Tennyson's Poems

A Look at Despair: "Mariana in the South" compared to "Mariana"

Poets often revise and re-revise their work, as it can be difficult to fully express the emotions they want to invoke in the reader. Just a change of one word can change the entire meaning of a line, and poetry's usual brevity requires every single word to be the perfect choice. Tennyson wrote two versions of his "Mariana," the second being very different. Both are about a woman named Mariana who has been deserted by her lover and left to be forever alone in their country home. Upon close inspection, one can see clearly why he made the decisions to change the things he did. The first version, "Mariana in the South" has a more hopeful tone: it has movement from a deeper depression to moments of hope. The second, simply titled "Mariana," has no sense of hope whatsoever. The poems are so different, in fact, that it becomes evident that he wasn't satisfied with the expression of his first attempt, and wanted to try again to evoke that sense of complete desperation. Tennyson changed the actual shape of the poem, its diction, and most importantly his imagery, to create a much stronger sense of despair in the second version.

The shape of the poem, which would seem to be a tiny and insignificant...

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