camelot" as the rhyme word in the fifth line. Does this repetition have a similar effect?
2. "Mariana" offers a major example on a poet using a character descriptions of something (here the exterior setting) to communicate the intense reality of that character's mental (or interior) life. This creation of an interior landscape, or paysage interieur, is a typically Victorian poetic accomplishment, because it tries to retain a grip on subjective and objective, inner and outer. What does such experimentation do to the lyric poem? What does it have to do with the pathetic fallacy?
3. "Mariana," according to Harold Bloom, is "deliciously unhealthy . . . the finest example in the language of an embowered consciousness representing itself as being too happy in its unhappiness to want anything more. . . . She doesn't want or need the other who cometh not. What would she do with him?" Find reasons in the text for the accuracy or inaccuracy of this claim.
4. One critic (H.J.C. Grierson) says that this poem shows "that a picture presented with extraordinary precision of detail may, if every detail be relevant, contribute potently to the communication of a mood or feeling — the whole secret of Pre-Raphaelitism." Another (George Brimley) objects that "the woman who suffers is vague and indistinct; we have no interest in her, because we know nothing about her; . . all the individuality is bestowed upon the landscape in which she is placed." Who's right? Or, to rephrase the question, can one create successful poetry that focuses upon representations of intense emotion rather than upon a individualized personality that experiences that emotion?
Last modified 30 November 2004