Guided Reading

for a closer critical understanding of form, structure, language and context

Mariana 1830 has been deserted by her lover, Angelo. (The poem’s epigraph: ‘Mariana in the moated grange’ misquotes Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, which reads:

‘’There at the moated grange, resides this dejected Mariana’)

She has been failed by her lover and this consumes her.  In Tennyson’s poem, the grange, with its ‘rusted nails’ and ‘glooming flats’, present the sorrow and consciousness of the heroine.

  • Note who speaks the refrain of each verse and consider the effect of the rhyming words, ‘dreary’ and ‘aweary’.
  • Find examples of the passive image of the feminine
  • Identify the interplay between the narrator’s and the heroine’s voices.
  • Find images of physical brokenness and decay: these become emblems.
  • Find evocations of the painfully slow passage of time
  • Note statements of immobility and frustration
  • It has been said that the poem depicts the plight of individual consciousness bereft of the Romantic sense of harmony’.  Find examples of disharmony in what has been described as a ‘landscape of inertia, loss and emptiness’ and analyse.  Include:
    • The absence of other trees and consider why.
    • Consider whether ‘marish’ suggests ‘nightmarish’ and look at its intended impact.
    • Analyse how the absence of human sound is presented e.g. the ‘unlifted’ clinking latch; the way there are non-human sounds only and what they are.
    • Search for onomatopoeic density e.g. ‘sung’
    • Note: how the shadow of the poplar is presented – what do you think might be its meaning or implication?
    • This absence of human sound might suggest the impossibility of change – do you agree and why?
    • In the light of the previous point about impossibility of change, consider the significance of the changes below:
      • ‘He cometh not’ – ‘He will not come’
      • ‘She said, ‘I am aweary’ – ‘She wept, ‘I am aweary’
      • I would that I were dead’ – ‘Oh God, that I were dead.’
      • Consider the impact of close detail and vague immensity.
      • Looking at particular stanzas, how might the strict rhyme scheme (ababcddcefef) support meaning?



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