Monday, 12 March 2012

Mariana by Tennyson

I've loved this poem since reading it 7 years ago in P.G. Wodehouse. I managed to discover it again at a book sale. Shelley and Tennyson were on sale, so I grabbed them, along with a number of classics. In fact I owe my reading of the classics to the fact they were much cheaper than contemporary fiction where I come from. Say, 1/3 the price.

Mariana is based on Measure for Measure by Shakespeare. I don't recall the plot, but it involves a girl called Mariana (a side character I think) who was jilted by her fiance after her dowry was lost in the sea. Tennyson writes from her perspective. She bemoans the fact that he will not come.
Mariana by John Everett Millais

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:         5
  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;  10
    She said, 'I am aweary, aweary, 
      I would that I were dead!'
You can find the rest here.

As for the paintings, the poem inspired the Pre-Raphaelites, who were all about feeling and passion and sentiment. I don't know if you've noticed the lyrical ones with a story were those emulated by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood? 

Tennyson also wrote another poem called Mariana in the South. 


  1. Interesting. I've never read this poem before. I really love how you are pairing the paintings with the poetry.

    I think I also started reading the classics because they are so much cheaper to buy!!

  2. Laura: What sort of poetry do you read? I find the paintings illustrate the mood and the time the poem was written well.

    Yup, if my parents hadn't been so thrifty, I shudder to think what might have become of my literary knowledge. Isn't it ironic, that for a fraction of the price, we get quality books?