‘Marrysong’ by Dennis Scott

He never learned her, quite. Year after year

that territory, without seasons, shifted

under his eye. An hour he could be lost

in the walled anger of her quarried hurt

on turning, see cool water laughing where

the day before there were stones in her voice.

He charted. She made wilderness again.

Roads disappeared. The map was never true.

Wind brought him rain sometimes, tasting of sea –

and suddenly she would change the shape of shores

faultlessly calm. All, all was each day new;

the shadows of her love shortened or grew

like trees seen from an unexpected hill,

new country at each jaunty helpless journey.

So he accepted that geography, constantly strange.

Wondered. Stayed home increasingly to find

His way among the landscapes of her mind.

Charted: mapped

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26 thoughts on “‘Marrysong’ by Dennis Scott

  1. Dennis Scott was born in Jamaica in 1939 and died in 1991. Many of his poems were written in a Caribbean vernacular.

    Line 7 He charted He tried to make a map – i.e. tried to make sense of the landscape of her personality.

    a. How, in lines 3 to 6, does the writer make the reader feel the hurt and anger of the first mood and the happiness of the second? (Look at the way the images are presented and the sound of the lines.)

    b. Lines 7 and 8 are made up of four very short sentences. What is the effect of this?
    (Read them out loud.)

    c. The last three lines show a new phase in the relationship. Ironically, instead of journeying, he now ‘stayed home’. This is a new twist in the extended metaphor.

    In what sense did he stay home?

    d. What is the effect of ‘wondered’ as a one word sentence?

    e. How is rhyme used?

  2. In lines 3 to 6, the writer makes the reader feel the hurt and anger of the first mood and the happiness of the second by showing the change of emotion. Scott is lost inside her anger, which is ‘walled’ so it seems as though she was hiding her ‘hurt’, as it is ‘quarried’, suggesting it is dark and dangerous. Dennis Scott shows how her emotions change often when he writes ‘on turning’. Her second emotion seems nasty as her laugh is referred to as ‘cool water’. The poet writes a further example if her changing emotions by commenting on her emotion the day before; she had ‘stones in her voice’ which could mean she is attacking him with her words or she is trying not to cry, with a clump in her throat.

    Lines 7 and 8 are made up of four very short sentences. The effect of this is to show his uncertainty and confusion. He tries to map her emotions to understand the flow of them. The ‘wilderness’ is untamed and unpredictable. The roads that disappeared off his map showed organisation and rules set in stone. The map, we are told, was wrong.

    The last three lines show a new phase in the relationship. Ironically, instead of journeying, he now ‘stayed home’. This is a new twist in the extended metaphor. He stayed at home in a sense that he wasn’t going to explore anymore; he was going to take her emotions as they come. He starts to realise that he can’t know her emotions in patterns. The effect of ‘wondered’ as a one word sentence is a decision to think about her and not to wander around her personality.

    Rhyme is not used often in the poem; symbolising how no day is the same and her emotions don’t have a pattern. In lines 16 and 17, the rhyme of ‘find’ and ‘mind’, symbolising how he is kindly interested in finding how to understand her ‘mind’, personality and ‘wilderness’. The rhyme in lines 11 and 12, ‘new’ and ‘grew’, show how growing creates a new thing and you never know what it will be; her emotions seem to be compared to metamorphosis.

  3. Cara you are to be congratulated on producing such an incredibly mature response to such a complex poem. I think this is your best piece to date as you really strive to explain your well selected quotations, and you display confidence in analysing the examples you provide. Your observations are astute, and it is clear that you like this poem. Perhaps you might want to keep this one as top of your list when in comes to writing about it later on. Thank you, again.

  4. In lines 3 to 6 the writer makes the reader feel the hurt and anger of the first mood and the happiness of the second. Dennis Scott achieves this by describing her as “walled anger of her quarried hurt” and “cool water laughing”, this suggests that at one second she can be angry at him and a second after she can be laughing and having fun with him. Lines 7 and 8 are made of four very short lines “He charted. She made wilderness again. Roads disappeared. The map was never true.”. The effect of this is confirming what a poet is writing about, his wife’s personality change every time and unexpectedly, which show this as short sentences suggest a sudden end and the beginning of a new sentence. In those lines the poet, Dennis Scott, thinks that he understand her wife completely in the end, but it is not true as she changes her personality again, which suggest to marks and hints disappear and his understanding being another false understanding. The last three lines show a new phrase in the relationship. Ironically, instead of journeying, he now “stayed home”. This is a new twist in the extended metaphor, which suggests that he finally understood that he will never understand her personality completely and accepts her personality as it is. The poet uses word ‘Wondered’ to make an effect of him actually thinking about her as individual not her personality. The rhyme is not used in this poem except in lines 11,12, 16 and 17 which suggests that the days of his life spending with his wife are not really same and can be compared to other days, which perfectly matches to the topic he is talking about.

    1. A detailed response Andrey with some interesting observations which suggest you understand the poem well. Some of your ideas could have been developed further -eg, why the short sentences, in other words what does this suggest about the relationship. I think there is a slight pun on ‘Wondered’ which means thinking; at first we might expect the poet to use ‘Wandered’ since we have been travelling along the ‘map’ of his perception of his wife. I think ‘Wondered’ is used to show a growing acceptance of her. Thank you for your contribution, Andre.

  5. In line 3 to 6, the poet makes the reader feel hurt and anger on the first mood and the happiness of the second. Dennis Scott achieves this by comparing his wife’s constantly changing mood with ice cold water, the wall of anger, quarry of hurt and changing landscape. The poet writes “An hour he could be lost in the walled anger of her quarried hurt,” to show his confusion at the sudden change of emotion, trap by her emotion, and doesn’t know what happened or what to do. The use of the word “quarried” gives the reader an image of a deep, dark, mysterious mine. It makes the reader feel like the poet’s wife is hiding something from him,as if she has buried her hurt in the ground and is hoping no one finds it.

    In lines 7 and 8, the poet uses metaphor. He compares his wife’s constantly changing emotion with landscape. The poet also compares his understanding of his wife to a map. In this fourth sentence, the poet is saying that he is trying to draw a map of constant changing landscape, but every time he thinks he has completed the map, the landscape will start changing even further. The truth is, the poet is talking about his wife. Every time he thinks he understand her perfectly, her emotions and personality will change in the most unexpected way. The poet only uses four sentences, but he expresses everything he wanted to say in a way that is both complicated and deep.

    The last three lines of the poem shows that the poet is going to take in and get prepare to her changing emotion instead of trying to understand the reasons behind it. It also shows that the poet finally understands he can never understand and know his wife perfectly. There is always something new to learn and discover.

    b

    1. Excellent work, Anna. You have responded to this poem extremely well and with great sensitivity. I don’t think the wife is a particularly difficult person, and that whilst the efforts of the persona, the speaker of the poem, in trying to understand her is commendable, I would say that it is difficult to understand a person completely. In this way, the poem is about acceptance. I am pleased with the detail of your analysis, and it is clear that you like this poem. Well done.

  6. In line 3 to 6, the writer makes the reader feel the hurt and anger of the first mood and the happiness of the second. Dennis Scot achieves this by changing several words from ‘walled anger’ to ‘cool water laughing’. ‘Walled anger’ means that he is trapped or difficult to understand why she is angry. ‘Cool water laughing’ indicates that she suddenly calms down and becomes happy.

    Lines 7 and 8 are made up of four very short sentences. This gives an effect which tells that he tried to figure out what her wife actually is like. However, she suddenly changed her personality again. Therefore, the poet mentioned ‘Roads disappeared’ which means his navigation became useless.

    The last three lines show a new phrase in the relationship. Ironically, instead of journeying, he now ‘stayed home’. This is a new twist in the extended metaphor and ‘stayed home’ means that the poet gives up to find out his wife’s personality. He decides to stay home instead of going out wasting his time. The poet used ‘wondered’ to regret himself wasting his time looking for his wife’s personality. There are some words that rhyme such as ‘new’ and ‘grew’ at 11 and 12, and ‘find’, ‘mind’ for last two lines.

    1. A good solid response, Tom, which demonstrates your ability to select appropriate words and discuss their meaning. You are most certainly on the right track and you have a very good understanding of the poem -now perhaps you can attempt to discuss your wonderful idea further?

  7. In lines 3 to 6, the writer makes the reader feel the hurt and anger of the first mood and the happiness of the second (look at the way the images are presented and the sound of the lines). Dennis Scott achieves this by showing us that his wife has moods that keep changing. One day she’s ice and the next she’s warm, comforting water. He explains this by saying “in the walled anger of her quarried hurt”. When we read this, we can picture her like a mine; it is dark, deep, hidden, and you never know what you will expect to find. It is like he is trapped in her changing wall of anger. On line five, he shows her sarcasm by saying “See cool water laughing”. Water is cold and can be dark, so this shows that her laughter has sarcasm in it and that it is like her moods. In line six, Scott uses the metaphor stones in “The day before there were stones in her voice” which tells us that something is bothering her; the stones are describing the tone of her voice, and the tone shows a hint of unsureness. It is like she is attacking him, like the stones are some deadly weapons. Scott describes her as unpredictable and with a mood that never stops changing.

    Lines 7 and 8 are made up of four very short sentences. The effect of this is that it shows their relationship and how they get angry. The woman is unpredictable by changing the map that Scott is figuring out and adding wilderness, and he explains this by saying “He charted. She made wilderness again”. Line eight shows the man’s confusion by saying “Roads disappeared. The map was never true”. He can never predict what the woman will do or what her emotions will be.

    The last three lines show a new phase in the relationship. Ironically, instead of journeying, he now ‘stayed home’. This is a new twist in the extended metaphor. In what sense did he stay home? He stayed home because he wanted to stay and accept her and her emotions for who she is. He isn’t going to take a journey through her mind anymore, but wait for what he might find next. What is the effect of ‘wondered’ as a one word sentence? The effect of wondered as a one word sentence is that Scott is deciding not find out what her personality truly is, he will stop wandering and will accept whatever comes along. How is rhyme used? Dennis Scott does not use a rhyming pattern, but in lines 11, 12, 16 and 17 he uses ‘new, grew, find and mind’. These words describe his lover, because he is trying to ‘find’ out what her personality really is, her love shortened or grew, each day she has a new personality that is new, and at the end he doesn’t mind what he will expect in the future. The rhymes basically tell the story in four words.

    1. A delightful conversational analysis, Celeste. Although your written expression is less formal, less academic than previous comments, this one also shows your excellent understanding of the poem, and your keen observant eye. I like what you say about the rhyme scheme being the poem in four words, and wished that there was another sentence to explain how this is so, even though I kind of guessed it. Thank you very much for yet another detailed discussion.

  8. In lines 3 to 6, the writer makes the reader feel the hurt and anger of the first mood of the mood and the happiness in the second. Dennis Scott achieves this by expressing his wife’s personality very differently. As in line four, Scott writes how it is “walled anger.” gives us a good image that he is trapped in her heart and cannot find the way out. Also “quarried hurt can be meant as if Scott cannot find the treasure that is deeply hidden. Also in line five, Scott uses two words that contract from each other giving us a sense that she is quite a two face. He uses “cool water,” to represent her bad side and laughter to represent her good side. In line six, Scott writes how there were stones in her voice. This portrays an image that she is strong in words and can lie very easily.
    Lines 7 and 8 are made up of four very short sentences. The effect of this is that Scott can never truly know his wife. Scott must have had a hard time to convey this message for more than four sentences. As it is hard for him to describe about his wife more than four short sentences because he doesn’t fully understand her. It is described that Scott tried to make a map that guides him to his wife’s heart. However, Scott writes that the map was never true and that she had made wilderness again.
    The last three lines show a new phase in the relationship. Ironically, instead of journeying, he now ‘stayed home’. This is a new twist in the extended metaphor. The writer is conveying a message that he is going to give up in the journey to find her true emotions. He is going to accept his wife for who she truly is. He referred his search for her personality as Wondered. He uses wondered in one sentence because he wants the readers to know that he has been very anxious to find out his find personality.
    In this poem, Scott tries not to rhyme many lines because he wants the readers to sense that he is wandering and can’t find what he is looking for. However in lines 16 and 17, when he decided to accept his wife for who she truly is, the foggy clouds cleared and he didn’t have to live with the miserable question in his mind “Who is my wife?” So Scott used rhyme to ensure the readers that he is fine and okay now.

    1. Thank you for your detailed discussion, Se-One. You make many passing points in relation to the meaning of the lines, though you do not take the extra step to elaborate upon them which is why your writing sounds very stilted, and is lacking in flow. I am not sure if I agree with the portrait you have painted of the wife -about her being able to lie easily, and being two-faced. In this way, I think you might have misunderstood the poem a little. Please read some of the others to get you back on track.

  9. In lines three to six, the writer makes the reader feel the hurt and anger of the first mood and the happiness of the second. Dennis Scott achieves this by using the words ‘walled anger of her quarried hurt’, which gives a feeling of darkness, hurt, danger, deep and other sad and pessimistic feelings. This illustrates an image of the wife being angry, but she is keeping her anger within herself, and the husband (Scott) is wandering around her inner feelings regretting and trying to resolve her anger. We can see this by ‘walled anger’. The next part of the line relates to her happy self and how she can change her personality from being angry, back to happy. ‘oh turning, see cool water laughing where the day before there were stones in her voices’. By this line we can see that she was really angry by ‘the day before there were stones in her voices’. This suggests that her voice was heavy and takes away the ability to talk properly. It also implies that her voice and words were hurtful. The second emotion of happiness comes in line five ‘see cool water laughing’, which implies that her anger is cooled down by the water. We can also see that she is the type to be angry one day and the next day she’ll be completely fine.
    In lines seven and eight are made up of four very short sentences. The effect of these sentences is that the husband cannot understand the wife’s feelings. By making the sentences short it makes an effect of preciseness and conveys the message more clearly. The message the poet is trying to convey is that he has attempted to draw or chart his wife’s feelings and personality, but has failed as she is changing by the second. This is reinforced by ‘the map was never true’ because this implies that he never completely understood his wife or her personality. By the words ‘roads disappeared’ suggests that the sense of order is starting to lose its turgidity. Another effect made by these short sentences is that it tells us that it is impossible to fully comprehend her thoughts and herself. This is reinforced by the line ‘She made wilderness again’ because ‘wilderness’ implies that just when he thought he understood her, she disappeared and changed back into the wild making the map the guy drew into nothing but a piece of scrap paper.
    The last three lines of the poem ‘Marrysong’ shows a new phase in the relationship. Ironically, instead of journeying, he now ‘stayed home’. This is a new twist in the extended metaphor because during the first three quarters of the poem the poet describes how he always attempts to draw or map her, but miserably fails because of his wife’s ever changing personality. By the last three lines of the poem the other’s tone changes from trying to understand her and map her, into accepting her existence as she is. We can see this by the poet’s use of the words ‘So he accepted that geography, constantly strange’ reinforces the idea of accepting her existence as it is. In line 2 the one word is very strange in context. The word ‘wondered’ is used instead of the word ‘wandered’, which is more suited for the situation because up to this point of the poem the poet kept on talking about travelling and journeying through the wife’s mind in order to get a map. The effect of the word wondered is that it identifies that he is thinking about her in a way that she is mysterious. If you look it in another point of view the words ‘wandered’ and ‘wondered’ are very similar in this situation because up to this point the poem was all about travelling and journeying through the wife’s mind. The effect of the word ‘wondered’ because the poet is endlessly thinking about his wife. Although the poet’s point of view changes, he is still trying to figure her out, because in order to accept someone you need to understand them, but the man changes and in the end the word ‘wondered’ identifies his hard efforts in order to accept her as herself. Rhyme is used in this poem to emphasize the point he was trying to make in that specific part of the poem and to make the reader more joyful by making it rhyme. Some of the rhymes in the poem are ‘All, all was each day new, the shadows of her love shortened or grew’ and ‘Stayed home increasingly to find his way among the landscapes of her mind’.

    1. This is an outstanding response, Nick and is one which shows your ability to quickly take on board complex ideas and discuss them with clarity. What I especially like about this one, Nick, is that your written expression is especially mature and sophisticated and does not contain a hint of sloppiness. I love your discussion of ‘Wondered’ and ‘wandered’ and the similarities between them, though with very different implications as far as the meaning of the poem. This is great!!

  10. In lines 3-6, the writer makes the reader feel hurt and anger of the first mood and the happiness of the second. Dennis Scott achieves this by contrasting the heat of the “anger” with the cold “cool water”. The coldness shown towards the poet could also be his wife giving him the cold shoulder. He then goes on the say that there were “stones in her voice”, which could mean that she said many hurtful words to him, probably in an argument. Although, it might also mean that that she has stones in her mouth, not allowing her to convey her feelings because it is the stones in your mouth will impair your ability to speak properly. He conveys the sense of a dark, gloomy place, with the words “lost” and “quarried”. He also says that he could be “lost” in the “walled anger” of her “quarried hurt”. This could mean that she was keeping her anger walled, bottled up, not letting anyone know about and feel even worse. It could also mean that the poet was trapped tall “walls” of her anger, not being able to escape, not knowing why she’s angry. And that feeling of being trapped, could again lead to the feeling of a sad, dangerous place. The word “laughing”, which would normally lead readers to visualise a happy atmosphere, is now changes, being among all the anger and mysteriousness, makes the reader feel like the laughter is actually sarcastic, not the normal laughter when you find humour in something.
    Lines 7 and 8 are made up of four very short sentences. The effect of these sentences is that it emphasises many of the important ideas that the poet is trying to convey. For example, he says “he charted” in one sentence. Besides saying this in a third person point of view, he expresses that he thought that he had understood, “mapped” her, figured her out, but then, she “made wilderness again”, showing that she did something unexpected, weird, that he did not predict, like the wilderness, where humans do not control it, leading to its unpredictable nature. In the next sentence, he says that the “roads disappeared”. The word “roads”, paints the picture of an orderly place, with specific routes to guide you. This orderly feeling is now gone, the roads broken, now leading to dead ends, or leading to nowhere, because the poets wife did something totally unanticipated, unforeseen by the poet. As he next says “the map was never true”, it further emphasises the fact that he had thought that he had completely understood her, “mapped” her. Then, she does something that was unanticipated, not on the map, which told him that the map was “never true”, that what he thought of her previously was wrong.
    The last three lines show a new phase in the relationship. Ironically, instead of journeying, he now ‘stayed home’. This is a new twist in the extended metaphor, together with a change in tone of the poem. He stayed at home in the sense that he decides not to try understand the complex, unpredictable mind of a woman, and instead, accept her for what she is, loving her for what she is. Although she was “constantly strange”, not easy for him to understand her, he decides to “stay home”, and not go out to try and map her, or try to understand her, because her emotions were different every time, making it impossible to understand and predict her. The effect of wondered as a one word sentence shows that he starts to think of how to accept her for what she is, instead of “wandering” around again, trying to map her. The rhyme in this poem is almost non-existent, except in the lines 11 and 12, 16 and 17, perhaps signifying the emotions of her wife, being as dissimilar everytime as the rhymes in the poem.

  11. What more can I say, Clarence? This is an exceptional, first-rate response. I am so impressed by your demonstrated ability to select words/phrases and explore the various implied meanings. I admire the alternatives you offer for ‘stones’ in her mouth, and your written expression when you discuss the ‘road’ and ‘wilderness’. This poem is definitely one to keep in you top half-a-dozen. Well done.

  12. In line 3 to 6, the poet makes the reader feel hurt and anger on the first mood and the happiness of the second. Dennis Scott achieves this by comparing his wife’s constantly changing mood with ice cold water, the wall of anger, quarry of hurt and changing landscape. The poet writes “An hour he could be lost in the walled anger of her quarried hurt,” to show his confusion at the sudden change of emotion, trap by her emotion, and doesn’t know what happened or what to do. The use of the word “quarried” gives the reader an image of a deep, dark, mysterious mine. It makes the reader feel like the poet’s wife is hiding something from him,as if she has buried her hurt in the ground and is hoping no one finds it.

    In lines 7 and 8, the poet uses metaphor. He compares his wife’s constantly changing emotion with landscape. The poet also compares his understanding of his wife to a map. In this fourth sentence, the poet is saying that he is trying to draw a map of constant changing landscape, but every time he thinks he has completed the map, the landscape will start changing even further. The truth is, the poet is talking about his wife. Every time he thinks he understand her perfectly, her emotions and personality will change in the most unexpected way. The poet only uses four sentences, but he expresses everything he wanted to say in a way that is both complicated and deep.

    The last three lines of the poem shows that the poet is going to take in and get prepare to her changing emotion instead of trying to understand the reasons behind it. It also shows that the poet finally understands he can never understand and know his wife perfectly. There is always something new to learn and discover.

  13. First, in lines 3 to 4 the writer describes the plight of his wife’s extreme anger describing her rage as walled anger which he could be lost in meaning he is trapped inside with no way out as he is stuck in a place where he has to suffer the raging attitude of his wife. In addition, the writer uses the words quarried hurt to liken her ferocious wrath here to a quarry as he is stuck in the deep pit without an escape route. However, he then uses the image of delight and pleasure to counter this in line 5 when he expresses the transformation of his wife’s mood into a happy and joyous mood when he sees cool water laughing in such a harmless and peacefully beautiful tone creating a heartwarming image compared to the previous terrifying one. Meanwhile, the writer explains in line 6 that he still remembers her fit of rage while his wife acts like nothing ever happened and they are happily married.
    Furthermore, the effect of lines 7 to 8 compound the feeling of confusion concerning his wife’s behavior which is deduced from the previous lines. The short sentences make a huge impact here as the writer explains that he attempts to discover the workings of his wife’s mind, trying to predict her actions. He charted or he mapped connotes that he explores her mind as a piece of land but unfortunately when he thinks he has her figured out something unexpected occurs which destroys the basis of his findings as roads dissapeared and the map proved to be false. His task is seen as impossible as he describes it as creating a particular map of a place which always changes,
    Finally, Dennis Scott in the last three lines has a sort of epiphany or resolution by taking hos wife for who she is without complaining or trying to predict her character ever again when he metaphorically decides to stay home instead of like before struggling to no avail to examine her. The writer, Dennis Scott refrains from constant usage of a rhythmic pattern except on new and grew in lines 11 and 12 as well as find and mind on lines 16 and 17. This is a representation of his wife’s never constant mood which is hard to understand or predict as there is no evident rhyme scheme throughout the poem but only a mysterious rhyming tone on lost, hurt and voice which is not even clear cut but ever confusing like the poem’s subject matter.

  14. hey guys, can you please help me out with this poem, i need a simple analysis of this poem, i am preparing for my GCSEs and i need help…

    1. why don’t you read the previous comments on this page? they’ve pretty much got all the main points that you’d use to analyse it 🙂

  15. hi ummm………………… i would just like to know who u think u r chroeachick the way u tell them how good they are is stupid. some questions for you how old are u to give such a high judging that’s my question then only will i put my analysis up for them to see

    1. Hi Sarah,
      I am the teacher of some of the student’s work where I have made comments. For your information, they were in grade 9 when they wrote these responses, and I was being encouraging as it was the first time many had written about poetry. Also, I never intended this blog to function as a webpage, it was really designed as a class blog but has gone on to help others, including you,presumably . Having taught this course for a number of years, and am an igcse examiner, I may just be qualified to make some judgments. I wish you all the best in your exams. Regards, Julia

  16. Marrysong is a poem written by Dennis Scott describing a turbulent marriage. The poem is written in the third person shows a man who is desperately trying to understand his wife. However, his wife is portrayed as a highly unpredictable, and almost moody woman, who makes the man’s task almost impossible. Throughout the poem, Scott uses geography and landscape as a metaphor for the marriage and the emotions of the couple.
    ” year after year that territory, without seasons shifted under his eye” The territory being described here is comparable to the wife and her emotions. The man’s wife is constantly changing, unpredictably.
    At one moment she may be filled with anger and in pain from her “quarried hurt”, but soon afterwards the man sees “cool waters laughing”. The word quarried might indicated that the hurt is man-made, just as a quarry is made by man. The cool waters are a metaphor for her happiness.
    Initially the man desperately tries to ‘figure out his wife’ and understand her behavioral patterns. “He charted. She made wilderness again.” But the man is unable to completely understand his wife, her mood swings continue to bewilder him.
    Towards the end of the poem, he accepts defeat and embraces her changing nature. He decides to enjoy his “jaunty, helpless journey” .The oxymoron of the words “jaunty” and “helpless” shows that he is ready to embrace his marriage, understanding that his wife will be unpredictable.
    .

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