"Mariana," a poem of abandonment, neglect, and isolation, gives the reader an image of a women living alone in a deteriorating home, perpetually waiting for "him" to come. It employs the well-used Victorian subject of the woman trapped by love into a miserable fate. The poem is also one of inaction — as much as Mariana professes her desire to be dead, there is no final culminating suicide, nor any change or resolution to her situation. She simply exists, hopeless and in love with a "he" who will never come.

With blackest moss the flower-plots
Were thickly crusted, one and all:
The rusted nails fell from the knots
That held the peach [1] to the garden-wall. [2]
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; [3]
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 [4] 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!"

These first three stanzas carry the reader pretty much through the extent of Mariana's world, which does not exceed the boundaries of her own home. Immediately the highly detailed image of the garden in the first stanza can be seen as a physical manifestation of the depression that is overtaking her. The passage of time is shown within her repetitive mantra "My life/The night/The day is dreary, he cometh not" but that same repetition stalls the progress of the poem.

Questions

1. Discuss the dichotomy established between the poem's clear progressive motion through time and its stasis in regards to the plot (Mariana). How does this contrast contribute to the mood of abandonment?

2. What's the significance of nature in this poem? Do any of the specific things or animals mentioned function as harbingers for what is or is not to come? How does nature in direct relation to humanity have different implications than nature existing on its own re "The Kraken"?

3. In regards to the line "She could not look on the sweet heaven" (ln 15), why do you think the author chose to include a single religious reference when the majority of the poem is very secular?

4. Why do you think "dreary" and "aweary" are the words the author chooses to describe Mariana's depression (ignoring the rhyme scheme)? What specific connotations go along with it? What does that choice contribute to ones understanding of Mariana?
Victorian Website Overview Alfred Lord Tennyson

Last modified 27 January 2008