It is not easy to express all the emotions a poet wants to instill in readers, so they revise often. Poetry’s shorthand requires that every word be chosen correctly. Tennyson did two versions, the second being very distinct. Both tell the story of Mariana, a woman left behind by her lover. She is left in her country home alone. One can clearly see why he chose to change his actions. The first version, called “Mariana in the South”, has more optimism. It shows a shift from deeper despair to moments of hope. The second version, simply named “Mariana”, lacks any hope. It is clear that Tennyson wasn’t content with his first attempt at writing poetry and wanted to create a sense of total despair. Tennyson made changes to the poem’s form, diction and imagery in order to create a greater sense of despair.

The shape and meaning of the poem is shaped by the shape of the poem. Although it might seem that this detail is insignificant, it has a profound effect on the meaning. Indented lines from each stanza in the first version create a wave-like shape. It alternates between unindented, indented lines. This creates a shape that looks like the wave’s crest. In the second version, each stanza alternates between unindented and indented lines. But the seventh line and eighth line of each stanza reverse that pattern. Visually, the breaking of the pattern creates an unnatural feeling that appears more broken than smooth. This is because Mariana, in her sadness over the loss her lover has caused, feels broken. In Mariana in South, there are a few instances where Mariana sings “carols” (13). It appears that the word “carol”, which Tennyson intended to invoke, was chosen because of its two syllables. The word’s connotations actually suggest joy and are especially relevant to Christmas songs, which are a time of love as well as peace. Mariana isn’t experiencing joy, love or peace. The second edition’s diction is clearly defined. There are many words that have two meanings. Both of these meanings are important to the work. Tennyson wrote that evening arrives because the “thickest darkness did [cross] the sky” (18). According to the footnote, “trance” can be translated as “cross,” which means “thickest darkness did [cross] the sky.” However, trance could also refer to being “witch,” something that would carry sinister connotations. The footnote also states that Mariana gazed athwart the darkening flats (20). This line uses the word “Athwart”, which can be translated as across, but it also means perverse or wrong. Mariana’s world is a mess without her lover. This word can also be found in line 77. Tennyson wrote in the final stanza that the sun was “sloping towards his western bower” (78). Most people are aware that the sun sets in west. Tennyson isn’t trying to remind readers of the sun’s exact location; he wants to show the finality associated with the sun setting. As the setting sun signifies the end, the west is used to signify an ending or finality. Mariana’s lover died, and the “western” word serves to signify the end of happiness. The most significant diction change in the category is the one made by the poet to the refrain of his poem. It is repeated many times and is central to the meaning. The first version ends with “To live forgotten, love forlorn” while the second ends with “I would that my life were over.” Both versions are truly pitiful but the first focuses more on the present. Mariana doesn’t like the idea of her future, but it is something she considers. The second option, however, is all about death. Mariana would rather die than face the hopelessness of this scenario.

These poems are so rich in imagery that they make it the most important element. Many different patterns of imagery are used (and nearly all of them have been changed), so imagery must be the subject of discussion when “Mariana” is being updated. The most striking example is the religious imagery. “Mariana in South” simply consists of Christian religious imagery. The refrain is composed mostly of Mariana’s complaints about Mary. Mariana also prays to Mary to help her with depression. Heaven is referenced in the last line. The last stanza of “Mariana” reveals that all of this religiousity is gone. This changes greatly contribute to Mariana’s despair. Many religions give followers hope through prayer and the promise of happiness in heaven. Tennyson takes away Mariana’s hope by removing religion from her mind.

The second image pattern is missing the images that show Mariana looking beautiful. She is described as “Mariana” throughout the book. He wrote,

She, as her carols grew sadder,

Slowly descend from the brow to your bosom.

Thro’ rosey taper fingers drew

Her deepest brown curls are reflected in her flowing locks

To left, right, and made to appear

Still lit by a secret glow

Her melancholy eyed are divine (13-19). Later, he referred to “the clear perfection her face” (32). These descriptions don’t serve any purpose and can be detrimental. Tennyson had to realize their ineffectiveness and eliminated any reference to Mariana’s beauty within the second version.

The poem includes destruction images as an important addition to its imagery. In the first version, the house and its surrounding areas are not described as being in any manner untidy. The second version describes the house and its surroundings as being completely neglected. The first line reads:

The flower-plots can be made from the darkest moss

They were all thickly crusted.

The knots gave way to the rusted nails

This held the pear to its gable wall.

The sheds that were broken looked strange and sad.

The clinking latch was not lifted;

Wear the old thatch, woven and worn

The lonely moated garland. (1-12). The house’s surrounding is dark (20), and the bark of the trees is gnarled (42). The wood paneling in the home is “moldering,” (64). The house and grounds look like they are in constant state of disrepair or decay. These images create the impression Mariana is, like her surroundings. These images can also be used to help create the gothic images in the second poetry. The Gothicism of this poem is made possible by the destruction and rainy environment, the “flitting of bats” (17), reference to midnight (25), creaking door, and other references to ghosts. Mariana experiences deep sadness and longs to see these images associated with death.

Images of water in “Mariana”, contrast directly to images of heat, drought and other extremes in the earlier version. 54). In the first version, there is no riverbed and it appears “dusty-white”. Mariana cannot cry because the only water source is “shallows along a distant coast” (7). Tennyson wrote, “Day increased from heat to warmth, / On stoney drought and steaming sal” (39-40). Although Mariana’s inability of crying is beautifully illustrated by the images’ dryness, Tennyson may have chosen something else for his poem. The images of dryness are transformed into images of wetness in the second version. Mariana can be heard crying almost every word of this poem. This makes it clear that Mariana’s tears are mirrored in the dew. He also wrote about the “blackened water” from a nearby sluice (38). He also writes about the rusty, moldy, and moss found in the house’s grounds. These are all things that require water. He wanted Mariana, perhaps to make him feel more emotional. Maybe he needed the moisture to describe things like rotting or molding. It is likely that he was thinking of both these ends when he made his change.

The second poem also uses water for another purpose. While the bodies that water existed in the original version were swiftly moving bodies (a stream and an ocean), water in the second version comes in the form a moat or “sluice with darkened waters”. Mariana’s slow-motion life is highlighted by the slow-motion water images in the second poem. Her “dreary” life is unimaginable without her partner. Tennyson uses these photos to depict her life.

Tennyson’s second image version also includes pathetic fallacies as an important pattern. Mariana regards her home “lonely motted grange” (8). The morning sees herself as having grey eyes (31), the morning seeing herself as sleeping (38) Although inanimate objects can’t see or feel alone, Mariana projects her emotions onto these objects. She has seen her depression as her complete world.

One final pattern of images, which is one of my favorites, is those that depict men as fearful or obnoxious. Mariana calls the sun “sloping to [his] western bender” (78). This is because it means another day in pain. Mariana views the sun as a man, something she fears. A tree is the most striking example of man-fearing imagery. The shadow of the tree’s poplar “falls upon her bed, across she brow” (56). The tree’s shadow falls on her bed, representing her sexual fear. It also falls across her forehead, which is a sign of the mental dominance she suffered under him. The poplar’s windy sound, which “all confound[s]/Her sense”, is later mentioned (74-75). Tennyson’s images suggest that Mariana is male-like.

An analysis of Tennyson’s “Mariana” and his “Mariana” shows that Tennyson wasn’t satisfied with the original version of his poem. Mariana was too hopeful and beautiful to be truly pitied. He creates Mariana, who is so depressed that she will live in a desolate environment. Each poem’s endings perfectly reflect the changes he made. The ending to the first poem is “The night comes on, / When my loneliness will end, / To live forgetful, and to love forlorn” (95-26). Mariana’s demise is implied by this ending. The ending of the second poem reads: “He won’t come, she said; / She wept that she was aweary and aweary / Oh God! That I were dead!” (80-82). The second poem does not grant her the peace and comfort of death. The second poem shows a complete lack of hope and is far more devastating than the first.


  • kileybaxter

    I am a 34-year-old educational blogger and student. I enjoy writing about education and sharing my insights and experiences with others. I hope to use this blog as a way to share my knowledge and help others learn more about the subjects that interest me.

“Mariana” And “Mariana In The South” Comparative Analysis


I am a 34-year-old educational blogger and student. I enjoy writing about education and sharing my insights and experiences with others. I hope to use this blog as a way to share my knowledge and help others learn more about the subjects that interest me.

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