~ The Lady of Shalott ~ D. Ravi Kumar, Ida Scudder School, Vellore, India
This is one of Tennyson's most popular poems. 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. Lord Alfred Tennyson was just 20 years old when he wrote this poem.
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson 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.
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson 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.
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson 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?
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson <ul><ul><li>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." </li></ul></ul>
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson 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.
There she weaves by night and day A magic web with colours gay.
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson 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.
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson 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.
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson 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.
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson 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 Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson 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.
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson 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.
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson 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.
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson 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.
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson 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.
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson 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.
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson <ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul></ul>
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson <ul><ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul></ul></ul>
Till her blood was frozen slowly, And her eyes were darkened wholly
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson <ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul></ul>
The Lady of Shalott Lord Alfred Tennyson <ul><ul><li>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." </li></ul></ul>
3. wold - an upland area of open country 4. imbowers - shelter / enclosure with tree boughs and vines entwined. 5. margin - (here) bank of the river. 5. barge - flat-bottomed boats towed by horses. 5. shallop - rich man’s fast boat propelled by oars. 5. flitteth - moves rapidly. 9. eddy - a circular current of water. 9. surly - arrogant 9. churl - a village person, peasant. 10. abbot - a priest. 10. ambling pad - slow walk. 10. page - an errand boy (usu. knight’s). 13. eave - opening between a roof and a wall. 13. greaves - shin guard – part of a knight’s armour. 14. gemmy - of gems; bright and glittering. 14. bridle - Headgear for a horse; includes a headstall and bit and reins. 14. blazoned - adorned, displayed. 14. baldric - ornamental belt worn across over one’s shoulder. 18. prow - the front of a boat. 20. seer - fortuneteller. 20. trance - sleeplike state, in a spell. 20. glassy - lifeless 24. wharfs - quays, docks (platforms for boats) 24. burgher - a rich middle-class man.
The Lady of Shalott is a magical being who lives alone on an island upstream from King Arthur's Camelot. Her business is to look at the world outside her castle window in a mirror, and to weave what she sees into a tapestry. She is forbidden by the magic to look at the outside world directly. The farmers who live near her island hear her singing and know who she is, but never see her.
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 who she is, and are saddened. Lancelot prays that God will have mercy on her soul.
<ul><li>Synopsis </li></ul><ul><li>The first four stanzas describe a pastoral setting. The Lady of Shalott lives in an island castle in a river which flows to Camelot, but little is known about her by the local farmers. </li></ul><ul><li>Stanzas five to eight describe the lady's life. She has been cursed, and so she must constantly weave a magic web without looking directly out at the world. Instead, she looks into a mirror which reflects the busy road and the people of Camelot which pass by her island. </li></ul><ul><li>Stanzas nine to twelve describe "bold Sir Lancelot" as he rides past, and is seen by the lady. </li></ul><ul><li>The remaining seven stanzas describe the effect on the lady of seeing Lancelot; she stops weaving and looks out her window toward Camelot, bringing about the curse. She leaves her tower, finds a boat upon which she writes her name, and floats down the river to Camelot. She dies before arriving at the palace, and among the knights and ladies who see her is Lancelot and he thinks she is lovely. And prays for God’s grace. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Themes </li></ul><ul><li>Some think that "The Lady of Shalott" is a representative of the dilemma that faces artists, writers, and musicians: to create work about and celebrate the world, or to enjoy the world by simply living in it. </li></ul><ul><li>Feminist critics see the poem as concerned with issues of women's sexuality and their place in the Victorian world. </li></ul><ul><li>Critics such as Hatfield have suggested that The Lady of Shalott is a representation of how Tennyson viewed society; the distance at which other people are in the lady's eyes is symbolic of the distance he feels from society. And the fact that she only sees them through a window pane is significant of the way in which Shalott and Tennyson see the world—in a filtered sense. </li></ul>
<ul><li>References in literature </li></ul><ul><li>The verse containing the words the "the mirror crack'd from side to side" gave the title to one of Agatha Christie's detective stories (published in 1962) and parts of the poem are referred to several times throughout it. </li></ul><ul><li>The poem is also referenced in the novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery where Anne Shirley and her friends do an adaptation of the poem in the chapter "An Unfortunate Lily Maid". </li></ul><ul><li>A stanza is located at the beginning of each chapter in the book, Avalon High by Meg Cabot. </li></ul><ul><li>The poem is referenced in Jilly Cooper's 2006 novel Wicked! where the phrase The curse is upon me is given a humorous re-interpretation in an English Literature class scene. </li></ul>
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.
<ul><li>References in Music </li></ul><ul><li>Canadian singer Loreena McKennitt put the entire "The Lady of Shalott" poem to music, and featured it on her 1991 album, The Visit. </li></ul><ul><li>The song titled "Shalott" by Emilie Autumn tells the poem from her own perspective, where she quotes the Lady of Shalott as saying "But then, I could have guessed it all along, 'cause now some drama queen is gonna write a song for me." She uses imagery from the poem, and quotes it directly: "I'm half sick of shadows". </li></ul><ul><li>The ballad is also referenced in the song "If I Die Young" by American country band The Band Perry, in the video Kimberley Perry is shown mimicking The Lady of Shallot and holding a book of Tennyson poetry. The video ends showing the book opened up to, The Lady of Shalott. </li></ul><ul><li>Popular folk duo the Indigo Girls reference the Lady of Shalott in the song "Left me a fool". Lamenting the lack of depth and substance she finds when getting to know a beautiful lover, the singer sings "you remind me of Shalott, only made of shadows, even though you're not." </li></ul>
Loreena McKennitt sings 'The Lady Of Shalott' Stanzas: 1, 9, 13, 14 and 19