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Poetry > The Lady of Shalott

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message 1: by Lois (last edited Feb 22, 2012 03:56PM) (new)

Lois (loisbennett) | 22 comments A definitive classic poem has to be

'The Lady of Shalott' by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

Part I

On either side of the river lie
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-towered Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.1

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 gray walls, and four gray towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow veiled
Slide the heavy barges trailed
By slow horses; and unhailed
The shallop flitteth silken-sailed
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early
In among the bearded 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
Lady of Shalott."

Part II

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,
The Lady of Shalott.

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 curly village-churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls,
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,
Or long-haired page in crimson clad,
Goes by to towered Camelot;
And sometimes through the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
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;
"I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shalott.

Part III

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling through 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.

The gemmy bridle glittered 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 blazoned baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour rung,
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewelled shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burned like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often through the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnished hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flowed
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra lira," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

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 looked down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror cracked from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.

Part IV

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 towered Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
The 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,
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right —
The leaves upon her falling light —
Through 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,
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turned to towered Camelot.
For ere she reached upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.

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 round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

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."

I love it - such beautiful imagery, language and rhythm...

message 2: by Adriana (new)

Adriana That was epic. I loved it <3
I actually just read for school some writing about Arthur so that's interesting. Is the Lady of Shalott supposed to represent a specific person?
I've never read Tennyson so this makes me want to read more.

message 3: by Lois (last edited Feb 23, 2012 03:26AM) (new)

Lois (loisbennett) | 22 comments It is epic! Without a doubt, my favourite poem. I love the rhyming rhythm, and it's such a heartbreaking story.

I had a look on Wikipedia (not the most reliable source, I know) and The Lady of Shalott seems to have been inspired by an Arthurian lady called Elaine of Astolat. There are some differences, of course (the main one being: The Lady of Shalott has never met Lancelot before), but it's still quite interesting to read about.

message 4: by Adriana (new)

Adriana Elaine sounds familiar. I think Lancelot had a child by an Elaine. Yeah he did.

There was two of them. Poor Elaine.

message 5: by Lois (new)

Lois (loisbennett) | 22 comments I know... It's so sad. What do you think about the Lady of Shalott being based on Elaine? Do you think it's likely, even though the Lady never met Lancelot yet the real Elaine did?

message 6: by Adriana (new)

Adriana She didn't? He saw her.

message 7: by Lois (new)

Lois (loisbennett) | 22 comments I'm not sure what you mean...

message 8: by Adriana (new)

Adriana I didn't know that she never met Lancelot in the poem because it does say that he saw her.

message 9: by Lois (new)

Lois (loisbennett) | 22 comments Lancelot saw the Lady at the end of the poem, when she was dead...

Whereas the Elaine person had met Lancelot when he stayed at her father's house, and spoken to him.

message 10: by Adriana (new)

Adriana Wow! How did I miss: Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly! hahaha (:

Well then to answer your question... I think it's still based on her. But he never knew her so it kind of was like she was dead to him already. it's like that's the only way he would notice her. When it was too late. Now that's probably too far fetched...

message 11: by Lois (new)

Lois (loisbennett) | 22 comments Ooh, no - it's an interesting theory. She was dead to him already...

The Lady is locked in the tower, she sees Lancelot, she risks everything to go after him, she dies without him loving her.

Elaine was living at home with her parents, met Lancelot, risked everything by telling him how she felt, died without him loving her.

I can see it now. I hadn't known about Elaine til you asked if it was based on anyone.

Still - it's such a beautiful poem!

message 12: by Adriana (new)

Adriana I read the poem today in English class.

The way it was explained it didn't sound like she was in love with him. She thinks he is coming to save her (Lancelot) so she looks out on Camelot and that fulfills the curse so she ends up dying. He was just her knight in shining armor. She didn't love him I think. She just thought he was her salvation and looked out her window because she wanted to see if it was true. She was desperate because she wan't able to live her life and the prospect of it was just too much for her to think about what she was doing.

message 13: by Rick (new)

Rick (parepidemos) | 47 comments This is a great classic poem!

For what it's worth, anyone who enjoys good music might be interested in a musical rendition of this poem by Loreena McKennitt. You can find a sample on her web site:

Or the full version on YouTube:

She also does "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes and "The English Ladye And The Knight" by Sir Walter Scott.

message 14: by BEBE (new)

BEBE (beebee12) | 12 comments Rick wrote: "This is a great classic poem!

For what it's worth, anyone who enjoys good music might be interested in a musical rendition of this poem by Loreena McKennitt. You can find a sample on her web site:..."

I liked the poem. I listened to Mckennitt "sing" (can't find the right word) "The Highwayman" and liked it. I wasn't disappointed with this one.

Balbina :)

message 15: by Dawn (new)

Dawn Galloway I agree, the poem IS epic! I love not only the pristine imagery of the poem but how it is used to evoke so many different emotions to the reader. I think without even realizing it, everyone can relate to The Lady of Shalott herself on at least one aspect, if not more. I just find it to be so captivating that I can read it over and never tire of it!

message 16: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 627 comments This is making me want to read all those Arthurian epics and stories. I've always wanted to and have read a few (Sir Gowain and the Green Kinght, for example) but never really got deep into it. I kind of lump it in with Greek and Roman mythology, in that's it's something I probably want to study all at once, with all the literature yet will still probably get all the principle characters mixed up when I think back on it.

Ƥαʋℓα Я. ♏❥ (paula_r) | 30 comments My modest tribute, The Lady of Shalott by J. W. Waterhouse
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message 18: by Ken (new)

Ken Brimhall (kenbrimhall) Yes, a truly beautiful poem. Believe it or not, so many years ago, a college professor told us, Lady Shalott was Tennyson himself, the poet. It's not hard to fathom when you consider how the lady looks in the mirror and weaves. When she attempts to join the real world, she fails. It's one way of looking at the poem. I'm sure there are many.

message 19: by Lois (new)

Lois (loisbennett) | 22 comments Wow, Ken, that's a really good interpretation and one that hadn't occurred to me. Thank you so much for sharing. :)

message 20: by Jacob (new)

Jacob Woke up quoting this poem this morning.

message 21: by Sydney (new)

Sydney (sydneypearl) I absolutely love this poem! It might even be my favorite.

message 22: by Natalie (new)

Natalie Tyler (doulton) Don't you think that the poem depicts Lancelot as being rather vapid and unworthy of the Lady? After all, he only sings "Tirra Lirra" and when she's dead proclaims that she has a "lovely face".

I wish he were depicted as worthier....

message 23: by Julia (last edited Nov 30, 2013 09:25AM) (new)

Julia (juliastrimer) I hope this image is able to be posted, since I see that the link to it in 2012 was broken. I love Waterhouse's work:

"Lady of Shalott is an 1888 oil-on-canvas painting by the English Pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse. The work is a representation of a scene from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's 1832 poem of the same name, in which the poet describes the plight of a young woman (loosely based on Elaine of Astolat, who yearned with an unrequited love for the knight Sir Lancelot) isolated under an undisclosed curse in a tower near King Arthur's Camelot."

message 24: by Leslie (new)

Leslie Great painting! It also brings Anne of Green Gables to my mind, for that scene where she & her friends are acting out the poem and the rowboat starts sinking :)

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