In “Long Distance”, written by Tony Harrison, a man is waiting for his wife to return although we know she will not because she has died. These two poems follow the same theme, waiting for a loved one to return home, but they portray the theme very differently.
In “Mariana” even from the first line it is suggested to us that her living area is decayed, dark and dull “with the blackest moss the flower pots were thickly crusted.” This is also suggests age because instead of saying black moss it says “blackest moss” which tells us that it has blackened over time. Also moss only grows on a surface, which is not often disturbed by footsteps. This suggests that Mariana doesn’t go out of her house very often, if at all. “The flower pots were thickly crusted “. This means that they have not been tended to. All of which tells us that Mariana does not lead an active life or at least she does not care for her house and garden.
In “Long Distance” the image portrayed is very different to the scene set in “Mariana”. Although both poems are dealing with a lost love, “Long Distance” deals with this theme in a much simpler way than “Mariana”. “Long Distance” uses a lot less onomatopoeia and alliteration. The first line of “Long Distance”, “Though my mother was already two years dead” has a very strong end of line. The word “dead” sounds very final. If it had ended with the word “years” it would have not been as shocking.
Unlike “Mariana” there is a very regular rhyme pattern to this poem and this shows the calmness that the man feels because he pretends that his wife is still alive. In “Mariana” the rhyme pattern is not regular, this tells us that she is not calm and shows her anguish for her lost love. The father in “Long Distance” holds on to the memory of his wife because he loved her passionately, “his still raw love”. Mariana holds on to her raw love due to the same reasons, but she also has the hope that he might return someday.
We learn much from the first verses of each poem. In “Mariana” we learn that to her, her environment is dark and full of despair, “with the blackest moss the flower pots were thickly crusted… The rusted nails fell from the knots that held the pear to the gable wall. The broken sheds… Unlifted was the clinking latch”. This all describes her life not moving from her house, just sitting in misery. In “Long Distance” we learn that the father stays in his home to be reminded of his wife who was warm and kind, “slippers warming by the gas, put hot water bottles by the side of her bed and still went to re-knew her transport pass” This gives us an insight into the father’s life. I believe he is kind as was his wife. This quote creates imagery of a warm kind household. It also makes us feel sympathy for his loss. There are two like quotes in “Mariana” and “Long Distance” which specifically tells us that they stay in their houses, “Unlifted was the clinking latch” and “the rusted lock”.
Whilst in “Long Distance” the father is embarrassed by his pretence, “You couldn’t just drop in. You had to phone”, Mariana seems unaware of the world outside her house, “All day within the dreamy house”. Another difference between the two characters’ mindset is that the father pretends his wife never left, whereas, Mariana waits for her fiancï¿½ to return. Although if the father’s wife had left him rather than died I believe he would have reacted in the same manner as Mariana. This is because both loves were very passionate and truly heartfelt.
The third verse of “Long Distance” is extremely sad. It talks of the father’s self-denial; he believes that his wife has “just popped to get the tea”. This is not unlike Mariana’s self-denial in believing that her fiancï¿½ will return home. Both characters cannot admit to there not being any hope of their lovers returning. Another similarity is that both characters live in the past; for example, “Old footsteps trod the upper floors”, in Mariana. This is not so literal in “Long Distance” as he lives in the past by not letting go of his wife’s memory.
The endings to both poems are very moving, although in “Mariana” it is more dramatic, in the style of a Shakespearean play, and in “Long Distance” it is a very simple enclosed rhyme but it is quite thought provoking.
At the end of “Long Distance” the writer tells us obliquely that his father has died now too. He also indicates that he thought his father was foolish for acting the way he did. He then changes the mood of the verse by saying that although he doesn’t pretend that his parents have “both gone shopping” he has still added their phone number to his new phone book. He now understands the way his father felt. He uses the metaphor “the disconnected number I still call” to describe his feelings: he wants to keep in contact with his parents but cannot because they are gone. The ending to this poem is vital to the understanding of the title.
At the very end of “Mariana” the four end lines, which are repeated loosely at the end of all verses, are significantly changed. This sums up the fact that she has now completely lost hope of her lovers return. This is like the writer in “Long Distance” coming to terms with the fact that both of his parents are now dead.