Enjoying “The Lady of Shalott” by Alfred Tennyson

The Lady sees ordinary people, loving couples, and knights in pairs reflected in her mirror. One day, she sees the reflection of Sir Lancelot riding alone. Although she knows that it is forbidden, she looks out the window at him. The mirror shatters, the tapestry flies off on the wind, and the Lady feels the power of her curse. An autumn storm suddenly arises. The lady leaves her castle, finds a boat, writes her name on it, gets into the boat, sets it adrift, and sings her death song as she drifts down the river to Camelot. The locals find the boat and the body, realize ho she is, and are saddened.

Lancelot prays that God will have mercy on her soul. This is one of Tennyson’s most popular poems. The Pre-Raphaelites liked to illustrate it. Waterhouse made three separate paintings of “The Lady of Shalott”. Agatha Christie wrote a Miss Marple mystery entitled “The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side”, which was made into a movie starring Angela Lansbury. Tirra Lirra by the River, by Australian novelist Jessica Anderson, is the story of a modern woman’s decision to break out of confinement. The Poem The Lady Of Shalott 1842 Version 1832 Version On either side the river lie

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Long fields of barley and of rye, That clothe the wold and meet the sky; And through the field the road runs by To many-tower’d Camelot; And up and down the people go, Gazing where the lilies blow Round an island there below, The island of Shalott. The yellowleav©d waterlily, The greensheath©d daffodilly, Trembled in the water chilly, Round about Shalott Tennyson changed a copy of the 1832 version to “The yellow globe o’ the waterlily”. Probably the water lilies had green leaves and yellow flowers. Willows whiten, aspens quiver, Little breezes dusk and shiver Through the wave that runs for ever By the island in the river

Flowing down to Camelot. Four grey walls, and four grey towers, Overlook a space of flowers, And the silent isle embowers The Lady of Shalott. The sunbeam-showers break and quiver In the stream that runneth ever By the margin, willow-veil’d, Slide the heavy barges trail’d By slow horses; and unhailed The shallop flitteth, silken-sail’d Skimming down to Camelot Yet who hath seen her wave her hand? Or at the casement seen her stand? Or is she know in all the land, The Lady of Shalott? Underneath the bearded barley, The reaper, reaping late and early Hears her ever chanting cheerly, Like an angel, singing clearly,

CYer the stream of Camelot. Piling the sheaves in furrows airy, Beneath the moon, the reaper weary Listening, whispers, ‘”Tis the fairy Lady of Shalott. ” Only reapers, reaping early, In among the beared barley Hear a song that echoes cheerly From the river winding clearly, Down to towered Camelot: And by the moon the reaper weary, Piling sheaves in uplands airy, Listening, whispers, ” Tis the fairy The little isle is all inrailed With a rose-fence, and overtrailed With roses: by the marge unhailed The shallop flitteth silen-sailed Skimming down to Camelot: A pearlgarland winds her head; She leaneth on a velvet bed,

Fully royally appareled, There she weaves by night and day A magic web with colours gay. She has heard a whisper say, A curse is on her if she stay To look down to Camelot. She knows not what the curse may be, And so she weaveth steadily, And little other care hath she, No time hath she to sport and play: A charmed web she weaves alway. A curse is on her, if she stay Her weaving, either night or day, Therefore she weaveth steadily, Therefore no other care hath she, And moving through a mirror clear That hangs before her all the year, Shadows of the world appear. There she sees the highway near Winding down to Camelot;

There the river eddy whirls, And there the surly village churls, And the red cloaks of market girls Pass onward from Shalott. Howard Pyle, The Lady of Shalott Weaving Sometimes a troop of damsels glad, An abbot on an ambling pad, Sometimes a curly shepherd lad, Or long-hair’d page in crimson clad, Goes by to tower’d Camelot; And sometimes through the mirror blue The knights come riding two and two: She hath no loyal knight and true, William Holman Hunt, The Lady of Shalott But in her web she still delights To weave the mirror’s magic sights, For often through the silent nights A funeral, with plumes and lights

And music, went to Camelot: Or when the Moon was overhead, Came two young lovers lately wed; “l am half sick of shadows,” said John William Waterhouse, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, 1916 A bow-shot from her bower-eaves, He rode between the barley sheaves, The sun came dazzling thro’ the leaves, And flamed upon the brazen greaves Of bold Sir Lancelot. A red-cross knight for ever kneeled To a lady in his shield, That sparkled on the yellow field, Beside remote Shalott. Howard Pyle, Lancelot The gemmy bridle glitter’d free, Like to some branch of stars we see Hung in the golden Galaxy. The bridle bells rang merrily

As he rode down to Camelot: And from his blazon’d baldric slung A mighty silver bugle hung, And as he rode his armor rung As he rode down from Camelot: All in the blue unclouded weather Thick-jewell’d shone the saddle-leather, The helmet and the helmet-feather Burn’d like one burning flame together, As he rode down to Camelot. As often thro’ the purple night, Below the starry clusters bright, Some bearded meteor, trailing light, Moves over still Shalott. Moves over green Shalott. His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d; On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trade; From underneath his helmet flow’d

His coal-black curls as on he rode, From the bank and from the river He flashed into the crystal mirror, “Tirra lirra,” by the river Sang Sir Lancelot. “Tirra lirra, tirra lirra” She left the web, she left the loom, She made three paces through the room, She saw the water-lily bloom, She saw the helmet and the plume, She look’d down to Camelot. Out flew the web and floated wide; The mirror crack’d from side to side; “The curse is come upon me,” cried John William Waterhouse 1895 She saw the waterflower bloom In the stormy east-wind straining, The pale yellow woods were waning, The broad stream in his banks complaining.

Heavily the low sky raining Over tower’d Camelot; Down she came and found a boat Beneath a willow left afloat, And around about the prow she wrote Outside the isle a shallow boat Beneath a willow lay afloat Below the carven stern she wrote A cloudwhite crown of pearl she dight All raimented in snowy white That loosely flew, (her zone in sight, Clasped with one blinding diamond bright,) Her wide eyes fixed on Camelot Thought the squally eastwind keenly Blew, with folded arms serenely By the water stood the queenly Lady of Shalott. And down the river’s dim expanse Like some bold seer in a trance, Seeing all his own mischance

With a glassy countenance Did she look to Camelot. And at the closing of the day She loosed the chain, and down she lay; The broad stream bore her far away, With a steady, stony glance Beholding all her own mischance Mute, with a glassy countenance She looked down to Camelot It was the closing of the day, Lying, robed in snowy white That loosely flew to left and right The leaves upon her falling light Thro’ the noises of the night, She floated down to Camelot: And as the boat-head wound along The willowy hills and fields among, They heard her singing her last song, As when to sailors while they roam,

By creeks and outfalls far from home, Rising and dropping with the foam, From dying swans wild warblings come, Blown shoreward; so to Camelot Still as the boat–head wound along They heard her chanting her deathsong Heard a carol, mournful, holy, Chanted loudly, chanted lowly, Till her blood was frozen slowly, And her eyes were darkened wholly, Turn’d to tower’d Camelot. For ere she reach’d upon the tide The first house by the water-side, Singing in her song she died, A longdrawn carol, mournful, holy, She chanted loudly, chanted lowly, Till her eyes were darkened wholly, And her smooth face sharpened slowly.

Under tower and balcony, By garden-wall and gallery, A gleaming shape she floated by, Dead-pale between the houses high, Silent into Camelot. Out upon the wharfs they came, Knight and burgher, lord and dame, And around the prow they read her name, A pale, pale corpse she floated by, Deadcold between the houses high, Dead into towered Camelot To the plank©d wharfage came: Below the stern they read her name, Who is this? And what is here? And in the lighted palace near Died the sound of royal cheer; And they crossed themselves for fear, All the Knights at Camelot; But Lancelot mused a little space

He said, “She has a lovely face; God in his mercy lend her grace, The Lady of Shalott. ” They crossed themselves, their stars they blest, Knight, minstrel, abbot, squire and guest, There lay a parchment on her breast, That puzzled more than all the rest, The wellfed wits at Camelot. “The web was woven curiously, The charm is broken utterly, Draw near and fear not this is l, Notes The story of the Lady of Shalott is a version of “Elaine the fair maid of Astolat”, from Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur.

Elaine’s naive love for Lancelot was unrequited. She died of a broken heart (i. e. , committed suicide Malory’s book ontains her justification of suicide). Her dead body (with suicide note between her hands) was floated down the Thames to Camelot. Eventually Tennyson wrote a long poem about “Lancelot and Elaine”. It contains the line which I have found helpful, “He makes no friend who never made a foe. ” However, Tennyson claimed he did not know the English version of the story in 1832, when he wrote the first draft of the poem.

He took it from an early renaissance Italian story “Qui conta come la Damigella di Scalot mori per amore di Lancialotto de Lac. ” The body ends up on the Camelot beach, with a letter, and s examined by a crowd. met the story first in some italian novelle: but the web, mirror, island, etc. , were my own. Indeed, doubt whether I should ever have put it in that shape if I had been then aware of the Maid of Astolat in “Morte Arthur”.

Tennyson found the basic story in the Italian source, including the death-letter (which he eliminated from the 1842 version). But he made up the curse, the mirror, the song, and the weaving. Tennyson also explained, The Lady of Shalott is evidently the Elaine of the Morte d’Arthur, but I do not think that I had ever heard of the latter when wrote the former. Shalott was a softer sound than “Scalott”. William Maw Egley, The Lady of Shalott Like many other famous poems, this one deals (on one level) about writing poetry.

Tennyson’s son Hallam quoted his father as saying it’s about: the new-born love for something, for some one in the wide world for which she had been so long excluded, takes her out of the region of shadows into that of realities. Hallam also said: The key to this tale of magic symbolism is of deep human significance and is to be found in the lines Or when the Moon was overhead, Tennyson likes to write poems about creatures lost in half-life, and/or people aking decisive, heroic action that leads to their doom.

The Kraken is a science-fiction sort of creature that will become conscious only moments before its spectacular death. The Lotus-Eaters are in a drug-haze. Tithonus is lost in extreme old age. Miriana and Oenone are poems about lonely women. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” glorifies the men who died as a result of a terrible military error. “Ulysses” glorifies a heroic quest for even-Ulysses-doesn’t- know-what. If you know the story from Dante, you remember that Ulysses and all his crew drowned. “The Idealist” spoofs a philosopher who thinks the world is his hallucination.

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