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Mariana

"Mariana in the moated grange."--'Measure for Measure'.

First printed in 1830.


This poem as we know from the motto prefixed to it was suggested by Shakespeare ('Measure for Measure', iii., 1, "at the moated grange resides this dejected Mariana,") but the poet may have had in his mind the exquisite fragment of Sappho:--

[Greek: deduke men ha selanna kai Plaeļades, mesai de nuktes, para d' erchet h'ora ego de mona kateud'o.]

"The moon has set and the Pleiades, and it is midnight: the hour too is going by, but I sleep alone."

It was long popularly supposed that the scene of the poem was a farm near Somersby known as Baumber's farm, but Tennyson denied this and said it was a purely "imaginary house in the fen," and that he "never so much as dreamed of Baumbers farm". See 'Life', i., 28.

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!"

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 [5] The level waste, the rounding gray.[6] 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,[7] 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; [8] 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 [9] toward his western bower. Then, said she, "I am very dreary, He will not come," she said; She wept, "I am aweary, aweary, O God, that I were dead!".


[Footnote 1: 1863. Pear.]

[Footnote 2: 1872. Gable-wall.]

[Footnote 3: With this beautiful couplet may be compared a couplet of Helvius Cinna:--

Te matutinus flentem conspexit Eous, Te flentem paullo vidit post Hesperus idem. --'Cinnae Reliq'. Ed. Mueller, p. 83.]

[Footnote 4: 1830. Grey-eyed. 'Cf'. 'Romeo and Juliet', ii., 3, "The grey morn smiles on the frowning night".]

[Footnote 5: 1830, 1842, 1843. Dark.]

[Footnote 6: 1830. Grey.]

[Footnote 7: 1830. An' away.]

[Footnote 8: All editions before 1851. I' the pane. With this line 'cf'. 'Maud', I., vi., 8, "and the shrieking rush of the wainscot mouse".]

[Footnote 9: 1830. Downsloped was westering in his bower.]


Lord Alfred Tennyson