T.S. Eliot

Marina by T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot’s poem, ‘Marina’, belongs to the group of poems which have been designated as “The Arial Poems” composed during 1927 and 1930. After his conversion to Anglicanism in 1927, Eliot began to write a new kind of poetry which “seems to represent a withdrawal from the outer world and an exploration of the inner life under the guidance of Christianity. “Published in 1930, Marian is Eliot’s touching personal poem. The poem explores the theme of paternity by focusing on the rediscovery of his lost daughter of William Shakespeare’s Pericles. Marian is the name of the daughter of Pericles who has not seen her right from birth as he was running away from his enemy facing miseries and threats on land and sea. It is in Act V of Shakespeare’s play, Pericles, Prince of Tyre that Pericles finds out that the dancer and singer performing before him is none else but his daughter. The dancing girl reminds him of his wife Thaisa, he talks to the girl and is overjoyed to find that Marian is his daughter and her mother had died while giving birth to her.

Marina by T.S. Eliot

Marina Analysis

Quis hic locus, quae region, quae mundi plaga?

At the start, the poem, which can be read in full here, quotes two lines from the Latin language, which forms the epigraph of the poem, These lines of the epigraph are a quotation from Hercules Furens (line 1138) composed by Lucious the Younger Seneca (c. 5 B.C. – A.D. 65). The Latin quotation states that awakening from a spell of madness Hercules asks, “What place is this, what land, what quarter of the globe?”

Stanza One

What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands
What water lapping the bow
And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog
What images return
O my daughter.

The five lines of the first stanza of Eliot’s poem, ‘Marina’ echo the questions asked by Hercules in the epigraph. Here the happy image of the reclaimed daughter of Pericles is combined with a sinister reference, that of Hercules. Awakening when Hercules discovers he had killed his own children in a fit of insanity. In the case of Pericles, it is not the same feeling that Hercules has but quite the opposite feeling, but the question carry the same intensity of the opposite feeling.

Stanza Two

Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning
Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals, meaning

The second stanza of six-seven lines is associated with the dejection of Pericles with everything in the past giving birth to the sinister sense of death in the mind and soul of the father about his daughter. Everything made him think of the death of his wife and daughter.

Stanzas Three and Four

Are become unsubstantial, reduced by a wind,
A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog
Whispers and small laughter between leaves and hurrying feet
Under sleep, where all the waters meet.

However, the third and fourth stanzas come with optimism when in the breath of the pine tree spread all over by the wind and “Marina reaches out to the mystery of ‘grace dissolved in peace’. It explores the theme of paternity by focusing on the rediscovery of his lost daughter by Shakespeare’s Pericles. Eliot is able to effectively recreate the tonality of the remarkable recognition scene in Act V of Shakespeare’s play Pericles. The poem’s concluding peace is forcefully conceived in relation to its opening. The powerful association of the sea-world with the dream world is captured and then reinforced by the musical poise of the verse.”

Stanzas Five and Six

Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat.
I made this, I have forgotten
And remember.
What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbers
And woodthrush calling through the fog
My daughter.

These ten-twelve lines are not very clear, but perhaps compare the emerging face with a slowly rising boat or ship coming up out of the sea-water. The face of Marina appears recognizable to Pericles slowly and gradually. The parts of the emerging ship-face are weak and need repair in every department. “During the scene in Shakespeare’s play, Pericles is overjoyed and hears music unheard by others present. He believes it to be the music of spheres. Here, in Eliot’s poem, the music is that of the ‘woodthrush singing through the fog’. The dominant images are the scent of pine, the sound of water at a bow, and of ‘whispers’ and small laughter.”

Eliot’s poem “uses striking images and rhythms to parallel the wondering feelings of the father who is the speaker. Waves and returning are crucial to the poem not only in the matter of themes and images but also structurally. The title and the epigraph brush against one another. Pericles finds that his supposedly dead daughter is in fact alive. Seneca’s truth is horrific. Hercules there discovers that in a fit of insanity he killed his children. Casco Bay, Maine, from Eliot’s native country lies behind the setting of ‘Marina’. That place’s sea and shore, grey rocks, and granite islands are all wrapped in a typical sea-fog. The other features are pine wood and wood thrush. All this is remarkably actualized and brought to life by Eliot.

“Boat imagery dominates this poem. The rhythms too are wave-like. Grace is truly there in the poem through a jarring note is struck by the section touching on death. Yet the victory over death is decisive. This time ‘resigning’ life is to bring totally positive anticipation of a new life. The experience is close to what we get in parts of ‘Burnt Norton’ the first of Four Questets.’

Life & Works of Thomas Steams Eliot

T.S. Eliot is regarded as one of the most important writers of the 20th century, both as a poet and dramatist and as a critic and thinker. Eliot was born in St. Louis on September 26, 1888. His poems started appearing in print around 1915 and represented a complete break with the contemporary Georgian poetry of Rupert Brooke (18182-1915). Eliot is the most modern poet and there are several aspects to his modernism. In most of Eliot’s poems, he makes use of a vers libre or free verse instead of traditional verse in regular meters. The noteworthy point about Eliot is that his poems do not convey their meanings through logically connected statements, but through images that evoke a mood or an emotion. Besides, Eliot’s poetry is modern not only in form but in subject matter and theme, as well. One of the inescapable facts of industrial civilization is the dominant place in it of the large city or metropolis with its anonymous, rootless citizens.

Some of Eliot’s most famous and published works are as follows: Ariel Poems, “Journey of the Magi“, “A Song for Simeon“, “Animula“, “Marina“, “Triumphal March“, “The Cultivation of Christmas Trees” and a lot more.

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Dharmender Kumar Poetry Expert
Dharmender is a writer by passion, and a lawyer by profession. He has has a degree in English literature from Delhi University, and Mass Communication from Bhartiya Vidhya Bhavan, Delhi, as well as holding a law degree. Dharmender is awesomely passionate about Indian and English literature.
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